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Brand Love – Target The Heart and Win Big

“I pledge to fulfill my brand promise: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, listen, help, and care for you; I will try to make your life better; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; I will continue to strengthen our bond; through the best and worst of what is to come, and as long as we are together. Brand Love.”

Most brands need to earn the customer’s love over time. To speed up the courtship, several brands try to become more human-like. People choose their favourite brands with their hearts, not their heads. Brand love evokes emotion and is more powerful than any brand story.

Love at First Sight

Carolin Dahlman says in her book, Love Branding, if you can learn to master your customers’ emotions and make them feel the love, you will earn more money. She explains that love is a two-way street, and most brands fail to love their customers back. So what does that mean? It’s all about giving back what you get. I guess you can say it’s not a one-night-stand but a commitment – a long-term commitment.

Emotional Branding

No one knows this better than Procter & Gamble. Over the last 180 years, P&G has been at the forefront of creating powerful, emotional relationships between consumers and brands. They have been pioneers and leaders in embracing technology to build a deep brand connection with their customers. They utilized soap operas on the radio and early television, award shows, and fast-growing web ventures.

P&G Global Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard emphasized the importance of one-to-one relationships in today’s always-connected, always-on digital environment. He said that brands need to be less focused on making money and instead emphasize improving customers’ lives. He, too, thinks it’s important to give back to the customer.

P&G’s used the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Winter Games to thank moms through several highly emotional stories. There aren’t too many mothers who can’t relate to these stories.

P&G Pampers brand is another excellent example of how P&G has defined a higher purpose for their brand beyond the functional benefit of keeping babies dry. Pampers has leveraged the critical consumer insight that moms—especially first-time moms—are continually looking to connect with others sharing similar experiences. Pampers created programs such as “Pampers Village” and “A Parent is Born” as forums for moms to connect, learn and discover. If you visit their Canadian Facebook page, they have over 18,275,856—pretty good for a poopy diaper discussion.

But is this brand love? Love is defined as an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment – the ultimate goal for any brand.

1934-food-heinz-ketchup-swscan04154-copy

Love Potion

It’s hard to argue with success, and no brand is more successful than Heinz Ketchup. A brand that has been around for over 144 years is still the bestselling brand of ketchup globally, with over 650 million bottles sold every year. So what is their love potion? Diane Levine, the author of the blog Beneath the Brand, says their enduring success comes down to a few brilliant but straightforward relationship strategies:

  • Maintain a core (or at least an air) of consistency
  • Spice things up once in a while
  • Be considerate of their needs.

In the end, she says it’s the little things that matter most.

In Romancing the Brand: How Brands Create Strong, Intimate Relationships with Consumers, branding expert Tim Halloran argues that today’s effective marketers must foster a deep, committed, and emotionally connected relationship with their consumer base. They must keep the sparks alive in a long-term relationship rather than focus solely on the short-term, single purchase.

Better Lives

Building off of Diane Levine’s three strategies, Tim Halloran includes:

  • Listen to your customers.
  • Strive to make your customers’ lives better

On the last point, Nike ‘Just do it’ is now more about ‘Help me just do it.’ Nike+ has become an enabler to its customers and brings them together to stay motivated and challenged in a virtual community. Nike’s success has to do with its focused use of athlete relationships and innovative brand experiences to inspire its customers to feel like athletes. Its products and technologies are always linked to values such as aspiration, achievement and status.

Tim Hortons has found its way into Canadians’ hearts not only through their coffee on every corner of every city and town of Canada but also through their social consciousness of understanding Canadians. From their support of the Canadian military to tapping into the Canadian passion for hockey, they have successfully used the Canadian brand to reinforce their brand love.

Brand Love

If you read this article out of context, you would think that we talked about the secrets of a successful marriage. In truth, what we are talking about here is a deep and emotional relationship between a customer and a brand. The exciting thing is that the historical brands figured this out a long time ago. Keep re-engineering how you engage and support your customers. The internet allows every brand to engage with its customers on a one-to-one level 24/7. But without the insights and relationship strategies to connect on an emotional level, there will never be any brand love.

If you want customers to love your brand, make sure you give more than you take. Follow through on the little things, keep your promises, learn to apologize when you make a mistake or disappoint and spend time learning about what is important to them. But most importantly, your brand must be authentic and real to be loved.

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How Brands Inspire the Holiday Spirit in the Year 2020

man in santa claus costume

It’s safe to say that the 2020 holiday season will be different from any other holiday season for retail brands and consumers worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound effect on virtually everything concerning the holidays. Some brands will thrive and inspire the holiday spirit in 2020, and others will find themselves on the naughty list. The same goes for the consumers — some have extra cash from remaining stuck at home, and others will be struggling to survive after losing their jobs. The disparities will be dramatic. There have been over 1.7 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. Currently, North America leading in the number of new cases.

‘Tis the season when every major retail brand will try to capture consumers’ hearts by inspiring the holiday spirit in 2020 with the ultimate goal of turning a profit. The holiday season can make up to 20 – 40 percent of annual sales for many retail brands. A lot is riding on this time of uncertainty. In many cases, brands are still trying to recoup the losses from the first Coronavirus lockdown in the spring. According to the WARC research group, the pandemic has eliminated $63 billion in global advertising spend. This is the time for all or nothing.

Holiday Spirit in 2020

This is truly a year when we all need as much good cheer, hope, joy, kindness, generosity and goodwill as ever before. This magical time should be bringing us together with friends and family to share food, stories, gifts and merriment. But with the second-wave of COVID-19 hitting North America and Europe, this doesn’t look possible. Not physically, anyway. Any gatherings will need to be virtual through a one-dynamical digital platform—the burden of lifting our spirits weights heavily on the mega brands holiday commercials.

Brad Hiranaga, the chief brand officer for General Mills, North America, says brands will need “to be respectful and empathetic to what’s going to be a more challenging holiday season.”

The soundtrack plays a leading role in helping trigger happy holiday memories utilizing some of the most prevalent emotional songs and traditional Christmas tunes.

How did these brands tackle the pandemic’s challenge both in production and addressing the safety realities (distancing & masks) and the social mindset, or did they suspend the current reality for the sake of Christmas? Here are the top themes brands used to inspire the holiday spirit in 2020:

Diversity

2020 was a devastating year for racism inciting Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations. Clearly, many brands understand the importance of portraying diversity as they deviated from the traditional Caucasian family demographic to reflect their consumer base.

The holidays wouldn’t be complete without a beer commercial. For example, Heineken does an excellent job of portraying a montage of families going through the usual things they dislike about being together during the holidays, except now these things have turn into moments of joy. 

H-E-B, a supermarket chain in Texas, creates a collection of vignettes of various families doing good deeds during the holiday season.

Animation

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the filming industry, shutting down many production studios to keep actors safe. Using animation is a perfect solution. It’s a rich, engaging medium that can suspend reality and represent abstract ideas. It is also cost-effective and easy to manage in work from home environment. 

A list of Christmas commercials wouldn’t be complete without the John Lewis UK department store. This year’s advert is called Give A Little Love. The story transforms from real actors to animation celebrating how every act of love and kindness positively impacts the world around us. 

McDonald’s Christmas animated advert focuses on a mother trying to reignite the holiday season’s magic with her pre-teen son, who tries to suppress his inner child. 

Genuine & Real

2020 has taught us all to combine work with home life, at least below the belt. The world has become more informal as we share where and how we live. Authenticity has become paramount. In a world of so much uncertainty, we are all hungry for stability and things we can rely on. 

Kohl’s, a USA department store chain, holiday commercial recognizes “this year looks different because the world is different,” so they focused on the simple concept of human connection. From a young girl’s bedroom window, assuming she is in lockdown, she starts a new friendship.

This year Amazon dumped the long-standing self-serving singing Amazon boxes commercials. And replaced it with a tear-jerking story about a ballerina who triumphs through the challenges of 2020. Thanks to the support of her family and community. There are only two Amazon boxes shown throughout the 90 seconds, and they don’t make a sound. 

Worst Year Ever

Some brands felt it was essential to address the elephant in the room. They acknowledged and empathized with the pandemic’s new normal. This required a fine-balance of tonality and sincerity without taking advantage of the situation. Using humour is always appreciated as a positive relief. 

Actor Steve Carell plays Santa in a touching holiday commercial from Xfinity. Because of the horrible year, Santa challenges the elves to develop some truly unique gift ideas. After running out of ideas, they decide to gift “togetherness.” I will leave it at that, so I don’t spoil the punchline. 

Tesco, a British multinational groceries, uses humour in its commercial to declare, “after a year like this, we believe there is no naughty list. So go on Britain, treat yourself to the best Christmas ever.” 

Hope & Retro

With all the fear and sadness the pandemic has created, some brands have gone retro. Pulling from happier times to reassure us that the future will be OK.

New to holiday advertising, Disney produced a mini happy-sad-happy animated movie (3 minutes long) focused on their most iconic character Mickey Mouse. The story covers a decade from a grandmother’s childhood to her granddaughter today. This is sure to activate your tear-ducts.

This year Coca-Cola aired two Christmas ads – Holidays Are Coming and The Letter hitting the heartstrings with a combination of nostalgia, escapism and humour. 

Please No Change 

Since 1989 Hershey’s has run their classic Kisses commercial of eleven red and green Kisses performing a bell rendition of “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” This year, Hershey wanted to take advantage of the new baking craze. So they adapted the original version by adding a father and daughter making peanut butter blossom cookies. The Twitter-sphere quickly reacted negatively as the statement “people are outraged” trended. Hershey’s promptly brought back the original to appease those who couldn’t handle another change in 2020. 

Happy Holidays 

As Eric Severeid, author and CBS news journalist, said, “Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” Most retail brands embrace this concept to capture the real feeling of Christmas. Many went out of their comfort zone to try to reach consumers on an emotional level. Some failed to connect or went too far and others achieved their goal. I only shared a shortlist of holiday commercials go to YouTube to view the complete list.

You will have to be the judge as to whether they inspired the holiday spirit in 2020 during these unprecedented times. 

Happy holidays and a safe and healthy New Year!

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The Amazing Magic Of Audio Branding

Audio branding is like the icing on the cake. It provides an amazing, rich and memorable tone to your brand identity. Sound can stop you in your tracks and quickly engage you like no other sense can. Music and sounds can trigger memories and emotions. To test your audio branding knowledge, we have created a quiz. Listen to 7 different unique sounds and see if you can identify the brands.

Most retailers already leverage music as a selling tool in stores. In building a brand, the use of sound is underestimated. Few brands are strategically using music, sound and voice to create a magical brand connection.

 

The Beginning of Audio Branding

Before television, radio was the darling for reaching consumers. I have been told by those who still remember that radio was the entertainment center in households. Entire families would huddle around the radio to listen to broadcasts sponsored by a brand. Well before the trend of radio advertising. Generals Mills aired the first singing commercial back in 1926 entitled “Have you tried Wheaties?” It was an instant success and made Wheaties a national brand.

The art of building brands through jingles reached a peak during the economic boom of the 1950s. Many product categories jumped onto the trend such as breakfast cereals, candy, snacks, pop, tobacco, beer, automobiles, personal hygiene products, household products and especially detergent, advertising jingles were often used. Like the epic musical films, branding jingles lost their appeal by the 1960s. Any Boomer can recite several advertising jingles as they sit dormant in their brains like “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener,” “Ai, Yi, Yi, Yi, I am the Frito Bandito,” and “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”

To be a memorable and enduring jingle Linda Kaplan Thaler, Chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler advertising agency, say, “[a jingle] have huge sticking power. A jingle is not successful if you listen to it once and liked it. You have to listen to it and want to sing it. Essentially, you become the advertiser for the brand.” She also thinks today is a perfect time to build a brand through a jingle due to the many social channels to share it on. While Martin Puris, past Chairman and CEO of Ammirati & Puris, thinks jingles are passé. “In a marketing wary world, a jingle seems oddly out of place. Too slick, too contrived.”

Singing a brand message is a beautiful thing.

Big Bold Sounds

“Master of suspense” filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock understood the importance of sound in telling a story. He said, “When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise.” He was brilliant at manipulating his audience’s emotions by using sound design to enhance the situation. Remember his movie, The Birds (1963). He used a combination of real bird sounds and electronically synthesized noises, creating an auditory assault that brought the vicious bird attacks to life.

Great sound design is fully appreciated through good quality sound systems and speakers. Since the 1960s, we saw significant innovations concerning sound systems, from the bulky multiunit stereo systems and the iconic boombox to putting our entire music library into our pocket with the iPod. Add a set of good quality headphones, and you are in another world.

 

Audio Branding – Music 

Eric Sheinkop, co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands, says, “Music brings value to a brand in three ways: identity, engagement, currency. Specifically, using music to establish an emotional connection with a brand increases brand recognition, creates excitement and buzz beyond the brand’s core products or services and can empower consumers, giving them valuable content to discover and share. Music creates the value that brands need to win the war for attention and develop a genuine connection with their consumers. When used correctly, music not only creates loyalty but true advocacy.”

Music has played an essential role in brand building for automotive and aviation brands, where it is all about the emotional state. Music is a universal language that crosses all borders of culture, nationality and languages. It is a personal connection to the brand. Yet, most brands tend to use sound and music to be campaign-oriented, not brand-oriented. Here is an example of a campaign-oriented advertisement by Honda featuring a 60-person choir who were the sole audio track. There isn’t any car sound that they can’t sing.

United Airlines took the brand-oriented approach using music as a key brand element. Since 1976, United has used the familiar George Gershwin’s tune Rhapsody in Blue as a foundation for their brand. The music is played in its television advertisements, airport terminals, and pre-flight announcements. United Airlines uses this piece of music to strategically create a distinct audio identity that expresses its vales at all necessary customer touchpoints. Have you ever watched someone bring on a musical instrument onto a plane? How about the entire London Symphony Orchestra.

Their onboard safety video creatively incorporates the distinctive rhapsody in blue music in various interpretations to emphasize each cultural destinations – brilliant.

 

Audio Branding – Sonic Logo 

The sonic logo is linking your brand logo with a distinct and unique sound that becomes synonymous with the brand identity. The key is using it everywhere the brand is communicated.  It takes years of reach and frequency to link a sound firmly to the brand. But, once it occurs, it becomes timeless like NBC’s three-tone chimes, Intel’s five-note bong, and THX Sound System’s deep note. Kevin Perlmutter’s brand strategist and a blogger explain that because sound bypasses the rational part of the brain and reaches the most intuitive level, sound can be the fastest way to heighten brand engagement. Therefore, a brand identity is incomplete without utilizing a sound or music to help develop an emotional connection even if your brand is an unemotional computer chip. You have a better chance to position a brand into the customer’s mind if you use a multisensory approach.

 

Audio Branding – Product Sound

Some product brands have their very own sounds that can help differentiate themselves from the competition. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz,” Snapple’s “Pop” when opened, Dyson’s unique vacuum sound, Infiniti’s engine sound (check out the ten most distinctive sounding cars) and the “scritch-scratch” sound of a Sharpie marker on paper. The sound of your product can be as unique as its look, feel and smell. Rachael Pink, an acoustic engineer at Dyson, says, “People now expect products to sound good—not just sound quiet, but have a nice quality.”

Frit-Lay, part of PespiCo Inc., introduced a compostable chip bag for its SunChips brand to become more environmentally friendly. Therefore, as a result, the bag became noisy changing the customer experience so drastically sales fell, and consumers complained about the sound. Frito-Lay went back to the old bag. Don’t underestimate the customer’s relationship with your brand and product sound.

 

Hearing is Believing 

Today, visual branding remains the focus of many marketers and branding experts. Even with the increased number of touchpoints (like TV, radio, website, mobile apps, voice assistants, social channels, in-store displays, voice messages, events and in-store), you can’t rely solely on visuals. The trend is towards digital channels (social media, bloggers, podcasts, voice assistants, video) for brands to communicate.

Well, digital has many channels to reach the consumer; it can lack personality and emotional attachment. Supporting this conclusion, Kevin Perlmutter says, “The strategic use of music and sound can dramatically improve a digital interaction by placing a brand’s unique identity and personality front and center to provide clear navigation with proprietary sounds that are simultaneously functional and emotional.”

In our chaotic and over-stimulated communications world, brands need to engage all senses to create a powerful emotional impact that transforms brand experiences. Audio branding could be the magic your brand needs to be believed. Start turning up the volume.

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Important Survival Lessons from Dead Brands

I see dead brands

“Of all the things that your company owns, brands are far and away the most important and the toughest. Founders die. Factories burn down. Machinery wears out. Inventories get depleted. Technology becomes obsolete. Brand loyalty is the only sound foundation on which business leaders can build enduring, profitable growth,” says Jim Mullen, founder of Mullen Advertising. So often, business leaders fail to understand this and stick to what they know, which is to continue to withdraw on their brand loyalty oblivious of the dangers that surround them. Many dead brands can teach us a lesson.

There are thousands of brands that have come and gone and hundreds that are the walking dead. Learning from mistakes is always harder than justifying enormous brand successes. Shifting a brand into a new direction is hard, expensive, risky and terrifying. No wonder few brands can do it. The brand graveyard is full of exciting lessons of how indecision, denial, arrogance and fear killed a brand.

Here are six essential survival lessons to keep your brand from ending up dead:

Brand Experience

Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. There was a day, people who drove a Ford drove Fords their whole lives. Not anymore. Yet mobile phone companies like Apple and Samsung see customers stick with them from phone to phone. The problem is keeping up with customer’s expectations. There is no shortage of new and exciting brands. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, there are over 30,000 new produced launched every year. The choices are endless. With the help of the internet, the world is your oyster. You can quickly compare prices, performance, brand value, and user experiences 24/7, including one-click to buy.

In 2018, NewVoiceMedia’s ‘Serial Switchers’ reported brands lost more than $75 billion due to poor customer service. If the brand experience isn’t highly personalized and relevant, and delivering highly customized experiences online and offline, be afraid. Customers are looking and expecting memorable, multidisciplinary, multisensory brand experiences that touch them along their journey. Brands that fail to embrace the concept that every brand touch-point builds brand loyalty are closer to their demise.

Brands that are desperate to save money start by cutting front-line service or implementing customer-hostile business models; these brands generally don’t last long. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliot identified two such dead brands: US Airways and Blockbuster.

Before US Airways demise (2015), it went through a significant downsizing and outsourced many customer service functions. Customer’s reviews on Skytrax gave them a 4 out of 10, and CustomerService Scoreboard gave them 34 out of 200 possible points with an overall rating of “Terrible.” Blockbuster wasn’t much better with a 38 out of 200 with a similar score.

Innovate or Die

Every brand’s survival mantra must be — innovate or die. Innovation comes in many forms: product changes, new use patterns, production efficiency, service improvements, digital enhancements, new features and benefits, or more environmentally friendly inputs and uses.

No brand should be complacent. The speed of change will continue to exhilarate thanks in part to new technologies such as 5G, Blockchain, Voice technology, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, 3D printing, Edge Computing, Spatial Computing (Mash-up of augmented, mixed and virtual reality AR, MR, VR), and Quantum Computing.

Brands must always be looking to improve or surpass customer’s ever-evolving expectations. Apple understands this in spades as they launch a new iPhone almost every year. Currently, the rumour is the Apple will be introducing a new 2020 iPhone model this fall, which could be called iPhone 12. How original.

In 2008 Nokia was ranked as one of the most valuable brands in the world. New Yorker writer James Surowieckisays Nokia failed to keep up with the competition in the smartphone game and relied on its past brand strengths. “The high-tech era has taught people to expect constant innovation; when companies fall behind, consumers are quick to punish them.” Nokia was severely punished and is dead when it comes to the mobile phone business.

PWC report that many brands don’t have an emerging technologies strategy at all, and aren’t monitoring them. They also determined that an entirely new business could be constructed using new emerging technologies with less investment than one-quarter of an existing IT maintenance budget. This new brand threat could be up and running in less than a year.

Today, it’s easy to build a brand on innovations and technologies. It’s much harder to sustain a brand on past innovations and successes. Kodak didn’t envision a future without film nor Blockbuster without VHS videos.

Shifting Audience

There was a day; all a brand had to do was keep the Baby Boomer happy — the most significant consumer base the world has ever seen. If a brand built a loyal Boomer consumer base, it was golden. The problem is that this demographic is getting older by the day, and their consumption pattern is shifting and declining drastically.

Many brands need to re-engineered to meet the expectations of the next significant consumer waves — the Millennials and Generation Z. Many new brand-breaking paradigms are causing considerable disruption like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and Spotify. Rave Reviews state 78 percent of Millennials say that brands have to work harder to secure their loyalty. How brands guarantee dedication and commitment has changed significantly. Millennials are looking beyond traditional brand value and quality with higher expectations on transparency, sustainability, and innovation. Your brand must always prove itself worthy as Millennials, and Gen Z continuously monitors online reviews, influencers and social media before buying any brand.

I am sure many Millennials and Gen Z have never heard of such dead brands as Napster, Walkman, Palm, Compaq, and Enron.

Trend, Fad or Fiction

Times change, and so does consumer’s needs and wants. Make sure you know when your brand is a fad or just a passing whim.

Remember the Pet Rock? In 1975, Gary Dahl, an advertising executive, conceived and marketed rocks called Pet Rock. In less than a year, he rocked on to sell over 1.5 million Pet Rocks at $4 each. For a fleeting moment, he was a rock star, and then the Pet Rock disappeared forever. This brand was dead before you knew it.

Famous actor, filmmaker, author, and former politician and professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger was captivated by a convoy of military Humvees driving down a highway in 1989. Immediately, he had to have one. We know from history that Arnold always gets what he wants. AM General worked with General Motors to supply a civilian version called the famous Hummer. It was a great success as other affluent “Arnolds” stepped forward to have the privileged to feel the power of a tank stuck in traffic gridlock. Sales peaked in 2006, and the last Hummer H3 rolled off the line on May 24, 2010. High gas prices and the ever-increasing pressures by the environmental movement made the Hummer brand symbol unpalatable as a gas guzzler. Eventually, even Arnold sold his seven Hummers for a reported $950,000 to conform with other Californians. The Hummer brand was dead.

Remember Segway? The cool two-wheeled motorized self-balancing stand-up personal vehicle that allowed you to travel standing. Was this another Pet Rock? The problem was the Segway was expensive ($5,000), massive (over 100 pounds) and potentially dangerous. It wasn’t big enough to navigate the road with cars and wasn’t small enough to travel safely on the sidewalk. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was quoted in the book Code Name Ginger stating, “I think this plan is dead on arrival.” The inventor Dean Kamen (nicknamed Ginger) was planning to sell half a million of these in a year. According to Forbes, they sold just 30,000 Segways in six years. As people continue to embrace a healthier lifestyle with more exercising like walking, the Segway looks like the laziest mode of transportation ever. Jeff Bezos was right; the Segway brand is dead.

Guts to Change

If you see your brand failing and the market changing, what do you do? Do you tinker with your business model that has been working for decades or, in some cases, centuries? Do you alienate your loyal customers by changing too much, too quickly?

Kodak and Blackberry are great examples of trying to stay in the past while trying to meet the future at the same time. Unfortunately, they both failed. Allen Adamson, Chairman of North America Landor Associates, explains that Kodak “failed to seize the day in terms of moving away from the existing cash cow to figure out how to live and fight the future.” Today, Blackberry is still trying to reinvent itself to find its vision. Meanwhile, all of its customers have replaced their “crackberry” with an iPhone or Samsung smartphone. Like Nokia, the Blackberry smartphone is dead.

Remember the Friday or Saturday evening trip to Blockbusters to rent a new movie release? The writing was on the wall as cable companies, internet providers, and Netflix offered seamless video streaming at home. But, Blockbusters stayed the course except for extending their late fees charging, which they accumulated over $800 million — something I don’t miss paying.

Many other brands (Circuit City, Future Shop, Olympus, Barnes & Noble, Borders, H&M, Taxis and retail stores, to name a few) face significant disruption from new technologies and digital innovations. Unless they embrace drastic changes, if they can, their destiny doesn’t look bright.

Bad Business Models

The fastest way for a brand to achieve death is not having a sound business model to ensure sustainable profits. The airline industry is notorious for building a new airline brand, then watching them fall from the sky (in some cases literally). Severin Borenstein, an economist at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley, says, “The industry in aggregate has lost about $60 billion over the 32 years since 1978. The biggest mistake they seem to make is not making money.”

Wikipedia has a list of defunct airlines by country. I counted over 430 USA airline brands, and over 105 Canadian airline brands no longer taking off. Remember, Eureka Aero, Mohawk Airlines, Zip, Greyhound Air, Roots Air or Pride Air? TWA, owned by Howard Hughes and Pan Am were the first airlines to fly around the world. They pioneered many innovations such as jumbo jets, computerized reservation systems, in-flight meals and much more. Sadly, they are both dead brands.

The automotive industry has a similar story, but theirs are less about the business model and more about production and quality issues, and costs. Check out the defunct USA auto list. The list is very long!

Do you remember the dot.com bubble? The stock markets went crazy with new internet companies that promised to change the world, with high valuations and no profits. At the time, losing money was a symbol of success. By October 2002, the Nasdaq stock market index had lost 78 percent of its value from the peak. By mid-2003, trillions of dollars on wealth vanished, and thousands of dot.com brands like Pets.com, GeoCites.com, TheGlobe.com, InfoSpace.com, LastMinute.com, Altavista.com, Kozmo.com, Boo.com, all disappeared. The lesson is you need a sustainable business model. Currently, its the weed brands that are learning this fact.

Today, many retail brands are heading into the same direction with colossal debt, poor customer service and no digital strategy. Too many dead brands.

Survive or Die

Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, who made the company a microprocessor behemoth, wrote the book, Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Identify and Exploit the Crisis Points that Challenge Every Business. Written over 20 years ago, it is still very relevant to the concept of “inflection points.”

An inflection point is a point where you know that the industry in which your business operates in, has changed so profoundly that you can either change your business entirely as well or get killed by your competitors. The inflection could be a change in competition, a change in regulatory issues, a change in consumer habits, and a change in technology. He believed in taking action, doing something about it, staying ahead of times and winning at all costs even if it meant changing even his company’s core areas of business. “Most companies don’t die because they are wrong; most die because they don’t commit themselves,” says Grove. “They fritter away their valuable resources while attempting to make a decision. The greatest danger is in standing still.”

Death isn’t inevitable. There are many successful brands well over a hundred years. Some brands that came back from the dead and are flourishing today are Lego, Marvel comic books, Old Spice, Apple, Nintendo and Volkswagen.

In this new world of disruptive technologies and innovations, no brand is safe. Changes are being launched at lightning speed, copied overnight, and improved continuously by the hour. If you freeze in indecision or blink, your brand could be dead before you know it. Today the Coronavirus’s impact is still unknown, but brands must be on high-alert as customer’s consumption patterns and preferences shift. Be ready to respond and fight to survive. There are already too many dead brands.

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Pink Colour Branding

It’s not just a colour. It’s a state of mind.

The colour pink is a striking and controversial colour, full of meaning and emotions. Dr. Veronika Koller, a professor and researcher at Lancaster University who studied how people interpret the colour pink, says that pink contains more interpretations than any other colour. This article is a respectful summation of this revolutionary colour. If history has anything to tell us, the pink colour branding has a lot of opportunities left in it in the world of branding.

The Colour Pink

Christina Olsen, director of the University of Michigan, Museum of Art, says the colour pink isn’t part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which means we don’t see actual wavelengths. Pink light is “an extra–spectral color, which means other colors must be mixed to generate it.” The primary two colours to make pink are red and white, but it is yellow and blue tones that form a broad spectrum of pink hues. Wikipedia has identified over 46 notable shades of the colour pink (blue has over 73). In the ranking of fashionable colours, pink is number four behind blue, black and grey.

Alice Bucknell, in her article A Brief History of the Color Pink explains pink has been a spectacular contradiction for masculinity and femininity. In Japan, the colour pink represents masculinity honouring slain Samurais, whereas western cultures popularized pink in the eighteen-century fashion scene within the pastel-loving bourgeoisie. The art world brought pink to the forefront, starting with the French Impressionists and Neo-Impressionist movements (such as Claude Monet’s lilies and Edgar Degas’s dancers). In the 1960s, pop art took pink to the next level with artists like Andy Warhol (with his famous Marilyn Monroe). From there, we saw the pink move towards a vibrant neon-soaked 90s, to finally to a subdued Millennial pink that speaks to a more emotionally connected and tolerant society.

Tickled Pink

Pink is known as a cheerful colour. Think about cotton candy and bubble-gum— pure delights.

The psychology of the colour pink is firmly rooted in the perception that pink is a feminine colour that connotes nurture, care, calmness, romance and hope. Marketing has played a role in portraying pink as a “girly” colour.

Intensify the colour to hot vibrant pink, and the psychological properties shift the tonality to youthful, energetic, sexy and fun. The range of moods and feeling pink can portray vast and can quickly define gender or personality.

T-Mobile uses hot pink (magenta) to help differentiate their brand from the big competitors (AT&T and Verizon) and set an irreverent brand tone. In 2012, John Legere joined T-Mobile as CEO, who created a new brand around the colour of pink, transforming the company to be more energetic, youthful and hip. He must have done more than introduce hot pink to successfully motivate his employees to wear their shocking magenta uniforms every-day proudly.  This brand transformation has been a large part of T-Mobile’s successful turnaround from a $29 billion in sales and -$6 billion revenue loss to, today, a $51 billion in sales and positive revenue over $4 billion. In 2014 T-Mobile was successful in shutting out AT&T subsidiary from trying to use a similar magenta colour by trademarking theirs— feisty true colours.

Pretty in Pink

Associating baby boys with blue and baby girls with pink is a relatively new trend, says Jo B. Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. She told the gender-code between pink and blue was firmly drawn in western societies in the early 1980s thanks to branding and marketers such as Care Bear, Barbie, Hello Kitty, and many Disney princesses. Pink became the leading colour to define pretty little girl’s materialistic world of glitter and fairy tales.

In 2011, Forbes reported that the Disney Princess franchise made $1.6 billion (U.S.) in North American retail sales and $3 billion globally. They were making it the best-seller beating Star Wars, Sesame Street and superheroes. Pink colour branding power prevails.

The colour pink doesn’t stop with infants and young girls. Victoria Secret has successfully used the colour pink for over 40 years to build a lingerie empire of over $8 billion U.S. (2015) in worldwide sales. In 2002, Victoria Secret introduced the PINK brand to attract high school and college-age girls to purchase causal loungewear a step down from the sexy lingerie.

Gender-Coded Pink

Despite this pink persuasion, I have found no conclusive scientific evidence that gender-coded pink influences women more than men, nor does it have any effect on human behaviour. JR Thorpe stated in her article, Why Are We So Obsessed With Millennial Pink? There’s A Scientific Explanation For Everything that there is sufficient “evidence that we do seem to view pinks in a positive light in some situations, likely as a result of cultural programming.”

Post World War II, every home had some sort of pink household products based on targeting women who were entering into the work-force and started drawing a paycheque (thanks to the war). Remember grandma’s pink bathroom complete with pink doilies? As Jennifer Wright says in her article How Pink Became a Color for Girls, if a lady “tells you that her favorite color is “pink!” she might be telling you that she wants to be dainty and demure and stay at home. Or she might just be a badass who’s trying not to scare you too much.” Does this mean that intrinsically women are influenced by pink to some degree due to generational exposure or a desire to be part of something bigger?

The Politics of Pink

The colour pink connotes passive, innocent and girly; however, as an advocacy pink colour branding, it’s fierce and powerful, loaded with pride and strength.

The pink triangle was associated with the gay liberation movement. Still, its original creation was far more evil as it was used by the Nazis to identify homosexual prisoners in concentration camps.

In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave pink ribbons to runners in its New York breast cancer survivor race. The following year, the pink ribbon became the official, now-ubiquitous, symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In both cases, the pink colour communicates active defiance and empowerment. Many feminist groups have adopted the colour pink as a sign of strength and pride in the mission towards equality and opportunity.

Pink Ribbon

The Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent example of using the gender-coded colour pink to their advantage to promote awareness and increase early detection of breast cancer. Some people would argue that the pinkification of breast cancer has turned a horrible disease into a brand that has been commodified by other brands for their profits. BreastCancer.org estimate that “about 42,170 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2020 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.” I wasn’t able to find any awareness statistics on the pink ribbon campaign, but I would guess it would be highest among the many ribbon campaigns that exist today.

For Pink Sake

Then there are those brands that don’t care about the gender-coding or personality traits of the pink colour branding. They just want a colour that will differentiate them from the competition.

Owens-Corning is one of those companies that introduced their Pink Fiberglas insulation into the market over 50 years ago. In 1980 they introduced the Pink Panther as their mascot in all of their marketing to accentuate their pinkness and likable pink personality. Since launching the Pink Panther, customers prefer pink insulation by a ratio of seven to one over the closet competition, as revealed in an Owens-Corning study done in the late 1990s. They were also one of the first companies to trademark their colour against copycats successfully. Mr. Smith, Head of Marketing, says, “We are fortunate. We have a trademark color that is up there with Coke red.” In his dreams!

In 1893, the Financial Times went from a generic white paper newspaper to a shade of salmon-pink, which immediately distinguish it from all the competition. Why pink? It was cheaper to dye it pink than making it white. Today, the opposite is correct, but as readers’ transition to the online version, the colour is more about tradition than attracting attention on a dying newsstand.

Millennial Pink

Millennial Pink, also known as the Tumblr Pink or Scandinavian Pink (check out Pinterest), is the politically correct colour that has appeared in shades of beige with a touch of blush to a pleasing peach-salmon. This gender-neutral, androgynous colour is growing in popularity since it first appeared in 2012. You can find it in restaurant interiors, furniture, household products, clothing for both men and women, hair tints, drinks, rose-gold iPhones, and Drake’s album cover Hotline Bling, to name a few.

“Millennials are increasingly redefining what it means to be a grown-up in a seriously troubled world,” explains JR Thorpe. “Sometimes, we all want to be soothed — and what better way to do that than looking at Instagrams of a mid-century modern pink velvet settee.” May I suggest that they use the pinky velvet Pepto-Bismol, a better solution to soothe their tummies.

I predict there will be a few digital gender-neutral brands that will be utilizing this colour soon. Two brands that have embraced this restrained colour so far are Acne Studios clothing retailer and Thinx, a period-proof underwear company.

Pinked Out

No question, pink is an intense colour to build a brand, but you must understand the connection you are trying to develop with the colour. You can’t ignore the historical gender connection that pink has in defining or promoting femininity (both good and bad). Maybe Millennial Pink will make pink less about gender and more about how it makes you feel.  But until then, as hip-hop rapper Talib Kweli said, “women are complex creatures.” I think pink colour branding is just as complex.

However, many brands have successfully broken away from the competitive crowd by pink colour branding, and more new brands will do the same.

Check out “Does the Colour of a Brand Really Matter

This updated article was originally published on January 14th, 2018.