Spiral Marketing: The More You Know, The More You Can Know

October 19, 2009

Re-branding: your brand is only measured by what people say about it

Filed under: branding,marketing,rebranding — kboulas @ 9:05 pm

I’ve noticed that a couple of companies have re-branded themselves recently. A brand is an interesting thing, because when it starts – and I know PR and marketing types will cringe here – it’s very superfluous; it is ornamentation and storytelling – when a brand begins, it is window dressing. A brand only achieves greater meaning through people’s interactions with the brand, and the assocations they make with it (positive or negative). Coca Cola is obviously a very potent brand – without the associations of billions of consumers, Coke is really just a decent font, an interesting bottle shape, and a few tag lines; because of those associations, it has become the dominant consumer goods brand it is today. Coca Cola is the brand that it is not because of what it says about itself, but because of what people think and say about it.

I was therefore a bit astonished to see that Brink’s home security is re-branding itself Broadview. Really? Brink’s has been a dominant name in the security business for 150 years: when the famous robbery occurred it wasn’t called the “armored car robbery” – it was called “the Brink’s robbery,” and I’d warrant that more often than not, armored cars in movies and TV shows are Brink’s armored cars. Brink’s is iconic of security. With such an association in the consumer’s eye of Brink’s and security, it seems staggering that they would turn their backs on 150 years of hard-earned history to adopt a new identity in 2009. I have no idea what’s behind this effort – a divestiture, perhaps? And Brink’s certainly seems to have the wherewithal to flood the airwaves with advertisements announcing the change. But this is hardly the point – the point is that it doesn’t matter what Brink’s calls itself next; it only matters that it is turning its back on 150 years of the public associating “Brink’s” with “security.”

At the same time I noticed the Brink’s switch to Broadview, I also noticed that the Christian Children’s Fund had re-branded themselves as the Child Fund (www.childfund.org). While I was disappointed in Brink’s re-branding, I was glad to see this one. Unless your product or service requires a specific affiliation – religious, political, national – it doesn’t belong in your brand. The reason for this is that your brand should resonate with some common denominator in people – and no, I didn’t say lowest common denominator (with its unjustly attributed negative connotations). There has to be a common denominator to create the shared associations that become the brand’s identity. Religion, politics, nationality are never common denominators. While I was sure Christian Children’s Fund was trying to do some good in the world, I felt that their only interest, right or wrong, was helping children that happened to be christian, or that they would convert to christianity – even when the majority of children in need did not fit this categorization. I like the Child Fund – it sums it up rather nicely. It can now be about children for me, and nothing else. That’s a message I can get behind.

Your brand is as valuable as what people are saying about it. Re-branding can be a good thing, or bad. It is a good thing if people aren’t talking about you, or what they say isn’t what you want your brand to stand for. But if you have spent time establishing your brand, take great care that you don’t turn your back on people’s shared history with you – it is easy to change the letterhead and packaging; it is difficult to change people’s minds, and that’s what really counts here.

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