Branding is More Than Lip Service

A lot of companies take on branding as an opportunity to weed out the old and usher in new, innovative thinking. Unfortunately, in taking on new branding initiatives, many organizations forgot to check their brand DNA – in an effort to be hip and different, often with a new marketing regime coming on board, they lose sight of the fact that branding is more than lip service.

An obvious example is the recent rebranding of Radio-Canada as Ici. The Globe and Mail pointed out that the two marketing firms hired by Radio-Canada thought that the name of the institution sounded old and dated, and after focus group research with younger people whom the broadcaster wants to attract, decided on the name Ici. Contrary to what some focus groups argued, ‘radio’ is not obsolete. It originated from ‘radius’ which evokes the concept of radiance and diffusion. I doubt whether a lot of Canadians are aware of the meaning of ‘radio,’ but instead of changing the programming to attract younger audiences, the public broadcaster decided just to change its name and logo.

As a result, the rebranding was ‘a miserable flop’ as reported by The Globe – it generated huge criticisms from the Heritage Minister to the public broadcaster’s communications union. Eventually, the corporation decided on three different sets of logos – the TV network will be called Ici Radio-Canada Tele; the website will be called; and seven other platforms, as well as regional stations, will be identified as Ici. This sounds even more confusing than before.

Another example of branding without paying full attention to the brand DNA is a recent campaign from Marriott Hotels aiming to attract younger travellers. According to The New York Times, Marriott International is introducing a new advertising and branding campaign for Marriott Hotels and Resorts, its largest brand. The campaign, named “Travel Brilliantly,” is directed at frequent business travellers who are part of Generation X and Generation Y.

The hotel predicted that by 2018, half of all frequent business travellers would be Millennials – younger travellers who are mobile and global. To reach this technology-savvy audience, the campaign includes a commercial, in 30-second and 60-second versions, that went online on June 17 on websites like Hulu, Mashable and The voice-over on the commercial says, “This is not a hotel. It’s an idea that travel should be brilliant. The promise of space as expansive as your imagination. This is not business as usual, it’s a new take on taking a meeting. A new way to inspire, create and, yes, dream. Because it’s not only about where you’re staying, it’s about where you’re going. Marriott, travel brilliantly.” The commercial will also start running on mobile devices in July and on select U.S. TV channels in early September.

Perhaps this campaign might coincide with the global launch of AC Hotels by Marriott – a joint venture with the AC Hotels in Europe – a new concept of stylish hotels for ‘urban spirits’ as described on their website. But there’s absolutely no mention of the AC Hotels in this branding campaign, and to most consumers, the Marriott Hotels brand is safe, reliable and consistent, but not stylish, hip or brilliant in any way. To expect onsumers, particularly the younger ones, to take an immediate leap of faith is simply unrealistic.

Branding is more than lip service – it’s as much a change of substance, content and DNA as just a stylistic overhaul!

Lina Ko

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Tags: Branding, Advertising, Public Relations