You’re only as strong as your weakest brand
Brand is our belief, our ability to imagine what a company stands for and how that resonates with our own ideas of who we are and what we need.
From eight years working in agencies I ended up thinking a lot about the struggle of managing an agencies brand idea of what they stand for whilst balancing the ideas of the clients brands, their projects and the people within the clients company themselves. You can all end up confused if you’re not strict with your approach and principles.
If you’ve worked at an agency or ever had the utter joy of being pitched to by one you will know the logo slide in the agency presentation. The beautifully grided selection of glossy logos. It’s often on the website too. I’ve been sat in many rooms where it gets interrogated for all sorts of reasons:
- How much is that company really using your services?
- Did you have a positive impact on that company?
- Are they still going?
- Who are they, I’ve never heard of them?
- Do you know Bob Smith at that company?
- Did you hear the gossip about them?
This logo slide can be tricky, you really start to expose your cohort, their brand quickly creep into yours. For all the right and wrong reasons. Your clients belief in you can be completely manufactured from this logo selection.
I keep running over the selection of companies on the Slack NYSE listing poster [above]. They have an estimated 10m+ clients to choose from. I don’t have much of an opinion on what they chose, but I can imagine it was a messy job to pick the companies. You want the logos to resonate with the finance world, you want to show you’re global, you can work with the new starters and the old incumbents.
Slack have a tough job on their hands. Their brand has transformed for this IPO and I believe it has a long way to go for Analysts to really understand the company and product. They will likely take a kicking with reports on competitors user numbers, however, if they can ground their brand next to right cohort of brands — companies really changing what work is and how it is done, that could just be perfect. I really hope so, I bought stock.
1872. Shisedio — Japan, skin, beauty and cosmetics
1928. Cole Haan — Chicago, footwear and accessories
1977. Oracle — Californian B2B computer databases and software
1982. E*Trade — Californian, Financial services, trading platforms
1982. Electronic Arts — Californian, Video Games
2000. IAG — Australian, Insurance
2005. Etsy — USA, Marketplace for handmade and vintage items
2007. Hulu — Californian, JV between Disney & Comcast, SVOD
2007. Farfetch — UK, London, E-commerce luxury clothes
What company mission do your customers actually remember?
We all have to adapt to survive, but you might have cemented an idea that people will never forget.
Deliveroo has changed. Businesses do change. The thing is, I remember the mission of the 2015 Deliveroo. I can order from amazing places that don’t actually do delivery and eat at my own kitchen table. “We are on a mission to bring the world’s best local restaurants to everyone’s home or office.” — Deliveroo 2015. View the early pitch deck here
Four years later I open the app when working from home, cupboards are empty and I get this beautiful selection shown above.
- How much has the idea changed?
- Why did the idea change?
- Is this idea as good?
Let’s face it. It’s not is it? “Crap food at any time for a premium rate delivered by drivers making a tricky salary.” Why did this change? Scale, growth and greed. Perhaps, and hold onto your hat here, the idea was never meant to be as big as they are trying to make it.
There’s loads of add on ideas to try and keep companies like Deliveroo growing, all in the name of the future bet of big profits from tiny margins and questionable outsourced labour. Be it:
What company mission do your customers actually remember?
🖥 Designers tell you Apple isn’t in it for the creative professional anymore.
✈️ Travellers tell you British Airways isn’t a top-end experience anymore.
🏨 Soho House members will tell you it’s too much like WeWork now.
The problem is, these statements are somewhat false. One of the brand ideas of Apple is to be creative, the joy of making something easily. British Airways offer some of the best customer service whilst competing in an aggressive price war sector. Soho House value members having memorable and unique experiences in their houses.
🍔 I will tell you that Deliveroo isn’t the place for the world’s best restaurants.
But I’m wrong, you can still order from some of London’s best affordable restaurants. You can also order from some of the worst.
Protecting your brand idea and mission takes care, time and saying no. Saying no a lot. I wonder where the brand idea of Deliveroo will be in the next four years, is this just part of the growth struggle? This is true of Airbnb too.
What can brands do to protect their idea, their mission, their place in our mind?
- Define your Brand Architecture. Deliveroo could make fast food a sub-brand, a category choice off the homescreen. The effort of making a portfolio of rules for your brand and products gives you a huge return in equity and clarity.
- Set brand rules based on the idea, Art Directors — this is your design jurisdiction and you get to put your team and suppliers in time-out or jail for breaking these rules
- Plan the journey for the brand. Yes, it will change. Look at the greats who have done this over time, Apple is often overused but damn, they are strategy hero’s of positioning, quality and delivery into music, phones, media, health, finance, education… what’s next?
- Keep your business plan in check with your idea. My bet is growth greed has caused Deliveroo to compromise. Keep your brand, keep your customers, keep your idea.
- Help suppliers, they are your weak point. Airbnb are cited for helping hosts photograph their homes and add finishing touches, again, set your standards to the experience and enforce it.
This got me thinking. Damn I want some chicken nuggets. Would I ever go to Burger King for them though? Wait. But why? I haven’t even tried BK’s nuggets.
You’ve got to love a strategy that can have a place in our mind the second before we commit to a competitor. They are your doubt. They are your wake up call. At this point, they own questioning a decision, if only for a second.
BK are notable for a variety of interesting marketing ideas, stunts and executions, I wouldn’t say this is one of them.
Although, there’s something wonderfully childish about this. It’s cheeky and we all know BK’s brand is too. Often you hear marketeers talk about “brand positioning” – a place in a consumers mind. They have nailed it here just by the physical positioning and opportunity, with added bonus of not having to worry about any smart ass copywriting.
Questions I’m thinking about
- Where is your companies brand positioned literally and strategically?
- Will you get this close to influencing your customer during a decision?
- How can you deliver brand voice without needing copy?
- What are BK’s chicken nuggets actually like?
Make it more uncomfortable
Recently, I’ve been thinking about when is the best time to get someones attention. How could your message be interpreted and received by editing simple variables?
I walk past this campaign / idea / initiative(?) every day
It’s very pretty. Well done Design team. Pretty stuff is the big idea of the Westfield mall. However, I can’t help feeling there are two huge opportunities missed here, and perhaps a vacant mall unit is not the place for this…
- Why are there no actual signs of homelessness here — just this sign?
- Why isn’t this positioned where dwell time meets audiences consideration — paying for your parking, walking out of the mall, next to the actual pavement?
I’m going to take a bet why.
Because it’s too uncomfortable for these brands to have these reminders next to your shopping session, the brief was about being pretty next to the other pretty retailers +use RFID please.
How effective is this thing if it’s not actually stopping people?
The space should be used to rotate a real story, a real person and real objects, that you have to really deal with as you pass through.
Make it more uncomfortable.