Category Archives: corporate identity

The Ten Brands I Give Thanks For

It’s Thanksgiving day, and although it sounds frivolous, I have spent the last few days thinking about what brands I really care about, that make a positive difference in my life, and that perform against higher standards than most. This is highly unscientific, personal, and random. But these companies make products that drive preference–mine at least–and stay the course in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

You will notice that the cool advertising is not  the reason these brands have been chosen. Cool advertising–or any advertising–is not the same as a brand. The same goes for the logo.

The list is in alphabetical order:

American Express For not recklessly pursuing the sub-prime market. For the wonderful Platinum card, which has earned every penny of the annual fee by giving me access to airline clubs on bad travel days. For retaining the original card member year on the face of the card.

Apple For gorgeous design, intuitive controls, and perfection in packaging. For not selling out to Intel’s co-branding dollars and keeping its advertising clean and distinctive.

Bergdorf Goodman For not contributing to the homogenization of the world and maintaining its one, spectacular and historic location. For merchandise that you can’t get elsewhere.

Felco For the best pruners in the world, in all sizes. 15 years and counting.

Google Voted in by my daughter, “because it answers all her questions,” and it’s hard to argue that. Besides, it isn’t afraid to take the logo out for a walk now and then. All I ask is that they stick with their mantra, “Don’t be evil”.

Hershey* For giving new meaning (or the original meaning) to “corporate social responsibility”. For employee retention and loyalty that few can claim. For staying true to its roots, even in extensions like the amusement park and hotel. *If they buy Cadbury and mess with the Trust, they are off the list.

Martha Stewart The brand, not the person. For inspiring me to get back in touch with my inner crafter, and make my home a better place. For an unerring eye for color, composition and quality. For products that are manufactured to high standards.

NPR For miraculous programing that brings a fresh face and point of view to whatever it covers. For Car Talk, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Jonathan Schwartz, An American Life, all of which have kept me in my car long past the time for me to get out.

Olay For reinventing itself from an obscure, old lady brand, to a well-priced, well-researched, line of skin care products just before the recession hit. Well done!

OXO For changing forever the experience of peeling a potato–in other words, ergonomic innovation. For standing out among all the endless kitchen tools.

The minute I finish this post, I will undoubtedly come up with other winning brands. I’ll just keep them until next year.

How about you?

Leave a comment

Filed under Brand strategy, corporate identity, General Marketing, package design

What’s in a name? For AIG, waaaay too much.

Just when I thought I had seen it all, I read that AIG has actually removed its name from its headquarters building on Wall Street. I have been wracking my brain for the last 24 hours, trying to think of anything that compares. I can’t.

There doesn’t seem to be a precedent. Certainly not to the extent of buses filled with indignant and self-righteous citizens who peer at the A.I.G executive homes in the estate sections of Fairfield, Westport and the like. It doesn’t matter that 99% of the fury is misplaced and directed at the stoic survivors who still work there and who had no part in the massive trading losses.

All that seems to matter is that AIG clearly believes that its name, which was on the equivalent of life support, must be expunged from the public consciousness. They have hired Lippincott to come up with a fresh name. That is one tough assignment.

Think back to other corporate scandals. Enron drew universal hatred and scorn, too, but it went out of business and its name and award winning logo went with it. Barings, another financial concern pulled down by a rogue trader, was sold, then cut up and resold in little pieces. (Baring Asset Management still exists, as a subsidiary of MassMutual, but that’s all that is left.) Drexel Burnham Lambert hung on for a while, post-Milken, but also died. WorldCom, luckily, had a former corporate name–MCI–in its hip pocket. But when it rebranded, it had a lot of baggage to overcome:

The company’s switch to the MCI name in its advertising and promotion that there is no mention whatsoever of WorldCom. Normally, a “new and improved” campaign makes at least passing mention to the company’s former identity.

In this case, WorldCom’s excesses are seen as so excessive that the company disdains even the slightest mention. “It’s a cancer,” one executive said.

Sounds suspiciously like what senior executives about AIG must be saying about their own identity. It must be a truly miserable place to be right now, as was made clear in the Op-Ed letter in today’s New York Times, Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

As I have said before, naming should not be undertaken lightly. In this case, I agree with management’s decision. It would be interesting to know what is their budget for re-branding, though.

At the end of the day, I hope that “NewCo” spends even more to inspire their people and reassure them of the rectitude and viability of the company. They deserve it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brand strategy, corporate identity