Monthly Archives: February 2011

The care and maintenance (or defense) of a brand

Last week was a sort of case study of a branding. The two strategies of FOCUS: Hope are to post the mission statement everywhere so visitors and employees never loose sight of the ultimate goals. The second are pins of the organization’s logo that are worn by every employee and handed over any time it is asked about, allowing the giver to talk about the organization. Fabulous you say, but you are branding a payroll company, or something so esoteric that even your spouse doesn’t know exactly what it is your company does. Like I said before a mission statement and a pin or logo isn’t a branding strategy. So what is? This:
1. Clarity–know what you are branding, what the mission is what goals are you aiming for. Don’t obscure it in babbling double talk.
2. Conviction–believe in the mission, the goal. If you don’t then your branding strategy is off–fix it.
3. Talking points, mission statement, goals what ever, spelled out, in print, in everyone’s hands. Posted at every turn is not a bad idea either.
4. Identity–logo, colors, typeface, and a guide of how to use them. Your look, not just your message needs to be consistent.
5. Enforcement–um, I mean persuasion. Your team must use the branding, not deviate, not interpret at least not without an okay from whomever enforces the branding.

Last words: Enforcement. Empower someone (note I said one) to be the last word on how the branding is interpreted. If that person says no to a use of the logo, type or a style outside the branding, then it’s no. Managers, VP’s can’t over rule. See my entry about being a logo cop.


Birth of a brand, brilliant and completely unintended

Once upon a time two very intelligent, dedicated people created a non-profit organization and in the process created an enduring identity. The organization is Focus: HOPE ( and they say what they are about far better than I.

In 1968, Father William Cunningham (1930–1997) and Eleanor Josaitis co-founded Focus: HOPE, an organization dedicated to intelligent and practical solutions to the problems of hunger, economic disparity, inadequate education, and racial divisiveness. Together, they adopted the following mission:

Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant. —Adopted March 8, 1968

I highly recommend visiting their web site and learning about the organization. I could write forever and not cover the half of the good they do. But this is about their branding and how they created a brand that endures, that any branding strategist would die for. This organization created a brand when the concept of creating a brand was unheard of. They had and unpopular mission at a time when feelings ran high in possibly the most polarized city in the country. They just wanted to be remembered and get out the message no one was interested in hearing.
First the mission. Everyone knows the mission statement. The mission statement is posted every where. Inside, outside. Plaques on the walls on every floor, out side on the buildings. And my absolute favorite, the mission is printed on the cardboard that backs the scratch pads. When the last sheet is torn off, mission statement. The other brilliant piece of branding they do are pins. Pins of their logo (as soon as I get permission, I will post it) every employee is required to wear one while working. My husband still has dozens and he hasn’t worked there in several years. That isn’t where the genius is though; any time anyone wearing a pin is asked about it, the wearer gives the pin to the questioner. Automatically the giver has the opportunity to talk about the organization. It’s brilliant. When Jennifer Granholm was running for governor of Michigan, she wore a FOCUS: Hope pin on her lapel, every public appearance, debate, press conference she wore that pin. You can’t buy that.
A mission statement and a pin, that’s branding? No. What’s behind it is branding. Conviction. The Good Father and Eleanor had and have an unwavering, unshakable belief in their work. Unyielding, relentless in pursuit of a better world, the message never waviers. Now you’re thinking, “Well it’s easy to believe and be passionate about something so important.” I’ve heard passionate discourses about pastrami–no lie. You have to believe your branding, if you don’t, there’s something wrong with it. You’re not selling your branding you’re believing in your product or your service. And your task is to get your colleagues to embrace that belief with complete conviction. Because they will take the message to customers, the public and on and on. What else? Next week.

Brand what is it?

I put the horse before the cart by writing about how a branding strategy can die before I defined exactly what a brand or branding is. A brand is a logo, a tag line, a color scheme, the overall design of a product, company or service. A brand is what makes you recognize a Target™ commercial before the familiar bulls eye logo appears. A tall white cup says Starbucks even if you can’t see the round green logo. It’s the scent you notice when you walk into a Starbucks. It can be as simple as a red cross, or the letters g o o g l e. It can get complicated, large corporations like car companies may have a different brandings for different divisions. The Ford Mustang is branded differently that the Ford F–150; the blue Ford logo unifies the company and the tag line: Ford: drive one. Branding can be tricky and only if a strong presence exists can branding be deviated from. The most and by far best example is, if I do say so (I can and will–I was born and raised in Detroit), is Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit campaign unveiled during the 2011 Super Bowl. It’s just brilliant. Will they build a mini brand off this? Seems like it. I don’t know what non-Detroiters think or feel about this ad but as a Detroiter living elsewhere I see that ad and I think that’s my town, that’s me. And that’s exactly what Chrysler was going for. Check it out:
“… this isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City. Or Sin City. And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City. This is the Motor City. And this is what we do.”

The death of a branding strategy: a tragedy in three acts

Once upon a time a stodgy, century old service company tried a new, hip, branding campaign. It was different, colorful, well here, here’s a part of it.

Pretty cool. So how did something this cool die? It died of neglect,indifference, and lack of support.

Act I: Company decides to focus on customer service as a way of changing how they are perceived. They decide on a radical departure from the traditional. The new look is fresh, rich, edgy yet exciting and with the focus on customer service, approachable.

Act II: The new look is unveiled, the branding strategy is explained to the top brass. The branding is taught to the graphics and web teams and pretty much no one else. It’s very different, so hardly anyone knows how to use the branding correctly. The branding strategy ought to have been taught as a training seminar for every employee, from the president and the board to the night watchman.

Act III: No one in the company felt any ownership of the branding, thus the graphics department fell back into old design strategies, the branding was not enforced and this cool, innovative brand, not to mention the new approach to customer service died a slow death, a web page, a brochure at a time. Tragic really.
Next week: How to introduce a brand and make it stick.