The first Big Question of branding (plus special offer for Boot Camp)

Next week, approved on Thursday August 27, find we’ll be holding another Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Boot Camp in Ottawa with partners the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI)and Brandvelope Consulting. As part of the Camp, page we’ll be dealing with the 4 Big Questions of Branding – the four fundamental things humans need to know about any product as they build their mental picture of it. You’ll find a preview of Question #1 below in SlideShare format.

Discount on Boot Camp registration for Beg to DIFFER readers.
For those interested in attending our Ottawa Brand Strategy Boot Camp, scroll down to find out more.

The 1st Big Question of Branding:

More about Boot Camp:

Blog Post: 5 Reasons to Attend the Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Boot Camp
Info from OCRI: OCRI Event Page

Discount on Boot Camp registration for Beg to DIFFER readers.
For those interested in attending Boot Camp, we’re offering a special discount for readers of this blog. To claim your discount:
1) Click through the presentation above: (1st Big Question of Branding)
2) Register for Boot Camp.
3) When registering, quote the name of the mystery product used as an example in the presentation below and you’ll receive $25 off the price of either half day or full day Boot Camp.
4) If you want to invite a colleague or recommend this to someone else, please do! They’ll also qualify for the discounted price.

Quick registration links (provided by OCRI):

Register Online | Register by Fax | Add to your Outlook* (Half-Day) | Add to your Outlook* (Full-Day)

Tag lines: if they don’t help people, there’s no point

When I was in Korea a few years back, adiposity I was struck that even in cities where very few people spoke English, find “upscale” stores always had an English tagline under an English name. But the words didn’t seem to matter: most were incomprehensible, cialis 40mg vague, or with uninteded double entendres (as below). Weirdly, these businesses seemed to have taglines simply for the sake of filling space under their name with letters, not because anyone would get information from them. You know what’s even weirder? It happens here too.

Fitting and Feeling - w
For this Korean tag line, you can at least tell what they were going for. But are they really offering both those services?

A global plague:

Lest we seem to be picking on obscure stores in non-English speaking countries, a couple of weeks ago, we pointed out this tagline from a local real estate agent – and we could have chosen many more from that industry alone.

And size of company doesn’t seem to matter. Check out this bit of tagline vapidity from a major international brand – spotted in July 2009. “Sychronizing the world of commerce” is actually less meaningful than “Fitting & Feeling” – and I imagine UPS has a few more people working on their materials than Teman.

Another space-filler tagline - UPS fails to deliver.

Say something nice… or say nothing at all

KR - KY - Good Feel
Another uncomfortable tagline from a Korean store - but it just looks right to have one doesn't it?

Or rather, just say something useful.
Like every other aspect of your brand, a tag line is supposed to be a tool to help people understand something about your brand – some aspect of your service that will help them make a purchase decision in your favour.

A good tag line needs to inform me or help me differentiate you from your competitors; maybe it will make a leadership claim or offer me a guarantee; at the very least it should give me a clever “hook” to remenber you by; otherwise it’s just filling a space.

Here’s a secret that should never have to be spoken: a tag line isn’t a design element. It’s actually a set of words that happen to be occupying  prime real estate on your sign, page, or Web site. So make sure they “pay their rent” by actually doing useful things.

At Brandvelope, we have a whole set of tools to help clients develop really useful tag lines. But without getting too deeply  into that topic in this post, just remember that at the very least, make sure it’s helping somebody.
Tomorrow: 25 useless taglines from brands that should know better.

Brand brief: Toronto keeps its nose in the air

After our criticism of Toronto’s Web site, malady and some garbage-scented barbs thrown their way in last week’s Brand Jam, side effects it looks like Tourism Toronto has decided to approach the end of the garbage strike with their tongues firmly in their cheeks and their noses in the air.


The just-announced tag for a late summer advertising campaign – wait for it:

“Toronto never smelled so good.”

  The original article I saw on this is quoted here:

Toronto Star article: The whiff of opportunity for Tourism Toronto: When you attract attention for all the wrong reasons, you might as well try to play it for a laugh. That’s the thinking behind a new promotion launched today by Tourism Toronto with the slogan “Toronto never smelled so good.”

Now, to me, this looked like a “fresh” approach to a thorny problem: how to put a positive and even humourous spin on a negative situation. So I gave them the benefit of ther doubt, and whatever the ramifications, I have to admire the guts of the Toronto Tourism folks:

Metro: Slogan smells ‘so good’“We’re going to take the strike head-on, and use it as an opportunity to invite people back,” Weir said. “It’s been top of the newscasts for the last 40 days. The best thing we can do is let them know the experience here is as high-quality and exciting as it’s ever been — and now there’s no garbage piled up.”

Andrew Weir, vice-president of Tourism Toronto

But in coverage on CBC radio in Ottawa last night, our drive-home host Adrian Harewood talked about the slogan, and spent several minutes of air time chatting with newsman Lawrence Wall about it. The focus of the conversation: Is it true?

Apparently, many Toronto parks and public spaces still smell fairly pungent after being used as dumps. Reaction from some Torontonians has been even more pointed:

24 Hours: Does Toronto smell good to you? Toronto never smelled so good. Really? You sure about that? Pretty certain it stank like rotting landfill on my way in to work yesterday.

Like an old horn-dog perched at a local watering hole ogling young waitresses, the post-strike branding has the distinct smell of desperation, which is as off-putting as bad breath, really.

So while it’s an attention-getting (and brave) approach, the problem with this slogan is not that it isn’t effective: 1) it’s not true; 2) it can be seen as making light of a serious and divisive issue in the city, and 3) raises questions that actually focus more attention on something that tourists don’t want to think about.

Should be interesting to see the reaction as this unfolds.

Live Twitter Feeds about the strike

Tag lines: would you buy a house from a guy in a kilt?

Differentiation is good. Very very good. I made the point in my post about the Ottawa Shawarma scene that in a crowded, site undifferentiated marketplace, for sale finding a catchy gimmick is a great way to get people to remember you. This unfortunately is the other side of the “personal branding” coin.

Guy in Kilt

Yes, cheap I noticed it. Yes, I remembered it. But no, I’m not going to buy a house from you my Scottish friend.

A good tag line should do at leat one of the following a) tell me what you do if I don’t already know, b) tell me how you do your thing better than anyone else, and / or c) make an emotional connection to show me how “sympatico” you are with me – how you think like I do about your subject area. 
This one does none of those things.

5 Reasons this tag line won’t get me to hire the guy in the kilt:

1) It doesn’t tell me what you do for me.  The tag line doesn’t tell me anything about your business – and mine. How well / differently do you do what you want me to hire you to do: buy or sell property? Kilt does not equal real estate excellence in my mind. Sorry.

2) It’s all about you. There are perhaps a few large egos in the Real Estate business, and this one makes me suspect you might be among them. If you’re not, show me that by not focusing your ad entirely on yourself. If you are, just save your money and commission a statue of yourself in your back yard. Maybe a little shrine.

3) I don’t want to see you in a kilt. I would be incredibly uncomfortable meeting you in person – especially if you were actually wearing a kilt. Don’t get me wrong, a kilt can be very classy at a wedding or a military Tattoo. But it’s an eccentric thing – kind of like telling people you are a closet Klingon speaker or always wear socks with fish on them. You’ll get remembered, but it doesn’t build your brand.

4) There is such a thing as bad publicity / attention / memorable-ness. While I was taking this picture, a random passer-by laughed out loud at the ad. And not in a “ha ha that’s so clever I want to by a house from him” kind of way. Enough said.

5) My wife is a MacDonald. Apparently there’s some kind of ancient blood feud. Something about your ancestors murdering a bunch of her ancestors in their sleep. Sorry. Nothing personal. But you did bring up the ethnic thing.

Shop local: is it better to brand from the inside?

A recent Twitter friend of mine, ask David Olinger, who is the Manager of Marketing and Communications at the small Alberta City of Grande Prairie (population 50,000) has just announced the winning bidder for a branding project for Grande Prairie: a company from Seattle that specializes in tourism destination branding Great Destination Strategies . Was there great rejoicing in Grande Prairie? Um. Not exactly.

Grande Prairie 2

The response:

This was the grumpy and YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) response to the project from the editor of the local newspaper The Daily Herald Tribune:

FULL EDITORIAL HERE: Shop local doesn’t always apply to city

A few quotes to give you the gist:

The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” can sometimes be even more important when it comes to picking just one image that is supposed to identify an entire community. Such is the challenge the City of Grande Prairie finds itself in right now as it embarks on a new “branding” campaign.

So with such a sensitive job one would think it would be important to consult with people from this region, lifelong residents and newcomers alike. But instead, Grande Prairie’s brand will be made in the U.S.A. in some Seattle offices 1,304 km away.

Will an American company know who Alexander Forbes was? Will they know what the Stompede is? … Will they know how to spell Muskoseepi without having to look it up everyday?

The Muskoseepi dilemma

Now, without knowing anything about the company in question or very much about Grande Prairie (I thought it was in South-Eastern Alberta, not North-Western), and certainly having no clue what a “Muskoseepi” is (?) this debate raises an interesting question for brand managers everywhere:

Is branding better done by insiders (people who live, breathe, and bleed the brand every day), or by outsiders (people who come in “cold” and learn about the brand)?

I’ll let you think about that for a moment.
[pause, soft music plays]

The answer:

My own take on this: neither one. You need both insiders and outsiders for a great branding campaign to succeed.

The insiders:

The process and outcome have to be driven and owned by insiders – and particularly by leaders with enough 1) power (and courage) to make the big changes that a whole-brand approach will require, and 2) humility to truly listen to the voices of outsiders (by which I mean customers). If the insiders abdicate this responsibility, the brand will be defined by outsiders, and not necessarily with the best intentions or proper perspective.

The outsiders:

Because a brand is a promise that is actually owned by its customers, successful branding can’t ever be an internal exercise only. Otherwise it’s just an exercise at best (like an orchestra rehearsing without an audience), a time-wasting navel-gazing as middle ground (executive retreat anyone?), or at worst, a spectacular public blunder (like Pizza The Hut or last week’s Syfy debacle).

That’s not to say you need to hire an expensive American firm to do your work for you. A sensibly priced Canadian firm would be better, but even that isn’t strictly necessary. This role could be played by your Board of Directors or a panel of advisors, or if you have a really active customer base, include some real customers in the process.

The most important things are 1) to make sure somebody at the table is speaking for the customers. That is, they give themselves permission to challenge you, ask “dumb outsider” questions, and maybe even tell you that your customers don’t care about things you hold very dear (e.g. Is the “Stompede” really that important? Really?), and 2) to make sure somebody on the “insider” side of the table is listening.

Bon Courage Grande Prairie!