• Brand Substance Is Brand Style


    How do you dress your brand for success? In a competitive market where a style change can lead to brand-salvation or brand-suicide the choice is much more difficult than even the most discerning stylists’ wardrobe choice. No matter what market demographic you look at there are hundreds of failed products and services due to lack of style, not lack of quality. Be it I-pods winning over Zen players, Redbull over Pepsi AM, or even the Harry Potter film franchise over Narnia – much of the losses and wins could be ascribed to the changing style of the time over the quality of the product.

    So-how do you make that difficult style choice? The best method is to seek competent advice and have a strong understanding of your customer’s expectations.

    A brand’s style should complement the core experience that your customer is seeking. If Wendy’s style change is able to build upon the qualities that make it America’s most popular fast food restaurant the chain will naturally grow stronger.



    Wendy's Face Lift

    The news around town is that Wendy got a face-lift. That’s right-much is being said about the recent press release from Wendy’s fast food chain detailing plans on an updated logo and brand approach to the venerable Wendy brand. Most branding think-tanks praise the move while others predict that the make-over will destroy the brands seemingly inherent nostalgia and authenticity.

    The most difficult and dangerous part of choosing a brand’s particular style is the fact that it requires a sacrifice. Once you go edgy and risqué you can’t appeal to folks looking for something more wholesome and family oriented. Once you take a fun and comedic tone you can’t suddenly switch to the serious and professional style.  And, as in Wendy’s case, once you go slick and modern you can’t appeal to nostalgia.

    A brand style change is sometimes essential to stay in the game. It’s also the easiest way to lose. Thousands of products have been shelved because their style wasn't successful.  In this Drive Branding article we will look at how a brand’s style must be bolstered by substance to succeed.

    With branding it is essential that substance should determine style. Do people enter Wendy's prepared for an authentic experience that harkens back to days of old? Or do they go for fast service, affordable food, and quality choices?


    Is style everything?

    It is commonly believed that brand style is all that matters. Take the iconic Nike logo that slapped upon a baseball hat multiplies its worth. But if one takes a closer look, those styles have a story with substance behind it-and that is why their brand style sells. This issue is discussed in an eye-opening interview with business consultant Tom Peters in designer Debbie Millman’sBrand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits.” Tom Peter’s discusses how a simple package and logo changed oatmeal from cheap, tasteless animal food to a successful consumer good.

    “And suddenly, you had had a cardboard box with a Quaker on the outside, and oats became a human delicacy-due entirely to packaging-in the short space of twenty years. Is this evidence that a simple change in style can sell a product? No. Would a change in style sell cat food these days? Of course not.”

    Embedded in the style must be the values that consumers are looking for. Tom Peters goes on to explain this later in the interview:

    …as late as the beginning of the century sanitation sucked. The pharmaceutical companies should get none of the credit for our life expectancy going from fifty to seventy-five during the  beginning of the 20th century. So here comes a cereal that’s reliable and clean and that you can buy for your dearly beloved children without any fear they would get sick when they ate it.”

    If Quaker’s oatmeal was not able to communicate to its new consumer base the qualities of reliance and cleanliness the new style would not have sold. This is a rule that many failed brands do not understand.


    Style Guide

    Brand Style is always a holistic affair, but can be broken down into basic categories.

    The Look: Logo design, packaging and the companies color scheme are what comes to mind first when we think of a brand style. Although these are essential components they only work if they communicate a substantial message behind their aesthetics.

    The Attitude: Everything  from the tone of an advertisement to the choice of charity endorsements can define a brand’s attitude. The attitude must click with the customer as well as remain steady and similar throughout your business.

    The Service:  If the company is service based the brand style is wholly reliant on a customer approved service to succeed.  Service can be an incredibly nuanced field and can make or break a brand. The service at a five-star restaurant, at a hooter’s chain, or at Dick’s Last Resort (a gimmick chain famous for its “bad” service) all calls for a different approach.

    In the next Drive Branding articles we will offer detailed advice and examples of how brand styling can lead you to success and warn against the numerous common failures, erroneous style shifts and “fashion suicides” certain brands have made recently.