Posts Tagged 'brand metaphors'

Parrot Fish and Psycho Bunny

One of the brands I’ve just completely fallen in love with is Psycho Bunny. Definitely clothing with an attitude.  The brand was created by Robert Godley and Robert Goldman in 2006 selling only handmade neckties out of the finest silk.  That’s pretty rare in and of itself.  In the post-industrial post-modern post-post world of today when everything is over manufactured, it is the oldest of arts, handmade clothing, that has enduring values.

Oh, and they have a wonderful sensibility…well, you can see from the designs…my eloquence is mere mumbling when it comes to describing their branding.  It is a metaphor that speaks volumes!

Psycho Bunny

Psycho Bunny

The real draw is the absolutely wonderful quality of the workmanship and the designs.  Here’s what they have to say about themselves on their website:

Since beginning as a small neckwear line, Psycho Bunny has maintained its reputation as a brand committed to meticulous quality, traditional craftsmanship and the finest materials in the manufacture of its goods.

The collection has grown since the inaugural season and now includes a range of cashmere scarves in classic tartans, pima cotton polo shirts (now for women as well), fine cotton oxfords with mother of pearl buttons, colorful pima cotton socks, luxurious merino sweaters, supergeelong ski hats, hand-enameled sterling silver cufflinks and a range of small leather goods produced in partnership with Ettinger of London.

And the parrot fish?  Oh, that’s just to remind myself that I’m on vacation and shouldn’t be blogging right now or checking my work emails…

Selling a million books! – or – creating the new Touchstone Books colophon

It’s been a lot of fun working with the folks at Touchstone/Fireside books on their rebranding, including the publisher Stacy Creamer and associate publisher David Falk.

During the process I learned a bit about printing and publishing that I had never heard before.  In publishing a logo is called a colophon.  It’s history traces back to the times of private printers in 15th century Europe.  Not surprisingly, it is also known as a printer’s mark.

There is something talismanic about a book colophon.  A symbol, a calling.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking at those talismans on the spines of books.  A by-product of a life surrounded by books — everything from working at a used book depot to working for J.D. Salinger’s literary agent, to my graduate degree in creative writing and my own fiction writing.  Right or wrong, I  judge a book not by its cover but by the colophon on the cover.  The 3 fish of FSG.  The borzoi dog of Alfred A. Knopf.  And the Penguin.

Farrar Straus & Giroux colophon

W.A. Dwiggins created many versions of the Knopf borzoi colophon.

Borzoi colophon by W.A. Dwiggins

Paul Rand did a borzoi colophon, too:

Borzoi colophon by Paul Rand

And a more recent one by Triboro Design.

Borzoi colophon by Triboro Design

It is wonderful to trace how the colophons of Knopf have gone in so many directions and yet maintained their integrity and coherence.

There’s something here at branding people can discover.  Many of us in corporate identity and brand are sticklers about consistency, consistency, consistency in applying logos and designs.  When a design like the London 2012 Olympics comes out, with multiple variations, it violates this sense of consistency.  But Knopf beat everyone to this game years ago!

You can read more about the history of the borzoi here.  Did you know that Khalil Gibran created one of the borzoi colophons?

In the early 1990s I was at a dinner in honor of Peter Smith.  During his thanking the University for the honor, he explain that as a child he wanted to be a Penguin when he grew up.  That desire to be a Penguin led him to became a writer and involved with the arts — he is Director Emeritus of Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center of the Arts and former Dean of Columbia’s School of the Arts.  Ah, what a wonderful statement!  When I grow up I want to be a Penguin!  (Actually I am partially a Penguin, since they’ve included my writing in The Bruce Springsteen Reader).

Penguin colophon by E. P. Young

Here’s the anthology of writings about Springsteen which included my short fiction piece, “Asbury Park”:

Penguin anthology including my short fiction

A couple of days ago Stacy Creamer, the publisher of Touchstone, unofficially introduced the new Touchstone colophon on Facebook.  I’ll post it here when there’s a more official launch, along with some comments from Michael Thibodeau about where he drew his inspiration for the colophon.  We’ll also put up something more official on our company website.

I am expecting that the new colophon will be on millions and millions of book spines come this fall!  No pressure, Stacy and David!

Holes in a branding theory – or – block that positioning, metaphorically speaking

I have a problem with certain marketing metaphors that have been thrown around recently. For one, I don’t have a hole in my head…My mind isn’t like a filing cabinet…My memory is not analogous to a book stuffed into one of the many bookcases in my home (which need dusting every now and then)…

My closets are for hangers and skeletons…

And when it comes to my mind, metaphors about refrigerators and car garages conjure up the wrong mental pictures.  I need those analogies like a I need a hole in my head….

Here’s what I mean — an article by Al Reis in the April 1st edition of Ad Age.

To file something in the mind is conceptually no different than filing something in your home or apartment.

Clothes in the closet. Books in the bookcase. Food in the refrigerator. The car in the garage.

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” goes the old saying.

Today, we have many well-known brands with no places in the mind to put them.

Holes in Brand Positioning

I sometimes think of this as the “call and response” theory of branding. The advertiser says one word, “Direct” and you play back the name of the brand “Dell”.  “Printer” and “HP”.  Like Cab Calloway singing Minnie the Moocher.

How about this —  instead of a file cabinet, the mind is like a pinball machine.  The more things that the silver ball hits, the more lights that blink, the more noise that it makes, the higher the score, the more likely we are to remember.  A strong brand triggers associations across the brain, lighting up the neural networks the way the Pinball Wizard keeps those lights a-flashing with his crazy flipper fingers.

Strong metaphors, many associations, stories and anecdotes and mental images, narratives — those are what effective branding is based on.  Instead of standing for one word, brands should be understood as wonderfully woven tapestries of memories, images that we can wrap ourselves in.

Branding tools people use vs. branding tools that are useful

I thought this was rather fascinating.  We did a simple cross-tab of marketers who use a variety of branding tools on one axis and how useful they thought the tool was on the other.

Rather revealing.

Seems that many marketers are using tools that they don’t find to be particularly useful.  At least that is the read from Frank and from my team members.  It aligns with all of the other signals that we are getting from marketers — they want breakthrough branding methods that are designed for today’s world.

I just keep going back to the book Chaotics by Kotler and Caslione — where they make a very clear point that we can’t go back to marketing-as-usual because that world doesn’t exist anymore.  I’d actually quote the book but I’m in Frankfurt at the moment with a very limited library of  Wallace Shawn essays.  He’s a marvelous playwright and a very funny actor.  His more serious work is the play “Aunt Dan and Lemon” and his acting has included everything from Woody Allen movies to being Jon Stewart’s therapist on The Daily show.

But I digress.  Back to the business of branding.

The chart below is from our study of 130 CMOs and marketing decision makers that was fielded in January.  You can get a more detailed copy of the study in earlier posts.  And we are putting this together with the 2009 data for a more in-depth look at the state of marketing as we move into this brave new decade.

So how do you think branding should be reinvented?

CMOs on branding tools: Use vs. Useful

Creating the Qwest brand – or – riding that light

The acquisition of Qwest by CenturyTel (aka CenturyLink) brought back some more memories of creating the Qwest brand back in 1997.

In a stack of old files under my desk — files that I’ve been meaning to throw out for years and years —  I still have some of our old Bright Sun presentations from April and May 1997.  After hearing of the acquisition I looked through and found them.  Not the finished, final, polished versions but my original handwritten drafts. Kind of neat to dig them up and see what parts worked and what fell by the wayside.  “Absolute Data Integrity” was a great idea that was eventually dropped when the USPTO refused it trademark protection.  MCFN (Macro Capacity Fiber network) was a bit clunky.

The Qwest branding was inspired by Albert Einstein, of all people.  It’s what happens when your branding agency is full of overeducated, overly curious and overly creative people.  During a brainstorming session someone bedazzled us with a retelling of Einstein’s Gedankenexperiment.  You know, that whole thing about moving at the speed of light, relativity, Lorentz transformations, etc.  Here’s the back cover of the first annual report, which credits Albert Einstein with the brand inspiration.  On the second and third pages of the pdf are some of the original print ads using some rather famous Edgerton stop action photography.

Launching Qwest brand in 1997

Somewhere I even have an original Qwest cap and hand towel.  Below, for extra trivia points, is the placeholder logo for Qwest.  Once we “saw the light” then it was an easy path to the actual Qwest logo.  Without a strong metaphor the visual identity might have ended up looking like an over-inflated “Q”

The placeholder

The placeholder

CMOs need to rebuild their brands in 2010

Here it is, the trends reports on CMO attitudes about branding, advertising and marketing!


Did brand positioning contribute to the decline of Bud Light?

There’s a fascinating article in last week’s Ad Age about the decline of Bud Light and Bud.

In a nutshell, the article says that A-B brought in Cambridge Group to help shape the marketing and advertising for Bud Light.  As a result, they adopted an attribute driven model which is directly connected to declining sales for the brand.  The article then goes on to point the finger at Cambridge Group — which I believe is unfair as I will discuss in a moment.  But first some quotes from the article.

But Cambridge’s exhaustive findings led directly to dramatic shifts in how Budweiser and Bud Light were marketed. Each brand largely abandoned the emotional appeals that had helped them become the two largest beer brands in the U.S. for straightforward pitches about process and product attributes that coincided with worsening sales for both labels.

Emphasis added.

“Drinkability” had been in fine print on Budweiser’s label since the 1960s and often raised in creative briefings to communicate Bud Light’s appeal: You could drink a lot of it, and it was less watery than Coors Light and less bitter than Miller Lite. Cambridge’s process strongly endorsed it as the ideal rational benefit.

So what went wrong and why do I believe that the Cambridge Group is not the fundamental problem?

My analysis — both Cambridge and A-B were using an out-dated model for marketing.  They were using the traditional brand positioning model.  It is a “Think-Feel-Do” model that says you need to have a point of differentiation — drinkability in this case — and that is the one thing you stand for.

What Cambridge Group did, brand positioning, is still the dominant practice in marketing.  So they are not to be faulted for doing what everyone else does.

The problem is really that the methodology has lost effectiveness in today’s world.  It was built for a world of 30 second tv spots and 3 networks.

The irony is that all of this could have been easily avoided.   The ARF published a study called “On the Road to Advertising Effectiveness” in 2007 that specifically examined beer advertising.  The study and 3 year taskforce demonstrated that attribute-driven advertising is less effective than story-driven advertising.  They advocate a new model of engagement, recognizing the importance of co-creation, metaphor and narrative.

Full disclosure, I worked on the taskforce and contributed to the report’s implications.

The sociology of Facebook

There’s been a complaint lately in my household.  Facebook has gone ahead with yet another ‘improvement’.   It is now “simplified” which seems to be an acknowledgement that the last “improvement” was not such a great improvement.  At the same time, it is just as rigid and impossible to individualize as the previous versions.

There is an interesting article about Facebook in the current issue of the NYRB.  You can link to it here.  The writer, Charles Johnson, discusses many aspects of Facebook and its success — including the elitist beginnings at Harvard that still give the site a certain cache.

In Facebook he sees a company that can begin to take on Google in the online advertising world, assuming that the Facebook Connect feature is widely adopted.

Facebook Connect, if it becomes widely used across the Internet, would enable Facebook to sell ads not just on its own pages but elsewhere as well. Google makes its largest profits through “search advertising,” where a query for “insurance” will result in ads for companies such as Geico or Allstate. But Google has never been as successful at “display advertising,” the name for the ads that show up beside everything online—from party photos to news stories—where it’s not clear what, if anything, users want to buy. Facebook, with much more precise information about its members, will likely be able to sell far more effective display advertising than Google. Whether members will be disturbed by this expansion of targeted ads—a person who lists her religion as “Jewish” may see Jewish-themed advertising not just in Commentary magazine but on every Web site she visits—and whether ever more targeted advertising will turn members off the site—does listing a love for the Marquis de Sade mean you want ads for leather?—remains to be seen.

Is this the advertisers dream, the civil libertarian’s nightmare or both — or neither?  The more fundamental question is what happens when the economics fail?  Facebook is marginally profitable.  Twitter is not profitable at all.

In the World of Facebook – The New York Review of Books

Philip Kotler on reinventing marketing

Looking forward to 2010!

Some marketing thoughts about the year to come.  This is from the book CHAOTICS by Philip Kotler and John Caslione.

“Great marketers don’t just rebound from crises.  They build the internal capacity to expect the unexpected. They continuously reinvent business models and marketing strategies during chaotic times so that they can adapt quickly as circumstances in the marketplace change.

Today, the typical company operates a marketing system that has emerged from years of trial and error. It has developed policies, strategies, and tactics for using marketing research, pricing, the sales force, advertising, promotions, trade shows, and other marketing tools. These practices are likely to persist because they deliver a feeling of safety and predictability.  They worked in the past and are assumed to work in the future.

There is, however, one problem.  The world keeps changing.

“These developments put a company at a strategic inflection point: Either the company continues with the same strategy or recognizes the need for a new one.  Clearly,the company needs to revisit and revise its marketing policies and tools.  If it doesn’t, the new environment will punish the company — maybe to the point of failure.”

2010 will be the year for reinventing marketing.   It is an exciting time to be in marketing!

Happy New Year’s!

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