3 Wrong Ways to Market Your Brand
Starbucks: A de-branding story
A few years ago, Starbucks tried and then immediately walked back something it called a
"de-branding campaign." Starbucks wound up getting a lot of flack from a bunch of left wing "dweebs and dorks" who got upset that all of a sudden their favorite coffee joint was a big corporation. So Starbucks was going to take "Starbucks" off of all its locations and coffee cups and material, leaving only its logo of what one guy described as a suggestively naked long haired woman. They were going to peddle the notion that every Starbucks was just your corner "mom and pop" owned coffee house.
But why did they walk that back so quickly? Easy. For every one "dweeb " who screamed about Starbucks being a corporation, there were 100 people that went to Starbucks precisely because it was Starbucks. In other words, they weren't buying coffee, they were buying a status symbol. They wanted to be able to show the world that they can afford $7 for a cup of coffee. And these people were none too happy with Starbucks taking "Starbucks" off its cardboard cups. It would have been like Rolex taking "Rolex" off the watches or BMW taking "BMW" off the cars.
For awhile, I sarcastically referred to Starbucks as "the generic mom and pop owned coffee house whose logo contains the visage of a suggestively naked long haired woman." I don't anymore, because the de-branding campaign is now so long in the past and so forgotten that nobody would grok my snark anymore.
And alas, Starbucks is at it again. Now they're proposing a new branding campaign called #racetogether. The"race" refers to races of people (white and black people of course, because in America, whenever someone says "race relations" that's what they mean). Starbucks baristas are encouraged to discuss "race relations" openly with customers. Not only in word, mind you, but they can write "race together" on coffee cups and napkins, too in an effort to "stimulate conversation" on race.
I was just at Starbucks yesterday, having a consultation with a new client. I remember thinking, this is great... the only thing missing is that the guy serving up my chia latte didn't have a chat with us about racism (a.k.a. the evils of white people).
Moral of the story: Stick with what works. If your brand ain't broke, don't fix it.
Price Chopper: A re-branding story
Price Chopper, the largest supermarket chain in the Albany, New York area, is changing its name to "Market 32" as it invests more than $300 million over the next five years in a major renovation and rebranding campaign. The new name is a big shift for the supermarket, whose headquarters are based in Schenectady, New York.
According to Price Chopper's corporate representatives, the new name "Market 32" "illustrates how the company must continue evolving to reflect the changing tastes and expectations of its customers, and fight for shoppers in the intensely competitive grocery industry".
The problem: "Market 32" was picked by their senior corporate executives with the help of private consultants and market research.
It's not their fault. Being so old, overpaid and out of touch with the people, how could they not think this was a brilliant, Machiavellian branding move? See, the '32' is a reference to 1932, the year when brothers Bill and Ben Golub (the founders) opened their first store in Green Island, New York, called Central Markets, the precursor to what eventually became Price Chopper.
According to a local resident,
"Central Markets became Price Chopper because people wanted lower prices instead of S&H Green Stamps and other gimmicks. Look what Price Chopper has become. It's the most gimmicked store I've ever been in with fake Buy One - Get One Free sales where they raise the price of the one you buy just before the sale. And there's Gas AdvantEDGE or Fuel AdvantEDGE or whatever they call it. Double coupons with lots of fine print. And you need coupons for everything".
Obviously, the senior execs didn't talk to this guy.
Moral of the story: A true re-branding is not just the name, or the image, but the quality of service and relationship with both employees and customers.
A branding epic fail story:
I actually enjoy a meaty, cheese-stuffed crust Digiorno pizza from time to time. So you can imagine my confusion when I'm on Twitter and see the brand joining in on a trending thread called #WhyIStayed. This hashtag was dedicated to [mostly] women's stories of Domestic Violence and why they chose to stay despite the abuse.
Alas, Digiorno saw the trend and according to them, jumped in the conversation without realizing the context of the discussion. It caused a firestorm and the backlash was so fast and furious in what was only a couple of minutes that Digiorno deleted the tweet as fast as their little hands could hit that delete button.
As a business social media manager and writer myself, this was a big, huge no-no of epic proportions. This goes beyond an oops! A tweet went out apologizing but in cyberspace, once sent out, always out. That tweet hit the hashtag thread and it was, well, history.
Moral of the story: Stay in tune with your audience and don't jump on popular trends or bandwagons just for views or clicks.