Your “brandscape”: the chicken or the egg? It’s all about context.

Part 3/4 of the Chicken Sandwich series on product names

On Monday, treat Beg to Differ introduced you to the KFC chicken sandwich we named, then we talked about why names matter. Today, we’re going to a) talk about how to read the “brandscape” of product names around you, b) whether the new name should define the new brandscape or be defined by it (chicken sandwich or egg sandwich?) and c) mix our metaphors horribly.

Test #1: Can you find the chicken sandwich? (Image by: Canadian artist Tom Thompson - Fall Colours)To
Test #1: Can you find the chicken sandwich? (Image: Fall Colours by Canadian artist Tom Thompson - )

So what’s a “brandscape”?

It’s the Brandvelope term for the whole big picture of brands that surround a product, company, or service. As a brand manager, you have to make sure that you have your eye on the whole brandscape, not just your little patch of “territory”. In this case, we’ll focus on products and specifically chicken sandwiches, but of course, dear brand managers, you can apply the same principles to your own products.

Brandscape is important to the Big Fresh sandwich because people visiting KFC will be using the name as one tool in making a practical decision: scanning the menu on the wall, trying to decide what to have for lunch.  In their head , they will have their expectations, their experience with competitor’s brands, and the normal insecurities and hang-ups of humans. So whether its chicken sandwiches, Internet services, or business products, we can never pretend that any product choice is made in a vacuum; it’s all about context.

Every brandscape includes three kinds of brands:

1) Competitor & comparable brands: other products in your market(s) that customers will be familiar with and will influence their perception of your product by comparison. In the case of KFC, this would be everything from other “Quick Serve” restaurants like McDonalds, chicken sandwich products like A&W’s Chubby Chicken, but even indirect competitors like supermarket chicken brands and 7-Eleven meals to go.

2) Market noise: you need to consider the whole universe of other brands that may influence your customer’s perceptions of you, but aren’t directly comparable to your product. Because brands live in customer brains, any brand may create confusion with (or pleasantly complement) yours – including similarly named products in other categories, influencer or partner brands,  and “megabrands” that bleed into multiple categories.

This is why it’s always useful to have someone from outside your industry involved in the branding process (like us for example). If your Chicken Sandwich sounds like a car brand, if your logo looks like a refrigerator brand, or if your name reminds them of an egg salad sandwich, you can throw your neat competitive matrix out the window.

3) Your brand architecture: that is the whole “portfolio” of corporate, product, and other brands that are under your care – and over which you have some control. In the case of KFC, this includes everything from the KFC master brand, the “11 herbs & spices” trademark, the image of Colonel Sanders, franchise design and marketing standards, and all the menu choices that customers will have to weigh as they consider the new Big Fresh.

Test #2: Okay, now can you find the chicken sandwich?
Test #2: Okay, now can you find the chicken sandwich?

Choosing the right kind of name

If you’ve ever visited this blog you know that I’m a big believer in brands as human decision making tools. You may also have read my post on the perils of too much choice or perhaps last Friday’s excellent Neuromarketing entry on the same topic. Basically, branders need to manage their portfolios to offer consumers just enough choice to feel empowered (see Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce) but not so much that they feel dis-empowered (see Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less).

So our first big question to KFC when we started was this: “How will this new product fit into the existing line-up?”

In this case, KFC has a large number of chicken offerings and many sandwiches already, many with fairly “opaque” (character-heavy, non-descriptive) names like “WrapStar” “Twister” “Popcorn Chicken” and  “Big Crunch” – but with few clear patterns to the overall naming convention. The new name had to play nice with these other names, while still helping people understand the new kid. All of the above meant that the name had to be somewhat descriptive, which ruled out a lot of wacky “creative” options.

At the same time, the new sandwich was to be priced at the same level as the current top of the line the “Big Crunch”, so the new name couldn’t explicitly say “this is the best we sell”. This is also why why chose to use the “Big ____” naming convention. To show relationship, while highlighting difference.

So, of the 48 options that formed the “long list” of names we submitted, only 4-5 met the criteria of standing out from the brandscape. And only one, “Big Fresh” stood out enough, but also complemented the rest of the menu.

So how well is The Big Fresh doing?

Sorry, after just one week on the market and with the launch not over yet, it’s too early to say how well the sandwich is performing. But the last post in this series will tell the story of my first tasting, and what I learned by playing the role of a customer myself, as well as by speaking to other customers.

The Chicken Sandwich Series

  1. How to name a chicken sandwich: thoughts for branders
  2. Sorry Shakespeare: names matter – in roses and chicken
  3. Your “brandscape”: the chicken or the egg? It’s all about context.  (this post)
  4. Chicken sandwich for the soul: what customers can teach you (coming soon)

2 thoughts on “Your “brandscape”: the chicken or the egg? It’s all about context.”

  1. Dennis…like your blog and will follow. Linked to  this “Brandscape” piece today on my blog, , as a good exposition of the term …hope your cool with that. Will look you up on Twitter. I’m there @MrSMEbranding .Best regards, Mike Hensgen, Bangkok, TH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *