Branding or Branded?

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Have your brand be who you arePepsi recently had a severe digital flogging for a tone-deaf ad featuring Kendall Jenner and the evidently crisis-averting powers of their soda. From late night hosts and live shows in New York to TV pundits and seemingly everyone with a social media account, the multi-national corporation has been the punchline of many a joke.

Obviously there are a lot of lessons to be learned and cautionary tales aplenty. But for me, the main lesson in all of this comes down to:

Don’t try to be your brand. Have your brand be who you are.

What’s that mean? Well a lot of the heat on this ad revolved around one simple question: Who in their right mind would have approved this ad?

The simple answer is, someone who had spent way too much time wrapped up in what their brand is and “should be,” and not enough time concentrating on their customers and what they want.

If you look at the ad, the symptoms are easy to see: saturate every scene with “your” color (since your rival is red, and you’re blue). Check off every box of representation in the most clothing-catalog-come-to-life way possible. Get a celebrity. Put yourself on the “right” side of a “controversy” no one is on the other side of. And just maybe, borrow a little bit from your competition. After all, the ad ending is really nothing more than trying to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

So what’s the take-away for a manufacturer?

You set the brand, it doesn’t set you. Your brand should be a specific reflection of who your company is, and the kind of business you want to be. All of that information already exists, you just need to take a step back and see it.

Don’t be everything to everyone. As an example, I’ll use Sonnhalter. There are plenty of marketing companies that will try to represent any and all clients, and be everything to everyone. But we have concentrated on B2T marketing over our 40 year history, and our brand reflects that.

Don’t change for the sake of change; don’t sit still because it’s working. The only successful branding statement set in stone is Mount Rushmore. Your brand should be a shared set of principles. Different ones can be emphasized at different times, and for different audiences.

Don’t put a round brand in a square company. Making your brand fit into every aspect of your marketing and communications shouldn’t be a problem if it truly reflects your company values. If the fit seems like a stretch, investigate why.

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