Category Archives: marketing
This week, I noticed something scary happening (and yes, Halloween is already over). Retail stores have exploded with wrapping paper, bows and garlands. Radio ads proclaim “Outdoor light sale, get a jump on your decorating!” And two days ago, one of my social media acquaintances proudly boasted that their Christmas presents were bought, wrapped and already placed underneath the decorated Christmas tree.
It was November 4th.
For those that are bothered by this, it’s easy enough to ignore the premature festivity. But there is one aspect that is harder to tune out, and you can bet it will be starting soon, if it hasn’t already.
The Christmas music.
Some love it. Some hate it. Marketing wisdom tells us that it puts shoppers in the “right frame of mind”, and encourages them to buy more. It’s hard to argue with this business strategy and its bottom-line results (see last year’s post Deck the Malls for an overview).
For this reason, I’ve been waiting for someone to take Christmas music to the next level. Now that the holiday season officially runs from November to January, the next logical step is to write a new carol that reflects our modern reality. The “61 days of Christmas” seems like an appropriate title. By my calculations, it would take several days of continuous play to reach the end, and it could be placed on an endless loop in retail stores. And think of the possibilities for product advertising! “On the 49th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a Windows 8 Surface Tablet!” It could be changed up every year to reflect the hottest products.
Then, to my relief, I came across a news article that dissuaded my fears of a 24/7-carol-o-thon. This week, Shoppers Drug Mart found itself in hot water after pumping out the Christmas tunes on November 1st. Customers complained that the pharmacy giant had overstepped the unwritten rule of “No Christmas before Remembrance Day” and the soundtrack was yanked “until further notice”. I skimmed through the 100+ comments on the article and the consensus was overwhelming: “No Christmas before December 1st please”.
Will retailers hear the message? Or will it be lost in the chorus of “fa la la la la-s” and register “cha-chings”?
Do you think the Christmas hype starts too early? Or should retailers use every sales tool at their disposal?
In my twenty-some years in marketing I’ve considered one thing more than any other; brand. What is it?
The simple answer? It is a logo or company name that you see daily, sometimes even hourly.
And that, my friends, is the wrong answer.
It is true that a well-designed logo will instigate immediate emotion. Navy blue is power. Grey is wisdom and competence. Times New Roman is obedient. Arial implies modern thinking. Straight lines are racy. Rounded lines are more personal. It all means something. A good logo can help set up the emotion that you want attached to your brand.
But a logo is not a brand.
A company name is not a brand.
Those items are simple visual symbols of a brand. Think of a logo as a thumbnail icon on your desktop. Upon seeing it, you know what the program does. You know whether or not you like that program. You know if it’s useful to you. It’s instantly recognizable because this icon stares at you every day. It reminds you of your experience (and that of others) with that product.
But you didn’t base your feelings on the icon. Yes, you recalled the program based on the icon, but you based your feelings about that image around the utility that it opens.
A brand is much more than a name or a logo. It is the emotion that a customer feels when thinking about your product.
A good brand isn’t one that has the benefit of the most clever bus station billboards, the most psychologically beneficial colour choices, the greatest frequency of radio commercials. A good brand is the one that enjoys a positive reaction because it is supported by an emotion; an emotion that ultimately comes from a good product.
Mercedes Benz has never won an award because of a really cool, easy to recall name. They’ve never been the recipient of prizes because of their revolutionary logo; a steering wheel. And yet it has become an epic symbol of quality.
If next week a group of bright entrepreneurs launched a new retail store that sold pneumatic heel exfoliators, they would – in most cases – come up with a snazzy name. They would hire a graphic artist who delivers a brilliant logo. They would hire an ad agency that pastes that brilliant company name above brilliant copy, on every wall of every podiatry clinic in the city. They would send out creative, edgy postcards to members of walking clubs. They would join and continually post on the website “peoplewhoneedheelexfoliation.com”.
Life will be wonderful.
They have created a brand.
No, they haven’t. They have created a symbol of a brand. If that store doesn’t engage in good customer service, and their heel exfoliators don’t work, customers will forever associate those brilliantly thought-out attributes with poor quality and lousy service.
The good news? They have now created a brand. A really, really bad one.
As it relates to retail, there is a very clear lesson to be learned. If you are selling products from a company that is well-branded, you have the invaluable benefit of your customer base already having an emotion attached to that product. But if you rely solely on that product’s name, the expensive advertising, a cool slogan, and some hip colours… you’re in deep trouble.
Your suppliers have spent millions. Sometimes billions in establishing a “brand”. They have invested in and entrusted to you with something that holds remarkable value.
If your desktop icon (even though it’s a widely recognized icon) opens a program that doesn’t work, that crashes your computer, that freezes continually… are you going to continue using it because you see it daily or even hourly?
Facing this, some companies would hire a creative phenom to change the logo.
And that, my friends, is the wrong answer.