You are on page 1of 3

Branding so much more than a name

It’s all about trust, recognition and being different

Wacky artist makes fun of the world’s big names


The famous Bayeux Tapestry depicting events leading to the Norman invasion of England has
a rival. The so-called Walthamstow Tapestry, created by wacky British artist Grayson Perry, is
his view of the seven ages of man, which evidently involve brand names – scores of them.
One art critic says: ‘‘It’s a brilliant thing. Although Lehman Brothers avoid a name check, the
rest of the banks are picked out and shamed, as is Visa (a prostitute in stockings), Louis
Vuitton (an old man taking a pee) and McDonald’s (a blue yob brandishing a bottle of booze
and a bra). Nobody will make a funnier or more spiky artwork about brands and recessions.’’
Maybe nobody else would want to.
Scattered around are global, and some local, brands. EasyJet, Prada, Ford, HBOS,
Pampers, the National Trust, Durex, Del Monte, Ann Summers and many more get a mention
on the huge (15 £ 3 metres) fabric. The artist says his work is a sort of celebration of obscure
gods and beliefs – ‘‘When you divorce the names from their products and logos you are left
with a kind of emotional residue.’’
Well, he obviously had fun. For organizations and their marketers their ‘‘art’’ is in making their
branding work. They’re in the business of linking the products with the brands and logos and
the only emotional residue is the exhaustion they feel after grappling with the concepts and
practicalities of brand belief, brand choice, brand extension, brand commitment, brand
knowledge, brand image, brand identity and that holy trinity of information sources for
customers – advertising, user experience and word-of-mouth.
Branding pioneer Walter Landor’s comment that ‘‘Products are made in the factory, but brands
are created in the mind’’ is often quoted to those in the business. Success after success for
him included turning Federal Express into FedEx, the iconic red and white ‘‘batwing’’ logo on
Levi jeans, and the ram’s-head shield of Del Monte. Landor said: ‘‘A good design should last. If
the effort doesn’t show, then it’s a good design. It must never look designed.’’

Trust is something that can be damaged quite quickly


Giving life to a brand can be enjoyably creative, but the message is serious. It can take an
awful long time to build up brand identity, awareness and trust, but trust is something that
can be damaged quite quickly. That’s why companies are so protective of their trademark
brands, especially those that have become so familiar to customers that they are not thought
of as brands at all, but in generic terms – Hoover, Thermos, Kleenex for instance. If a
portable building on a construction site falls victim to theft or arson and the local newspaper
refers to it as a portakabin, the editor should expect a strongly-worded letter from the

PAGE 6 j STRATEGIC DIRECTION j VOL. 27 NO. 3 2011, pp. 6-8, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 0258-0543 DOI 10.1108/02580541111109552
company’s PR people reminding them of the need for a capital ‘‘P,’’ if indeed it was one of
their products.
Those with the heavy responsibility of creating a brand have a myriad of issues to consider.
For instance, does color matter? Is blue soothing? Is green ‘‘green’’? Does red really
stimulate the appetite? Kit-Kat evidently thinks it works for chocolate bars. Once a color –
and indeed font and design – has been chosen, consistency matters. One example is the
characteristic brown of United Parcel Service and the familiar badge with the UPS lettering.
The company went so far as registering its shade of brown as a trademark to prevent market
confusion if other organizations used it on vans or clothing. Trademarking a color? Now isn’t
that taking brand protection to extremes?
Judith Lynne Zaichkowsky, Professor of Marketing and Communications at Copenhagen
Business School, says: ‘‘A brand that wants to be perceived as innovative would never use
grey and orange to identify itself. These colors are mundane and cheap.’’ She says color
should be congruent throughout all the identity and marketing mix variables: ‘‘Color
combinations are superior to single colors for brand identification. No more than three
colors, and two dominant colors are best, otherwise no distinction is created. Furthermore,
the protection of color combinations in the courtroom is much easer than protection of a
single color.’’ She also says that a brand that wants to be perceived as reliable may write
their brand name in a bold box-like font rather than a flowing italic script. ‘‘The bold would
convey strength, whereas the flowing script may convey lightness. The vision is the abstract
part and the identity elements are the concrete parts that are used to tell the consumer what
the brand means.’’

Aspirational characteristics of global brands


The ‘‘famous for being brown’’ UPS is among the many big-firm brands that have massive
global recognition – like the Nike ‘‘swoosh’’, the Coca-Cola bottle, and the McDonald’s
yellow arch.
There is evidence that, worldwide, some consumers tend to prefer and trust brands that are
not local to them – i.e. the global brands – particularly in developing countries where some
consumers aspire to the lifestyle of those in more affluent parts of the world. But there is also
competing evidence that suggests that local brands have stronger loyalty than global
brands. Dimofte et al. say: ‘‘It is possible that in more mature markets, the aspirational
characteristics of the global brand are less salient.’’
A by-product of globalization of brand names is that it makes it easier for foreign travelers to
find what they’re looking for in the local shops. Conversely, it can also take some of the
pleasure and adventure out of foreign travel if the first things you see when you get to your
destination are shops featuring the same brand names as those you have left behind.
Standardization can be good for business but surely there ought to be room for a little bit of
‘‘vive la différence’’. British users of Procter & Gamble’s Oil of Ulay were initially resistant to its
name being changed to Oil of Olay as part of a unification of the brand in the late 1990s. They
were also not too pleased with Mars when globalization led to the familiar Marathon bar
suddenly becoming a Snickers bar.
Cultural differences were apparently the reason why Ford dropped the name ‘‘Anglia’’ for a
popular English car marque, feeling that the name wouldn’t be relevant to the export market.
Product names do matter. As Ford found out when it tried to market the Ford Pinto in Brazil

‘‘ Lots of money spent on advertising soon diminishes the


memory of an old name and customers become accustomed to
a new global product with a new name. ’’

j j
VOL. 27 NO. 3 2011 STRATEGIC DIRECTION PAGE 7
and discovered the word was slang for ‘‘small male genitals.’’ And when General Motors
introduced the Vauxhall Nova into South America, apparently not realizing that ‘‘no va’’ is
Spanish for ‘‘no go.’’

Evoking a feeling of quality, caring and experience


Such errors – and there are many of them – are the stuff of marketing folklore. Marketers
know that lots of money spent on advertising soon diminishes the memory of an old name
and customers throughout the world become accustomed to a new global product with a
new name. And if such standardization and brand globalization lead to economies and
efficiencies that can be passed on to the customer, why not?
Familiar characteristics are extremely important factors in brand recognition and recall.
Customers choose a brand they feel comfortable with, particularly if it’s been around for a
while and evokes feelings of quality, caring and experience. Easily recognizable brand
names with a proud history are, so to speak, worth their weight in gold, which makes it all the
more amazing that in 2002 the UK’s Post Office decided to call itself – for reasons best
known to itself – Consignia. The Post Office name had been good enough for generations
but not, it seems, for the then management. Fortunately there was an about-turn less than a
couple of years later and Consignia was consigned to the Big Branding Blunders pile.
Those who say branding is, after all, ‘‘only a name’’ are missing the point. Creating a trusting
and lasting relationship with customers, signaled by an effective and recognizable brand,
can be a wondrous thing. Marketers need all the tools they can get their hands on to build
that relationship, and the more exposure consumers have to the brand, the more opportunity
they have to give it their trust. Even Grayson Perry, whose artwork appears to mock the
concept of branding and marketing, is in fact creating his own brand of quirky, thoughtful
and amusing modern art. Branding can be mocked, but it matters.

Comment
This review is based on ‘‘Global brands in the United States: how consumer ethnicity
mediates the global brand effect’’, by Claudiu V. Dimofte, Johny K. Johansson and Richard
Keywords: P. Bagozzi, ‘‘How do they really help? An empirical study of the role of different information
Advertising, sources in building brand trust’’, by Wang Xingyuan, Fuan Li and Yu Wei, and ‘‘Strategies for
Attitudes, distinctive brands’’, by Judith Lynne Zaichkowsky. Claudiu V. Dimofte et al. attempt to
Brand equity, identify whether the affective and cognitive associations with global brands are the same
Brand identity, across different ethnic consumer groups in the USA. Wang Xingyuan et al, examine how user
Brand image, experience influences brand trust, while Judith Lynn Zaichkowsky discusses what brand
Logos managers need to know if the strategic management of brands is to be successful.

References
Dimofte, C.V., Johansson, J.K. and Bagozzi, R.P. (2010), ‘‘Global brands in the United States: how
consumer ethnicity mediates the global brand effect’’, Journal of International Marketing, Vol. 18 No. 3,
pp. 81-105, ISSN 1069-031X.
Xingyuan, W., Li, F. and Wei, Y. (2010), ‘‘How do they really help? An empirical study of the role of
different information sources in building brand trust’’, Journal of Global Marketing, Vol. 23 No. 3,
pp. 243-52, ISSN 0891-1762.
Zaichowsky, J.L. (2010), ‘‘Strategies for distinctive brands’’, The Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 17
No. 8, pp. 548-60, ISSN 1350-231X.

To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.com


Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints

j j
PAGE 8 STRATEGIC DIRECTION VOL. 27 NO. 3 2011