Using Sustainability to Build Brands

17lbs. That’s the weight of the 2014 Restoration Hardware shrink-wrapped collection of catalogs – 12 catalogs to be exact – that arrived at my house, unsolicited, via UPS. My first reaction was disgust. Utter disgust at the waste of paper and ink and use of fossil fuels required to ship it to my house. As a diehard proponent of sustainability I am horrified, but as a branding consultant, I started to think about why so many brands are reluctant to challenge the way they have always conducted business in order to become more sustainable.

RH Catalog

Does Restoration Hardware really have to send out 17lbs of catalogs to sustain their business? Isn’t there a better, alternative way to market their products? Why is it so difficult for them to think outside the box and challenge the status quo? We live in a virtual world, a digital age where so much business is now conducted online and on mobile devices – you’d think that they would embrace online catalogs, finding new creative and innovative ways to showcase their products in a virtual world. Perhaps it’s inertia? Or fear of losing business. Or maybe they just have their heads in the sand?

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May 21, 2014   6 Comments

Updating Intel’s Font for the Mobile Future

Intel just created its own proprietary corporate font to be easier to read in the global digital world. They call it “Intel Clear”. A smart move in a number of ways. First, it gave them the opportunity to assess the equity in their existing font and think through whether and how much to change. Second, It caused them to think about how their critical audiences, internal and external, national and international, should perceive Intel as the communications media evolve so dramatically and rapidly.

New Intel Font

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April 8, 2014   No Comments

Using the Shared Services Brand to Overcome Negative Perceptions

This blog was originally featured on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s website on July 22nd, 2013.

Shared Services often miss the opportunity to communicate the value they provide, and consequently live under a pervasive and somewhat negative perception. This doesn’t have to be the case. Focusing on the Shared Services “brand” is one way to change these perceptions.

Because the origin of Shared Services is rooted in cost cutting, there is a naturally built-in   stereotype that what costs less must not be as good. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Strengthening the Shared Services brand, especially to internal audiences, is a very powerful way to communicate the positive value of a Shared Services model. Aside from the corporate arguments that Shared Services are really about reducing costs, you should be promoting the realization that there is an enormous amount of condensed wisdom in a Shared Services organization. It is, de facto, the central node of knowledge and insight. Imagine if internal customers understood this value and could tap into it. So use the brand to focus their attention.  [Read more →]

July 26, 2013   No Comments

Why “Watering Down” a Brand is a Fundamental No-No.

The postulate that “watering down” a brand has long-term affects is generally well understood by smart marketers everywhere. But recently, two brands have been caught up in literally and figuratively watering down their products and consequently, their brands. We’d suggest that the act of watering down a product, or even the suspicion of it, will have very serious and long-term impacts on the business.

MakersMark

The two brands are Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon Whisky and Budweiser. Maker’s Mark announced that they were lowering the alcohol content of their premiere product from 94 proof to 86 proof because demand is exceeding capacity, and consumer testing had indicated that the difference was undetectable. While possibly statistically true, the idea that slowly diluting a product so that the perceived change in the taste profile is negligible could end up taking the teeth out of a product and without ever understanding why. This incremental product thinking almost always gets manufacturers in trouble. [Read more →]

March 1, 2013   No Comments

Congrats to Heineken for Updating its Bottle in the U.S.

Heineken is introducing a new, taller bottle in the U.S. in order to help it’s flagging sales. It is a smart move on many levels, and it will be successful.  But imagine the internal debate about change.

Heineken Lager Beer was established in 1873 in the Netherlands, and still uses the same recipe. It was the first beer imported into the U.S. after prohibition, in 1933, and has been a consistent bell weather brand. But while they once commanded a leading share of imports, Corona, craft beers, and even traditional competitors have introduced newer packaging and flavors, and Heineken has suffered. Today, Corona outsells Heineken almost 2 to 1. So it was out of necessity Heineken considered an alternative to the squat green bottle that has been their structural heritage. Funny how competition pushes a brand to better understand it’s equities.

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September 20, 2012   No Comments

Expensive Wine for $5.83 a bottle? Price can Define the True Value of a Brand.

The Wall Street Journal ran an offer for a sampler of 12 wines for $69.99 with the accompanying copy… “Delivered with $120 savings and FREE gifts.” So they revealed that the cost per bottle is $5.83, which I immediately equated to value. No, I didn’t bite, so I don’t know the labels they would have sent. But think about the mixed message. If the wine was so terrific, how could it be so cheap? Or is the wine not really worth that much in the first place. Was the original price inflated? In other words, price is another way to communicate and support the true value of a brand. And lowering price sends a brand-damaging message.

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April 1, 2011   2 Comments

Changing a Name Changes Everything

I have loved Japanese edamame for some time. Today I found out they were soy beans. Ouch! Names can really reframe perceptions and gain new levels of acceptance. Before I continue let me lace up my “running shoes.” I don’t wear “sneakers” any more.

Here is what set me thinking about name evolution. In the New York  Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about one of the world’s leading  specialists studying wild dogs in Africa. In his drive to change the negative stereotype of the words “wild dogs”, he has rebranded them “painted dogs.” What he has been able to do is transform the perception of a reviled varmint into an exotic animal that should be preserved. Very clever. [Read more →]

April 19, 2010   39 Comments

Driven a Geely Lately? Will China’s Image Impact Quality Perceptions of Volvo?

China’s Geely purchased Volvo from Ford which raises a significant perception issue. Can China manufacture a product for the West that equals or exceeds what consumers expect from Volvo today? Will “China” carry any negative perceptions that will limit potential?

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March 30, 2010   20 Comments