Written by: Christian Doherty
In a congested
marketplace, a strong
brand presence can be
the difference between
success and failure.
get to grips with
Defining what a brand
does and why it matters is
one of the more pressing
questions for modern
companies. But ask anyone
in the industry what a brand actually is, and
you’ll get any number of different answers.
Emma Anderson is a Senior Consultant at
Guernsey-based Orchard PR – in her view, the
brand is the public face of the company. “That
involves everything from the name and the
logo through to the culture of the business. It’s
the ethos the business demonstrates through
everything it does – from PR and advertising,
to the way in which the individuals within that
business conduct themselves,” she explains.
The increasing importance and profile
of brands, and the industry that has grown up
around advising companies on brand strategy,
has led to a mistaken perception that a great
brand can be created by simply coming up
with a snazzy logo and tagline. Stories are rife
of firms spending millions on a new logo that
does little to enhance their standing or profile.
Probably most notable in the financial
sector is Abbey National’s infamous rebrand
to The Abbey in 2003 (prior to the company
being bought by Banco Santander). An
estimated £15 million was spent on a new logo
and communications, with the catchphrase
‘Turning banking on its head’. Sadly, the
only thing turned on its head was its business,
which plummeted after the new approach,
and range of products, was launched.
Even those brands that use customer
insight and crowdsourcing can still get it
wrong. US retailer Gap demonstrated the perils
of ‘updating’ a classic. Its new logo, developed in part through garnering user feedback from
social media, only survived a week after a
torrent of criticism. “We’ve learned a lot in this
process,” the company said. “And we did not
go about this the right way. It wasn’t the right
project at the right time for crowdsourcing.”
Getting it right
The issue of rebranding is a vexed one. David
Cameron is often credited with making the
Conservatives electable again by ‘detoxifying
the brand’. But the party had just lost three
elections in a row, and faced little choice
– change or die. A similar crisis precipitated
perhaps the most dramatic rebrand of all: that
of Czech car maker Skoda.
A popular joke in the 1980s was: ‘Why
does a Skoda have a heated rear windscreen?
To keep your hands warm when you push
it’. Becoming the first brand of car to have
a whole joke book dedicated to its perceived
shortcomings is an achievement of sorts.
But when your brand is shorthand for a pile
of junk, then a rebrand becomes a necessity.
In 1991, Skoda sold just 172,000 cars
worldwide, but then it was bought out by
perhaps the most brand-conscious of car
makers – Volkswagen. VW quickly set about
reinventing the Skoda brand with a series of
campaigns designed to shift perceptions.
Central to the success of the rebrand
– at least in the UK – was the use of humour.
“You won’t believe it’s a Skoda. Honest.”
Acknowledging the brand’s heritage and slyly
undercutting it proved enormously successful.
It didn’t hurt to play up the VW angle either,
convincing many that they weren’t actually
buying a Skoda, but a bargain VW.
It worked. Skoda enjoyed a significant
rise in sales following the campaign and have
continued to perform well since then – in 2010
they sold more than 750,000 cars. They have
also continued to reinvent themselves, most
notably with the recent campaign for the Fabia
vRS , which ran the strapline ‘Made of meaner
stuff’. It was dark and almost ‘sexy’ – certainly
not the image of yesteryear.
Rebranding is one thing, but building
a brand and keeping its profile high takes
constant care and attention. In today’s global
market, and with the proliferation of the
internet, the challenge is even harder – not least because of an increased demand from the
public – and shareholders – for companies to
be more ethically aware.
Interbrand, the world’s leading brand
consultancy, publishes its top 100 brands every
year, and practically every company on it will
be instantly recognisable around the world.
Sitting atop the pile for 2011, and not for the
first time, was Coca-Cola. Admittedly, Coke
has had its problems over the years, not least
when it tried to rebrand itself as New Coke
(see right). But in its review of Coca-Cola,
Interbrand demonstrates why a good brand
is so much more than its logo and product.
“The Coca-Cola brand remains timeless yet
relevant as it celebrates its 125th anniversary,”
it says. “The company lives, and its brand
and the overall equity of happiness come
through at every touchpoint. It continues to
receive enormous exposure through top-tier
sponsorships, with popular events like the
FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Coca-Cola
ties itself closely with meaningful promotions
relating to disaster relief, youth empowerment,
and sustainability issues around the globe. This
past year also saw the rollout of its PlantBottle,
a sustainable and recyclable bottle made
partially of plant material, which saw Heinz
adopt the technology for ketchup bottles.”
The local view
Getting it right on a massive corporate scale
is one thing, but what about when you’re
operating from a relatively small jurisdiction?
“It’s easy to talk about branding in terms of
logo and advertising, but branding is as much
about writing thought-leadership articles
to demonstrate the will of the business as it
is placing an advert in the local press,” says
Emma Anderson. “And I would suggest there
are a lot of businesses in the Channel Islands
that see branding as almost a standalone thing,
away from the business ethos.”
Indeed, standing out in a market like the
Channel Islands is in some ways even more of
a challenge. Ian Beresford is Head of Business
Development at Collas Crill, the firm created out of a merger between Collas Day and Crill
Canavan. It was his task, along with Marketing
and Comms Manager Kate Kirk, to design a
brand to both capture the new firm’s values
and differentiate it from the crowd.
“The legal market is incredibly generic, and
it’s a congested market in the Channel Islands,
so you need to do something that gets you
noticed,” he says. “Reputation is important,
obviously, but for firms like ours, we wanted to
offer something that stood us apart, and that’s
where the visual branding came into play.”
To that end Collas Crill has re-branded
and gone big on pink. So far the feedback has
been positive, with the company making the
shortlist for best brand strategy at the Jersey
Chartered Institute of Marketing Awards
– the only professional services firm to do so.
Another Channel Island firm, wealth
managers Hawksford International, recently
underwent a brand revamp using customer
feedback. Rebecca Stannard runs marketing
and comms at the firm, and commissioned the
research to confirm whether a rebrand was
needed, and to find out what it should cover.
“Firstly we dropped the ‘International’ and
built everything on the feedback we received.
It revealed people didn’t know what our full
capabilities were – we weren’t communicating
what we did well enough. Now we list all our
services on all marketing material. And we
built the brand image on people – not generic
images of the sea, which you often see.”
The Hawksford rebrand didn’t involve
radical and risky reimagining of its image
in the way Skoda’s did. It was a fine-tuning
of the firm’s existing values – playing up its
capabilities while putting space between itself
and the competition.
For Hawksford, and indeed many other
similar firms engaged in rebranding, only time
will tell how well it’s worked. But one thing
is for certain: in this day and age, getting your
branding right is more important than ever.
When a rebrand goes wrong
Few business decisions
can have generated such
a welter of publicity,
analysis, comment and
scorn as the fateful move
by Coca-Cola to rebrand
its most iconic product as New Coke. By the
mid-1980s, Coke was being battered by brash
new rival Pepsi, and was perceived as a staid,
Incoming CEO Roberto Goizueta decided
Coke needed to freshen up, and launched
a new flavour under the banner New Coke
in 1985. With enormous fanfare, the company
declared it the drink of the future, and was
convinced by the results of a taste test that
gave the new formula a firm thumbs up.
But it turned out people didn’t want a new
Coke: they wanted the old Coke. They soon
told the company, which within three months
had ditched the biggest revamp in its history
and reintroduced the old formula and look.
Surprisingly, Goizueta survived. New Coke
cans are now collectors’ items.
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