Copyright law is pretty sticky business, just ask Johnny Walker. But even taking copyrights out of the equation, it’s important to make sure to differentiate yourself from the rest of the marketplace.
When naming a company, product, or campaign, it is best practice to Google the potential name and see what pops up. If the name is taken, and the imagery and/or the market is similar to your idea, go in a different direction.
The copycat that brought this to my attention recently was ExactTarget, a platform for email and social media marketing. They recently started an educational campaign to introduce users to their new interface. What they failed to do was see if anyone else has used a similar logo, like say, the biggest sports retailer in the southern half of the United States.
Now I know Helvetica is a very popular (if not overused) font, and I may be a bit biased, having had my first summer job at Academy Sports + Outdoors, but it seems borderline copycat to have the same name and font face. ExactTarget, just be glad the sports retailer decided to add a slant on the tops of letters.
This summer I wrote a post lauding the praises of the beautiful copy from Manhattan Mini Storage. Since then I have needed a storage space, and after searching purely based on cost, Manhattan Mini Storage (MMS) was the best bet. I was really excited that this was the best deal, because I got to see how well their tongue-in-cheek copy is illustrated in the brand as a whole.
When researching costs and the size of a unit, MMS provides a no-nonsense “storage calculator”: a simple form where you check off types of furniture so they can help you estimate what size unit you need. This worked perfectly in my case, since my 4*4*8 unit fits all of my stuff with a good bit of airspace, should I decide to buy a chair or two.
Once I figured out what size I needed, I made a non-binding reservation and received a call within 10 minutes of entering in my information. The woman on the other end wanted to confirm my reservation and see if I wanted to take advantage of the free moving in taxi (of course I do!)
Though the truck driver was a bit curt, the staff person who helped me get a key and find my locker was very friendly. Throughout the building, there are small posters reminding customers of offers and rules in the same style of copy that drew me to love MMS in the first place.
Other than that, it was a very clean, friendly storage place with no quirky characterization (not counting the customers!)
Oh, and I love their logo and its incorporation of the NY Skyline!
In the last few years, KickStarter has become a household name. It has become so large, that there are numerous websites with similar structures geared towards different types of projects. I myself have backed two Kickstarter and one Indiegogo campaign.
These crowd funding sites have opened up a new form of marketing, specifically to artistic individuals and start ups. It combines market research, funding, and sometimes prototyping. The best example of this new economic tool put to use is by my friend, Colin.
Colin is often known as the “crazy piano guy” who brings a baby grand piano to Washington Square Park (almost) every day and plays for hours. He’s utilized KickStarter a number of times, to help him buy a baby grand, and to help him get the money to finish various albums. One of his album campaigns did a great job of explaining an artist’s struggle: proving they have value.
In Colin’s campaign to raise money to finish mastering his concept album, he said “the thing that will really make the difference in deciding whether this project will be finished or not is having people show me that they want it. After all, in the end, there’s nothing better than knowing that people value what I do, because it makes them [smile].”
With KickStarter, products and services become reality when there are people who are already interested. This eliminates the risk of making something that no one actually wants (something I’m sure Coca Cola would have wanted to know when releasing New Coke).
How do you feel about crowd sourcing?
I was an intern at Big Duck this spring, where I had the amazing experience of getting to know a talented group of copywriters, designers, and strategists devoted to branding for nonprofits. While at Big Duck I was given the opportunity to write a piece about mobile apps. It took a few months to get posted, but it’s finally here!
*edit* I wrote this post in July, but I only recently was able to change the structure of this site to showcase my portfolio, and in doing so it had to be republished.
I’m obsessed with IKEA. It’s one of my favorite companies in terms of branding, meticulous detail for all aspects of marketing, history, and Swedish meatballs.
So when IKEA started the IKEA Family card program, and it was free, why wouldn’t I join?
This card gives me exclusive discounts, free coffee or tea with every visit, 90 day price protection, and 30 minutes of extra Småland time. I may not be a parent, but I know how valuable that extra 30 minutes is. And those are just the brochure benefits.
The Family card now hangs on my key chain just like the card for Rite-Aid or the key to my bike lock. But unlike Kroger or Walgreen’s cards, a sense of exclusivity is also provided with IKEA. It’s odd to feel exclusive when IKEA encourages everyone to get this card, but when you’re a member you are the only one that hears about certain promotions, and certain products (namely the office supply and baby-proofing items near the cafe) can only be bought with an IKEA Family card.
This card makes me feel like I’m in the in crowd, which is a primal desire of us all. It’s also possible I just really like IKEA. I’ll probably talk more about IKEA very soon.
What would make it worth it for you to want to join the IKEA Family?
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but we know that that’s not always true. It always comes down to context. Someone is flattering you when they imitate you at a banquet in your honor, or they imitate your clothing style. It’s not flattery when they’re imitating you for the sake of comedy.
And when they copy your advertising or branding? It’s probably because they’re lazy.
Exhibit A: In college I was a part of the Navigators Christian Fellowship, and they had a kit to help you memorize scriptures:
Now I don’t know how long this has been the design for this kit, and it is a bit generic, but at least it ties in with the brand of the Navigators (charting a course toward God, etc. etc….that’s not their tagline but it SHOULD BE).
Since I’m relatively familiar with this image, I was really put off guard when I recognized it in the How-To section of a Micro Center, until I realized, how generic the compass image is.
Both of these titles have a vague reference to compasses and plotting a course to a better, more tech-savvy life. Neither of these books should use this image.
If you’re going to write a book about Windows, use an image that has something to do with Windows! And Navigators, as much as I love you, find an image that is more specific to you.
Stock images are great for about.com and career-tip articles, but they should by no means be used for branding.
Every brand has characteristics that are directly targeted to how they do business. One of the most obvious selling points I see with retail and restaurants, is that they are stable, and have been around for awhile, like the bar below:
The windows of this establishment proudly boast that “we were here before you were born”. This Ale House was established in 1854 and it’s true, that is something to boast about. But what about newer establishments? How do they give themselves credibility without a history?
I’ll be discussing many characteristics that could be used for credibility later on, but today I will highlight one that’s unique: innovation.
Just down the block from McSorley’s Old Ale House lives the new building for Cooper Union, one of the best Engineering (and art) schools in the country.
This school prides itself on the innovative research, and the real-life application of that research. This is beautifully characterized by the unique and futuristic architecture of the new main building. Though this school is also well established (founded in 1859!), it is more beneficial to the school to focus on its innovation instead of its reputation.
Look at Yelp. Nine times out of ten, a bad review comes down to someone’s experience with a staff member. When building a brand, you’re shaping every experience that a user shares with your company.
Today I want to give the spotlight to one of my favorite stores in New York: Cure Thrift Shop.
Not only is it a great thrift store that donates all profits to diabetes research, but it has also managed to cultivate a certain ambiance that welcomes the culture of thrift shopping (not the Macklemore culture, but the thrill of a sweet vintage discovery).
In a recent blog post, Cure even designed a job posting that fits perfectly with the NYC style of Broadway casting calls (and how hard it is to get a job here!).
Cure Thrift Shop is my local brand crush.
Branding is about reputation. A brand develops over time, and needs to be trusted, preferably honest. A brand, like a person, is trusted when it has opinions and sticks to them. That doesn’t mean that opinions can’t change over time, just that a brand can’t speak out of both sides of its mouth, like Unilever.
Unilever is a behemoth of a brand, with a wide selection of sub brands hiding underneath its umbrella:
The two sub brands I’m currently irked by is Axe (top left in the above picture) and Dove (top right corner).
These two brands are very well know for their edgy advertising, but both in their own ways. The issue is that these two brands have very different messages, and make Unilever rather two-faced.
Dove is known internationally for positioning itself against the beauty industry and for the confidence of women, seen in this film of theirs below:
This hard-hitting short film should convince women that Dove is on their side, right? Unfortunately, Unilever also owns Axe, a brand that constantly objectifies women in its ads:
Or this ad that literally uses the woman solely for her breasts:
With such opposing views on women, how is a customer supposed to trust Unilever?