Over the next weeks, viagra 40mg Beg to Differ will be presenting some examples of brand names that are just bad – for a number of reasons. Today’s example is something we spotted over the weekend…
The Hav-A-Nap Motel
This bad brand – which, sales yes, view also has a web site – is one that a friend pointed out to me in the Eastern part of metro Toronto, and it’s a classic. It’s one of those unintentional landmarks that everyone seems to know about (but no one will admit being a customer of).
And actually, while I usually criticize brand names that are un-helpful, this bad name is actually a customer service because it’s so bad. That is, because the name is so tone-deaf and slimy sounding, most respectable consumers will know better than to stay there.
Sorry for my english… It was a very terrible experience… the room was very dirty, the bedsheets were full of spots (I think there were spots of previous sexual performances…), the bedcover had holes by cigarette… I left my cup of coffee in the room and when I came back I have found also mouse’s excrements… It was very very cheap, but I slept all dressed because of the disgust…
Funny, but when you don’t have enough energy to spell “HAVE” correctly, it’s not surprising that you don’t sweat little details like laundry, customer satisfaction, or human health for that matter.
I’d love to get more of your favourite bad brand names, so please leave them in the comments!
A unique logo design gets dumbed down by board-room egos
This morning, check whilst Beg to Differ was checking our favourite blogs, advice looking for signs of hope in this new decade, order we noticed the sad tale of a re-branding effort -or more accurately a logo design project – at do-it-yourself travel site Expedia.com (via Brand New). Seems that their distinctive, fun little logo wasn’t good enough for “the golf shirt test”…
What’s the “golf shirt test”?
That’s where an executive evaluates a logo, tag line, name, etc. in terms of how it will look on their golf shirt rather than how well it works for customers.
In this case, it’s logo design. The old design was kind of goofy, maybe a little clip-arty cartoonish, and yes, a bit retro (read “old-fashioned”). But it did just what it was intended to do: it conveyed a clear brand idea. It captured a bit of the excitement and adventure of travel, while giving target customers a strong symbol to help them find, remember, and engage with the service.
Now that might seem like a good thing. But that’s just because you’re thinking like a customer.
Instead, think for a moment like a corporate executive who wants to hit the golf circuit with the big kids from IBM, AT&T, etc., with their important-looking corporate swag. You don’t want to stand out; you want to blend in. And alas, a fun, humanizing image can make a VP feel positively bush league – or worse, like dot-commie.
I get that. I worked for Corel during the heyday of Mike Cowpland and CorelDRAW. So I had to wear ugly shirts with giant rainbow-coloured balloons in the board rooms of Samsung, HP, Compaq, Apple, among others. I understand feeling self-conscious about a dorky shirt and wishing you could just change that bloody logo. (Note: please don’t look to Corel for an example on this one).
The new logo
So when I saw the new Expedia logo design and branding tag (at right) I thought: aha! Golf shirt logic!
This new logo looks just incredibly… grown up. No more fun cartoon plane. Just a generic white jet icon against a boring blue globe. An executive with this logo on a shirt could blend right in with the leaders of airports, international aid agencies, government programs – maybe even defence contractors.
Paul Leonard, VP of brand marketing at Expedia, seems to have golf shirts on his brain. Brand New quotes him as saying:
“The whole look and feel is “less cartoonish”… We were striving for a more timeless and classic aesthetic. It’s a little less whimsical and more sophisticated.”
“Timeless.” “Classic.” “Sophisticated.” All words that are proxies for “Won’t make any impression at all.”
And one assumes Mr. Leonard also chose that very golf-shirt friendly tag line “Where you book matters.” (It’s a shame he forgot to decide why it matters – or if he did, he forgot to tell us).
One also assumes that the he also approved the generic look and feel of the new Web site – with no troublesome differentiating features to help consumers distinguish it from, well, anything else in the travel industry.
Dear executives: it’s not about you
I could go on. But brand managers, please: you need to help your corporate masters understand that branding is not about making them look good on the golf course!
A brand is about three simple things:
Helping customers find you;
Giving them reasons to choose you; and
Creating a relationship that will help them choose you again.
And sad to say, those three things just *might* not look pretty on a golf shirt.
Originally, I was going to use my own Twitter account as an example, but who am I kidding? There just aren’t enough people out there talking about me to make my own little corner of the Twittiverse a very good example.
I know that it’s not the perfect metaphor, particularly since in corporate branding terminology, “identity” means name+logo+design standards – all of which overlap with the “branding” category above. But it’s working for me for now.
How about you? Is there a way I can make this stronger?
At last week’s Beg to DIFFER Boot Camp, information pills we discussed the history of the word “branding” – as in the ancient practice of marking a cow with a red hot iron. But if the idea of cattle-marking seems trivial and simplistic to you, look that’s only because you’re not a cowboy. So listen up cowpoke: here’s the cow-dirt on branding: it’s not about the cows.
Branding: lots of heat; but how much light?
The word “brand” has always taken a lot of heat. But especially in the last decade, healing it seems like the word has become a target for heat as much as a tool for channeling it.
Critic Naomi Klein in her classic book No Logo and branding industry iconoclast Jonathon Salem Baskin in his recent book Branding Only Works on Catttle are just two examples of how the term the term “branding” has been attacked in recent years. The latter in particular poses an incendiary thesis right in the title of his book. Now, full disclosure, I’ve only just ordered a copy of the book, but from reviews (like these from The Economist or by uberblogger Chris Brogan), from the writer’s own blog Dimbulb, and from a chapter posted online I get the sense his title is just playfully singeing the brand that feeds him, but I’ll let you know after I’ve read it (please feel free to comment if you have).
Now back to the range
But as discussed in the video below, the term has never been just about the tool, or about the cow that is its involuntary recipient. It’s not even about the mechanics of applying the mark (heat brand, restrain cow, burn cow, repeat) – although those are all important nuances.
Like all human tools, you can only understand the brand if you understand the human need that it serves. So you need to understand the context, in this case the branding system that the tool operates within.
So what’s a brand for?
Branding is about helping human beings (cowboys and ranch-owners) do three things:
Track down things that are relevant to them (Eg. their cows);
Sort them out from all the similar-looking stuff (Eg. find their cows in a mixed herd); and
Maintain and enrich relationships between people (Eg. not getting shot or needing to shoot anyone else)
And guess what? Those are the same things your brand is supposed to be doing.
So think about it sherriff: are you focusing on the branding iron or the relationships it is supposed to foster?
This morning’s Twitter outage, symptoms is only one of the many problems facing brand Twittter. Back in June, order early in my Twitter career (yes, the Twitterverse is turning quickly my friends) I blogged about this – No Twitter Brand, what are YOU doing? But now that I’ve had time to think about this some more (thanks for the outage Twitter!), I’ve got some more thoughts – all of which require more than 140 characters.
Over the next week or two, I’ll deal with 3 major brand credibility problems Twitter is facing, followed by a set of solutions I’ll modestly put forward.
The Jumping the Failwhale series: Twitter’s biggest problems
Problem 1: Brand Promise: (in this post – see below) the free ride will have to end, and the real owners of the Twitter brand will not be pleased.
Problem 2: Brand Character:(coming soon) Twitter feels more “Social” and less like serious “Media”. Basically, the boss ain’t buying it, and unless something changes, he may be right.
Problem 3: Brand Personality:(coming soon)Despite the fresh, breezy cartoon-graphics, the kids aren’t twittering. Twitter is fast becoming an old people’s brand and the problem is hard-wired into the product.
Solutions:(coming soon) My 10 Recommendations to save Twitter.
Problem 1: Brand Promise. The free ride will end.
A Brand Promise is the implicit set of expectations a brand builds up in the mind of its customers over time. And just like a real-world promise, the owner of the promise (and indeed the brand itself) is the person to whom the promise is made: the customer.
The promise of Twitter
Twitter users have come to value, and expect, afree, open online community accessible to all with 1) an Internet connection and 2) enough time to cultivate a Twitter brand of your own.
The problem with this is that of course, the party can’t go on like this forever. There are real world implications to the scale of Twitter’s success. Yup, I mean big crashes like this morning. But more to the point: money / revenue / filthy lucre / a basic business model. This is of course a no-brainer, because it’s a problem with all Social Media. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and a thousand other online communities and services have built their huge audiences fast on the same implicit promise.
Try it, use it forever, and pay nothing – with no ads – all of these are very attractive hooks to get people in. But having set those expectations in customers’ minds, no one should be surprised if they feel betrayed if you suddenly try to “monetize” their “eyeballs”. Oh, they’ll understand. But this isn’t about rational thought; it’s about a broken promise.
I can hear the objection: “but we never said it would be free forever”. Doesn’t matter. Your actions led them to expect it would be free forever, which in their mind is the same thing.
A summer-friendly analogy
Imagine that one day I mow my neighbour’s lawn, then laugh off any payment he might offer by saying “that’s what neighbours do”. Don’t you think it would make him happy and strengthen our neighbourly bond? Probably. As long as he didn’t suspect my motives.
Which leads me to the following week, when I tell him “I’ve decided that the price of gas being what it is, you either have to pay me a dollar to do it again, or listen to a 5 minute pitch for my business.”
He’ll understand. He might even recognize that it’s a really good deal I’m offering. But do you think he’d be happy about it?
An example from my practice
We dealt with this issue last year while I was acting Vice President of Marketing at CoursePark.com – an online learning management network. We played around with a number of options, from totally free access (like Facebook or Twitter), to pay-per-use, or just a low-cost subscription. Our solution in the end: give users a free-forever option, but a) be very clear what the limits were, b) set clear prices on the commercial e-learning content we sold through our library, c) give them an expanded range of capabilities for free in exchange for sharing their content with the rest of CoursePark, and d) make it easy and transparent to allow them to upgrade to the “enterprise” version for larger programs / more support / more member controls.
The bottom line
Be careful what you promise (even implicitly); your customers will hold you too it.
If you’re building a business, people are cool with that – if they know your motives in advance.
If you have built expectations that you can’t sustain, don’t assume that you can change the rules at will. You will pay for it.