Is Branding Going Through Another Evolution Or More of the Same?

Branding is always an interesting topic. In many ways, successful branding is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle as it is hard to know just how a consumer sees a particular company.. Paula Lawlor of the Beacon Initiative describes “…branding is what you are.” From your logo to how you are represented in your communications, branding is meant to illustrate who a company is in the world and what sort of person buys from said company.

Coca-Cola is an easy example

It is easy to identify the red and white and particular font used by Coca-Cola. Coke is meant to signify happiness and community. From the recent American ad to the bottles with names printed on them in 32 countries in Europe, Coca Cola has been clear about who they are and why they want the consumer to pick their carbonated beverage over another. They are speaking to lifestyle and values, not thirst.

But is branding really changing or is it more of the same?

A recent New Yorker post by James Surowiecki claims we’re in “The Twilight of the Brands.” He uses Lululemon as an example of how brands are fragile. After the debacle with the see-through yoga pants and the fabric pilling, Lululemon’s brand could no longer be associated with the “lifestyle” they branded. And adding to this public crisis is the access consumers have to information about brands and their products. Surowiecki explains that brand loyalty is largely a relic of a time when information was less accessible. A company can make a fabulous or disastrous product and have it discussed and dissected via social media. This coupled with segmentation and that a company’s reputation is based on the most recent product (not its history) could very well make branding even more ephemeral.

This seems to say that branding has to evolve into a “personality” more than a message

Branding does seem to be more about “who you are” rather than historical performance. Just because Sony made a great television in that past doesn’t mean consumers will trust that its current product is equally as good. Which brings us to Tom Asacker’s question, “Does branding matter?” In his post, Asacker writes, “A brilliant idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.” This seems to agree with Surowiecki’s point that brand loyalty is waning, if not dead. It is not the idea that matters, it is the “impassioned dance.” Branding seems to becoming a mutual storytelling between company and consumers. Perception, context and priorities are more than a message. They embody the personality of the company. Whether an organization sells itself as green, innovative, sustainable or some other sexy concept depends on the consumer participating in creating the message. Brand evangelization, word of mouth and social media posts and shares describe companies as “someone” with whom to do business. If branding is really a mutual act between company and consumer, it may be that branding is evolving.

What do you think? Is branding going through another evolution or is it really more of the same? Join us Friday, February 21, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

How is branding really an expression of the consumer’s desired lifestyle?

What trends or changes do you see in how companies brand themselves?

 How does access to information from other consumers add to a brand’s story?

How is branding more like a company’s personality than a message?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.


Telling Them Where to Go: Brands, Movements and Having a Point of View

Stephen Denny, branding, marketing, Killing GiantsStephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.

“There are two kinds of warfare: asymmetric and stupid.”

I had the good fortune to interview Dr. Conrad Crane of the US Army War College in Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry on the subject of finding and nurturing “defendable ground,” a concept as familiar to marketing strategists as it was to Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare, and it’s as good place to start any discussion on how to approach your market as any I can think of.

This is an important topic. Far too many companies get substandard financial results from their marketing efforts because they don’t follow Dr. Crane’s somewhat backhanded advice. They follow a somewhat Cartesian “I think therefore I am” branding philosophy that suggests that being available is good enough. It isn’t.

We need to lead with a point of view.

This simple idea should color your branding, your marketing communications, your go-to-market strategy, and virtually everything you do that is visible to others.

One of the first real “live fire” exercises that I personally took part in after the publication of Killing Giants was helping a mid-cap multinational brand in the technology space figure out its point of view – and one that was fighting an uphill fight against an incumbent nearly twice its size. By elevating the narrative in the market above the speeds and feeds – and even the specific product’s perceived benefits – we found a new higher ground that spoke to shared needs and a much bigger picture.

“We really found ourselves in a position where having that point of view gave us the opportunity to get in front of our targets, whether it was partners of customers, in a way that no one had ever done before,”  Jabra North America president Peter Fox said in a recent Brand Fast-Tracker interview we did together. The “Devices Make Experiences” program we developed repositioned Jabra’s headsets as more than just accessories – they became enablers, a critical part of a total product solution that completed the Unified Communications platforms its strategic alliance partners were selling. Together, we were far better for the customer – and far easier to sell. The program thus far has been credited with an eight-figure increase in the brand’s pipeline revenue and an ROI north of 20 to 1.

Have a point of view

I point this out for a big reason. When we talk about “having a point of view” or “seizing the narrative,” we’re not talking about fluffy soft concepts that are nice but have no role in a serious discussion in the board room. Having a point of view and implementing it rigorously drives top line growth. It makes money. And if your marketing isn’t making money – big money, not small incremental gains – you’re in trouble.

To get your point of view on paper, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • If we launched a movement today, what would it be about? (Grassroots movements that galvanize people and seize their imaginations have little to do with features).
  • What would our movement be called? (Giving it a label is important – you need to brand it and make it personal).
  • How is our movement a definition of our brand? (Remember “Eigen Values”? “This sentence has five words.” That’s an eigen value. It’s self-defining. Saying it defines it. Does your movement define your brand? Does your brand define your movement?)


We’ve gone well past notions of being simple for simple’s sake at this point. We’re adding a new layer of “interestingness,” nuance and good complexity.

“Brands are like people,” 42Below vodka brand founder Geoff Ross told me in Killing Giants. “You would far rather spend time with a person that is many things… clever, witty, is sound and dependable, a joker… this is in contrast to a lot of old brand thinking that states a brand should only be about one thing.”

So let’s not just be about one thing. Let’s start a movement. Let’s have a point of view that tells our market, “This is what we believe, this is where we’re going and we want you to come along with us.”

Are you with us?


  • What’s our ultimate business goal when we talk about “leading with a point of view”?
  • How hard is it to shift to a more “point of view” centric footing? Is this a big change – or a subtle one?
  • What branded POV’s have you seen that you think are powerful?
  • How do we take a strong POV-driven brand and drive results from it?
  • So many fervently believe branding needs to be about “one big thing” – is this at odds with the POV idea?
  • If we’re supposed to be all about “one big thing,” what is the role of complexity? Is it good? Bad?
  • What’s the difference between “experts” and “fans”?  Why is this important?

To learn more about the Jabra “Devices Make Experiences” story, download the mini-e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths in the Kindle storefront – you can also download the full transcript of the Pete Fox interview on my website at

About the author: Stephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.


Brands and ChitChat

This post is by guest blogger, Ric Dragon. Ric is the author of Social Marketology and CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch. We continue to celebrate our 3rd anniversary of this Twitter chat as we explore how small chat can help brands connect with people more effectively this Friday, August 10th, at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT on #KaizenBiz.

“Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. (…) He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, and connected with the goal. “This is how one is made pure in four ways by verbal action.”-Anguttara Nikaya

Ric Dragon, allogrooming, chitchatIn the American evangelical tradition, the concept of gossip has been shaped by particular biblical translations, where the notion of gossip is closely associated with slander. One writer was explicit, “Satan started gossip.” [It is Written, by Kelechukwu O. Okafor] Continue reading