Category Archives: branding

A Business Card You’ll Hang On To

Look at the business cards Lego employees get to hand out

As most of us are just big kids at heart, I can’t imagine too many people getting rid of this “card”. Instead, I imagine most of us would keep it on our desk, maybe even bringing in a few other Legos to supplement the fun.

Lego must be a great company to work for….

Read the full article here.

Comparing and Contrasting

(Yes, friends, I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to resume blogging after a long, and perhaps unnecessary hiatus.)

So recently my wife’s cousin came to visit us from Ukraine.  Though she’s an accomplished world traveler, with more stamps on her passport than anyone I know, this was her first trip to the US. So far it seems she’s liking it (let’s be honest, life is easy here), but in a conversation over ridiculously large American portions, she raised an interesting point, one I’d never thought about before: You see, in Ukraine, the laws of advertising are much stricter than they are here in the States, and one thing that shocked her was how one company’s advertisements were allowed to mention a competitor.

In Ukraine comparison advertising is strictly forbidden.  According to a 2004 law (remember Ukraine is a fairly young country, only achieving real independence in the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s), companies are not allowed to “Imitate or copy text, image, musical or sound effects, which are used in advertisements of other goods, if otherwise provided by Ukrainian intellectual property laws. (source)This also applies to trademarks, names, slogans, etc.

So what’s my point? My point is that this whole thing got me thinking about how different the advertising landscape would be if we had a law like this, and by proxy, how different cultures have different values when it comes to this sort of thing (genius insight, right?)

Comparison ads are old hat to us.  We’re used to Burger King comparing the Whopper to the Big Mac, or Chevy telling us how much better their trucks are than Ford or Toyota, Tylenol vs Advil, etc. In fact, some products have made their entire brand on this concept (“Choosy moms choose Jiff”, Taco Bell’s “Think outside the bun campaign”, etc). It’s actually a pretty common and effective means of getting your point across.

Can you imagine our world without these type of ads?

No comment from me on the ethics of this type of advertising or their accuracy, I just find it interesting to consider how Apple would be selling their computers without highlighting their advantages over PCs. Just something to tickle your imagination…

Lebron knows marketing


Provided you don’t live under a rock, you’re probably aware of the current Lebron James situation, ie, he’s going through the most highly publicized free agency in the history of American sports.

What you may not know is that King James is set to announce which team he’ll be playing for on his newly redesigned Web site (lebronjames.com). What’s truly amazing about Lebron (other than his nearly unparalleled basketball skills, obviously) is how forward thinking he is.

At only 25, LBJ has repeatedly demonstrated his understanding that he is more than just arguably the best basketball player in the universe. Now, taking a cue from his idol, Michael Jordan, he’s latched on to the fact that he is an entity. Simply by being associated with his name fortunes are made. Nike, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are all associated with James, to everyone’s benefit.

Now, realizing that his announcement will be THE story of the summer for sports, Lebron has found a way to profit on the excitement. Offering an email sign-up, it seems James is going to treat his free agent signing like a highly-touted high school player on signing day, with team caps and everything. And while awaiting the announcement, visitors to the site will be viewing commercials of Lebron’s sponsors.

While it remains to be seen how Lebron will use his Web site after the announcement, one thing is almost certain: he’ll continue to find ways to capitalize on his fame.

The importance of branding

For a long time, I was skeptical of the idea of brands. Sure, they seem necessary for up-and-coming business to improve awareness, but are they really necessary? Take Coca-Cola for example. They could cease all advertising entirely and start selling their products in plain gray packaging and still sell millions of bottles around the globe, right? Of course they could. So why, I thought,  is a brand necessary for them?

Then I realized, I had been mistaken all along as to what a brand was.  A logo and advertising are part of a brand, but they no more make a brand than a bag of flour and sack of apples make a pie.

So what is a brand? According to How Branding Works:

“(A brand) can allow you, your employees, your vendors, and others to know what makes your group unique, both in tangible and intangible terms.”

In other words, the brand is what makes a company unique, what sets it apart from the competition. It’s what the company is known for. Logos, jingles, advertising and marketing materials are integral parts of brand-building, but so are customer service and the overall experience of purchasing.

Let’s look at logos, for an example. Humans are visual creatures, and as a result logos work largely on a subconscious level. Virtually no one looks at a logo and thinks, “hmm, you know what, this looks interesting, I’m going to buy their product.” Instead you notice the Nike swoosh on a pair of trainers or the golden arches of McDonalds. If you had a positive experience there before, the brand is already formed in your mind. You associate the Big Mac you loved so much with the golden arches, and in turn with McDonald’s. That’s their brand. The brand is so much more than “I’m loving it” or the arches, or even the Big Mac. It’s all of these things combined.

Take, for example, one of my favorite brands. It’s from a small, locally-owned service station near my house which has branded itself as “Home of the hand-tightened lug nuts”. Now anyone who has ever cursed, struggled, and cut themselves trying to loosen an over-torqued lug nut knows, this is a huge selling point. This place has probably been using this slogan for 50 years, and while it’s not a flashy and  instantly catchy jingle developed by a Manhattan ad agency, it says a lot about the station. To me, it says, “We’re small and locally-owned. We understand the troubles of our neighbors because we live here too. We’re not out to cheat anybody, and while we may not be the cheapest or the fastest, we do quality work.” And it’s true. That type of branding is invaluable. Plus, it worked on me. Whenever I have an issue with my car, I go visit this station, because I know they’re honest and they do a good job. That’s their brand.

Of course, not all branding is successful. According to David Brier, president and creative director for DBD International, there is a litmus test for branding:

“Does your brand really create the necessary ties with your consumers and potential consumers to rise above an overstimulated marketplace? Very few brands do, and the smarter (not necessarily bigger) brands take full advantage of this weakness.”

In order to fully optimize a brand, a company first must identify what type of brand it is. How Branding Works identifies two specific types of brands:

Specific brand: A brand that defines itself narrowly and with detail. Examples include Starbucks, Ray-Ban, and Kleenex.
Vague brand: A brand that defines itself via characteristics, emotions, and broad strokes. Examples include IBM (the new IBM), National Geographic, and Disney.”

A lot of companies struggle with a brand identity, especially in the start-up phase. As a result, they’re unsure which branding strategy to utilize. That really depends a lot on unique needs and goals, but a good rule of thumb, again from How Branding Works is:

“As you develop your brand, try to think into the future to where you want to take it.”

But one thing any company can not afford to be without is a brand.