Thursday, July 29, 2010

ReBranding Is the Touch Point at Which We Decide To Trust You Or Not

Ping is my favorite Chinese restaurant. I can see Ping’s logo in my mind. It’s nothing special. The font is some ultra-light version of Bauhaus, and the graphic has a “bamboo” feel to it, though I can’t exactly tell you why.

Still, this logo means something to me. It visually encapsulates my total experience with Ping. I see the logo and I see (no matter how subconsciously), the slick, lean atmosphere, the friendly staff, the famous “Lucky 8” lunches, a terrific make-you-happy hour, very fresh vegetables, and the chef’s “way with food.” As soon as I see Ping’s logo, the entire dining experience comes to me in an emotional wave. I don’t break down the components, but I “feel good” about it.

That’s branding.

A company logo is the single most salient representation of any company. For us customers, everything we think, feel, and have experienced with a company gets all tied up in that single visual – the logo.

So how do customers feel when a company rebrands with a new logo? That depends, of course, on whether anything about the company has really changed. You see, to us customers, that’s what a new logo means -- that something has changed. A company is new, different, better, more contemporary…blah, blah, blah. Why else bother?

Strangely – or maybe obviously -- this little bit of marketing persona – a logo -- is the favorite “mess around” venue of marketing executives, consultants, and new CEOs who may be looking to brand themselves through the extensive corporate “rebranding” process.

If that’s the case – if a company hasn’t really changed – we customers will know because we've already decided who you are now.

Look, customers have a feeling about your company. As with my Ping example, our full experience with a product or service is embodied and connected to the corporate logo. Whether we like you or not, we see your logo and we feel it. We figure the only reason you'd change your logo is to change our minds about who you are, right?

So, a new corporate logo is a promise to both old and new customers. You can say whatever you want, advertise whatever you want, posture in any way you want. We will decide if you’ve changed. If you haven’t, we’ll never trust you again.

And that’s the truth.

--scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, July 22, 2010

But It’s In Newsweek. It Must Be True!

An article in July 19 Newsweek cites seven dos and don’ts for creativity, all under the title "Forget Brainstorming."

Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman point to a 1958 study by Yale researchers, which, reportedly, found that “brainstorming in a group… actually reduced a team’s creative output.”

Jonathan Vehar, president and cofounder of New & Improved, is having none of it. The day Newsweek published, Vehar blogged a convincing rebuttal explaining that the Yale project only evaluated whether it is better to brainstorm alone or in a group. No indictment of brainstorming there. [FWIW, sometimes it’s better in a group, sometimes it’s better alone.]

Moving right along… the Newsweek article also reported on research by University of Oklahoma Professor Michael Mumford who, according to the authors, condemned available creativity training, calling it "garbage." Maybe Mumford did say that, but I couldn't verify it. On the other hand, Marty Baker, who blogs at Creativity Central, is convinced that “Newsweek got it wrong.”

“’[The article] is a manifestation of what’s wrong with media summaries," Marty declares. "It is a titillating and provocative sidebar that readers will remember without context ... It doesn’t say what Mumford identifies as commercially available creativity training. It does not give particulars about the Yale study back in 1958 -- over a half a century ago.”

True, I noticed all that. And yet... Bronson and Merryman cite a ton more research supporting their seven creative musts. “Don’t tell someone to be creative [Mark Runco, University of Georgia]; “Follow a passion” [Rena Subotnik, American Psychological Association]; “Explore other cultures” [Adam Galinsky, Northwestern]. Etc. Etc.

So where's the truth? I guess I could track down and verify every one of the citations .. and every one of the inevitable disclaimers to the citations. But even having done that, how sure would I be that anybody understands anything about creativity?

Beats the heck outta me. I’m just gonna get out my crayons and see what happens.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Free Advice to Wal-Mart from an American Consumer

The July 12 edition of Advertising Age tells the story of how Wal-Mart is dealing with its “assortment issues.” The company's Project Impact, initiated in September 2009, was meant to declutter the Wal-Mart aisles and make the shopping experience more “upscale.” Oops! Current research suggests that people can’t find what they want, so Wal-Mart is quietly putting all that junk back on the shelves. I say, "Don't bother."

In my personal experience -- and really, it is all about me, after all -- any retail effort to be "all-things-to-all-consumers" will tank.

Case in point: I shop mainly at Harris Teeter. It’s a smallish store, with friendly folks and solid prices, especially the ample two-fer specials. I'm always busy and I can fly around the store quickly, so I’m a fairly loyal HT customer. Sometimes, however, I go to Trader Joe’s, which carries amazing stuff like Kerry Gold butter from Ireland at $2.99/pound, flash frozen wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and inexpensive wine from Chile. Every so often I go there to get my growing list of TJ particulars. This multiple-shopping habit is not that unusual.

Case in point: Conversely, I have a friend who shops at Trader Joe’s all the time, but goes to Harris Teeter for artificially sweetened popcicles. Another friend gets groceries at Giant, but goes to Sam’s Club for huge bags of chicken breasts and big bottles of juice. I’m betting that even folks who shop at Wal-Mart hit-up some local market for certain “must-haves” or “taste-betters.”

American consumers – at least for now – have been given a lot of choices over the past decade, and in the process we’ve developed a great many “preferences.” Maybe the economy will punish that out of us, but it hasn’t happened yet.

In fact, I’ve been amazed how far out of the way people will go for a good Indian or Asian grocery store, a fresh fish market, organic locally-grown produce, good deli eats, and fresh baked goods. [Designer cupcakes have growing numbers of fans, actually. Who knew?]

In short, American consumers don't necessarily want to shop in any single place.. and no amount of finagling by Wal-Mart will change that any time soon.

p.s. Harris-Teeter recently dropped its Kerry Gold butter prices almost as low as Trader Joe's. Somebody is doing their homework.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo