Today, the phrase ‘I’m lovin’ it!’ corresponds to California-based Hamburger fast food chain, McDonalds. The reaction is spontaneous: A clown with a red afro. Boom! — McDonalds.
Interestingly, in the late 90′s things were not the same. The phrase ‘Think Different’ for example, suggested more than just a technology firm. It represented an identity, a culture and a mindset on which Apple Inc. operated. It inspired the spirit of rebellion from the set norms of technology firms of the time.
Before Nike, there were simply sneakers or sports shoes. Underneath that, there was an undefined need and desire, and that was to excel. That was truly the need that Nike fulfilled and why people buy Nike. They are not just buying a “shoe.” They are buying the emotional ties that align with them being winners, like the athletes who endorse them.
Sadly, ‘Branding’ no longer works.
Once a useful way of looking at the world, branding now distorts the way companies do business.
Branding these days, more often than not, leads the actual product into an unrelated market. American motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson Inc realized this the hard way, when consumers almost revolted at the idea of putting the brand name to aftershave and perfumes.
Think of maps: A simple map pretends that the Earth is flat, and that’s fine for getting you across town. But if you try to navigate a plane across the Atlantic on that principle, you’re going to get a big surprise when you come in to land. (That’s why the route your long-haul flight takes looks like a curve on the seatback map.) All these “brand valuation” metrics are doing something similar: treating a flat earth theory as if it’s the truth. And they’re landing in the wrong place.
Also, Branding distorts the view of how the company operates. If you say you stand for one thing, and deliver something completely different, you can bet customers won’t fall for it twice.
Case in point: Domino’s Pizza. The king of fast delivery, good and cheap pizza was quickly unseated by complaints of dry inedible crust. Yes, it was “fast”, and yes, it was “cheap”, but it wasn’t good, and by promising customers good pizza, they raised expectations too high, setting themselves up to fail.
In retrospect, nearly all of the above mistakes seem obvious, even stupid. We laugh at them, roll our eyes, and wonder how anyone could do it.
But if you’ve been a marketer for any length of time, you also know how easy it is: good, effective branding is somehow providing an insight into the fundamentals of the company and the spirit of the product itself. There isn’t a fixed formula or path to follow in order to put this to action. Not to sound too cheesy, but effective branding is a complex science which is based on instinct. (Science, Instinct : Two words we thought would never go together.)
While it is important to portray an image of the psychology behind a product, it is far more important to cross check whether this image superimposes with the actual road map or vision of the company and reflects in its products.
Needless to say, good branding must be honest. This, for example, is flawed branding. It associates Microsoft with technology that it simply cannot produce at this point of time.The vision must be true and practical but not overly naive.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” holds true.