Branding: Inside Out, Outside In

Why and When to Rebrand Your Company

Branding: Inside Out, Outside In

By Elinor Selame

In a world ruled by mass production, standardization, and the parity of technology, it has become more and more apparent that brand identity is the only remaining distinction between many products and services. Moreover, it is the only feature of a product or service that can’t be duplicated. The brand’s trade name and trade dress are among the few elements that can be owned and legally protected.

As Charles Newman, former group manager of market research at Lever Brothers, once said, “You may buy a whole fleet of bakery trucks, but the branded stuff that goes inside is what drives it.  A petroleum jelly factory is much more valuable if its output can be called “Vaseline.”

A few years ago, Castle & Cooke undertook an extensive research project to determine the “worth” of its well-known Dole brand. The company discovered that in consumers’ eyes, the brand connoted much more than pineapple products. Instead, it found Dole brand suggests “sunshine foods.”  The association enabled the company to extend its brand to many other product categories. 

After having the Dole brand identity redesigned – changing the “O”
in “Dole” from a small pineapple crown to a vivid yellow sunburst – the company leveraged its brand into frozen desserts, dried fruits, snack nuts (a business Dole entered through acquisition of Sun Giant in 1987), non-pineapple fruit juices and vegetables. Recognizing the power of its Dole brand, Castle & Cooke, the holding company, decided to market the name to investors as well and now calls itself “Dole.” 

Unfortunately this brand building strategy is the exception to the rule. Wall Street’s focus on short-term profits has resulted in the erosion of valuable brand franchises that has enabled companies to price their products and services at a premium. The foundation of long-term profitability – the brand – is being chipped away not by the competition, but by practices within the company itself.

One reason: Brand management is often relegated to MBA’s fresh out of business school.  (In fact, some marketing consultants suggest that MBA stands for “Murder of Brand Assets.”)  Others simply are not in a position to be heard by the top officers of
their company.

To manage brand assets effectively, one must first understand the definition of a brand.  First, a brand is a trust. To the public, it represents a company, and its products and services. Consumers select a brand because it communicates a perceived value.

A brand comprises many elements.These include its name, positioning (reason for being), trademark/trade dress (symbols, colors, typestyle, package configuration), and brand communications. These brand elements, when successfully developed and managed, create a strong identity for a company. Over time, this creates strong brand authority. 

Brand Asset Management translates into marketing benefits. Consumers are more likely to look favorably upon the company
and its products and to be brand loyal. Suppliers operate more consistently. Expenditures are more cost-effective in terms of advertising and promotion, while integrated marketing becomes
a reality.

We believe that brand identity is the most important distinction between companies, their products and services. Brand should be a company’s most valuable financial asset; it is the engine that drives the company.

A brand is a distinctive name, trademark and trade dress that clearly identifies and enhances the value of a product, service or company. A brand is a trust. Its elements include positioning, name, trademark, trade dress, and brand communications.

A brand’s name and trade dress are among the few elements today that a company can own and legally protect. The key to building a memorable brand identity is to create a distinct visual look that can be protected.

A specific brand is selected because it communicates a perceived value. If the brand can transcend language differences, it is even more powerful.

Brand equity is the incremental price that a customer will pay for
the brand versus a comparable product without the brand name on
it. If no one will pay more for your brand than for another, you have
a commodity.

This was one of the favorite columns written by Elinor Selame,
who died recently after a long and distinguished career.  She was
the co-founder and president of BrandEquity, one of the nation’s leading branding consultancies. Over the years, some of her clients included Kodak, Atari, Nantucket Nectars, Goodwill Industries, Staples, Kodak, CVS Pharmacy, Gillette, Levi Strauss, Amoco,
IBM and Sheraton. She was a nationally recognized expert, author, speaker and consultant on brand asset management and
visual communications.

JULY 2008

Why and When
To Rebrand Your Company

By Ted Selame

Branding and the use of recognizable trademarks and logos help consumers accurately identify the source of goods and services. They also protect a company’s name and goodwill, which is critical to success.

A brand is the combination of symbols, words or designs that differentiates one company’s product from another.  A brand is
also the customer’s perceived value and the company’s major
asset. Companies are valued more by their brands than their net tangible assets. 

The corporate or brand identity of a company, regardless of its size, is the face the public sees and accepts for whatever it is. A brand name is shorthand for the trust and goodwill that the company or organization offers to its audiences:  customers, clients, employees or shareholders. A company is valued more by its brand than its net tangible assets. 

A good corporate identity will visually distinguish a company and its products and services from all others and create an emotional link with the consumer. When planned well with superior visual elements, it allows the company to tell its audiences what it wants to say about itself and how it wants to be perceived. 

In creating a new brand, we must research every potential name to ensure that it isn’t owned or trademarked by someone else. The process has to remain secretive, with only a few people involved on a need-to-know basis. If the name leaks out, a competitor could trademark it first.

A brand comprises many elements:

  • Position, or reason for being What sets you apart for your customers.
  • Name The foundation of the brand.
  • Trademark, your corporate symbol. The visible, easily recognizable face of your company.
  • Trade Dress The combination of your nomenclature, symbols, typestyles/fonts and colors, which must be consistently used everywhere your name appears including your letterhead, brochures, signs, advertising, package design, and web site.

All of these visual communications influence customers’ perceptions.

Compared with a private label, a brand name brings more perceived value. For example, teenagers will pay $80 for sweatpants with a Nike logo, but far less for sweatpants with a different logo or no logo. They then perceive themselves as having more value. At a supermarket, the shopper will value Pepsi or Coke as having more value than a private label cola. The value of the brand is the difference that you’ll pay between the commodity item and the item with the brand label.

Then why would a company change its retail branding?  Why would it want a new name and logo?  What value do they bring to a company that has been identified for years by another name and logo?  Whether the retail chain is large or small, local or national, the reasons remain the same.

The reasons range from a company looking old and out of touch with its current product line to being acquired or merging with another company to having a name that sounds like that of a competitor.  In other cases, a product looks generic and low quality.

How does a rebranded retail operation become entrenched in consumers’ minds, particularly the customers who have patronized it for years?  The company must have a communication plan explaining why it changed its name and reach every point of contact, through its signage, trucks, stationery, collateral materials, advertising, public relations, website, premiums, and mail promotions.  It must also be consistently reinforced throughout all levels of an organization.

Take the case of FrameKing Express.  It wanted to grow its picture framing business into a national chain, but its name could not be trademarked in many states. In addition, when FrameKing Express ran ads, rivals with similar names often ended up with some of
the business.

We came up with CORNERS ( in reverse type against a dark green rectangle, with the tagline “PICTURE FRAMING SUPERSTORE”.  The yellow and orange graphic over the top left corner resembles both the corner of a frame and the old-fashioned hinge that holds pictures in a photograph album. The new name and logo solved the chain’s problems, as they could be used from coast to coast, while evoking the neighborhood feel of a local store and street corner.

Retail branding or rebranding is a key element to your merchandising system, whether it be for your individual product, your store, or your chain of stores. Your name and logo are the first impression of you that your customers have — and the impression you want them
to remember.

Ted Selame is President and CEO of BrandEquity, Newton, MA, one of the foremost visual marketing and strategic brand communications consulting firms. He can be reached at (800) 969-3150 x 246, or 
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