Archive for the ‘branding strategy’ Tag

An Inconvenient Truth* #2: Know Thyself   Leave a comment

I’ve spent far too much of my time and limited mind space thinking about this rather inane question:

What on earth is Allstate thinking?

For the last couple of years, they’ve had the Strong Soothing Black Man as their spokesperson in their TV spots.  Don’t know his name, but it doesn’t matter.  The SSBM exudes what we all need right now:  quiet strength, unwavering confidence, the feeling that no matter what may go wrong in your life, the SSBM will make it all go away.

Are you in good hands?  We sure are, Strong Soothing Black Man.

Then inexplicably, it all changed.

Like a child wrenched from Daddy’s arms, my safety and security were suddenly blasted from me.  Because, without warning, the Allstate commercials began featuring the uber-creepy Mayhem.   

Mayhem’s your basic Psychotic White Guy, posing as every threat you’ve never thought of.  Your everyday life, your most basic and innocent acts – such as cruising to Vons to pick up bananas – are made sinister.  Because Mayhem is lurking everywhere. 

He’s the tree smashing your windshield, the teenage girl texting her way into the back of your head, the ghoulish fool howling through the sun roof in a parking lot – as he careens into your back bumper.

I watched in horror.  I waited for the Strong Soothing Black Man to appear and make it all go away. 

But he never came.  And I was afraid.

Because this sudden, crazy shift in Allstate’s marketing freaked me out.  I wondered, who IS this company?  And why do they suddenly want to scare the living crap out of me with this Psychotic White Guy?  Allstate’s bipolar positioning shift left me confused – and wary.

Which leads us to Promobabe’s Inconvenient Truth #2:  Know Thyself

Does your company project a consistent brand identity?  Do your customers have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for?  Here are Promobabe’s basic guidelines for making sure you know thyself:

  • Resist the urge to be all things to all people
  • Understand your company’s “core personality.”  Use research, customer feedback, etc to help determine how your target market sees you. Are you the smart guys?  The friendly helping hand?  The cool, sexy alternative?
  • Be consistent in your marketing.  Remember you can change and freshen your creative, just like we all change our clothes.  But your basic persona still remains the same.
  • Customer confusion = frustration = marketing death!

 Clearly, Allstate was having a crazy, whirlwind of an identity crisis. Played out in expensive TV spots to confused viewers.

 While I don’t have the inside skinny on whether or not the Mayhem campaign worked for them, I’m betting it didn’t.  Because a few weeks later, the Strong Soothing Black Man appeared in new spots again.

 Is your marketing message in good hands?

*ignore at your own marketing peril


Made in America?   Leave a comment

As midterm elections draw closer and closer, here’s a quick question for you:  What’s the brand of the United States of America?

The answer is a powerful example of the truth about any brand, including yours:  It depends on who you ask and sometimes it will be the “wrong” answer.

That’s because brands are not tangible or carved in stone.  They are not the product (or the policy in the case of a country) or the service being offered and delivered.  Your brand is the story being told about what you have to offer.  It’s the reaction you get and sometimes the one you hope for.

And it’s never really the “wrong” answer.   If the brand story you hear back from your target audience isn’t what you expected, find out where their experience differs from your promise – where you might be going “wrong.”  The listening is what keeps your brand strong and growing.

 Also, have the discipline to hear what’s being said by those who are not your audience without reacting.   They may not like your story even though it’s perfectly authentic and exactly what you offer.  That’s why they’re not your customers!

But the most important lesson about the American Brand may be this: the more confusion there is about your brand internally, the weaker your story will be to those on the outside.

So quick: what’s the Exceptional Promise that now defines the U.S.A. brand for you?  What’s is it for your brand?

If you’re interested in more discussion of the intersection of politics and branding, join the debate.

Posted September 20, 2010 by Don Wells in Branding

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