Hitting the Road and Heading Out West

March 27 2013

This coming April, Beth is going on a little speaking tour to the West Coast. For you solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, product developers, and other business and brand minded folks, she will be speaking at the Renaisssance Entrepreneurship Institute in San Francisco on the evening of April 18th. Then she will be doing one-on-one consulting in SF and LA (and anywhere else along the coast where her brand and communications skills are needed) until April 28th, when she heads out to the desert and Palm Springs. She will be speaking about how to develop your point-of-view as a photographer at the prestigious Palm Springs Photo Festival on April 29th, and doing one-on-one portfolio reviews on the 28th and 29th for photographers who will be spending time at the festival. Hope to see you along the way!

          Image from a recent talk at the Association of Photographers in London


Time Warner, NY1 & Brand Management

March 21 2013

In my frequent talks about branding, and in speaking with my clients, I always start out by saying that your logo is not your brand. Your logo is an expression of your brand, providing a means to connect the consumer to your company or product. It is a symbolic expression of your brand, but it doesn't define it . It's a tool, one amongst many, that help the consumer to identify, connect and viscerally relate to who you are.

In its twenty-year existence, NY1, the all-news channel dedicated to New York City and the greater metropolitan area, has become an institution. We turned to it for our Hurricane Sandy coverage and to watch Mayor Bloomberg's testy news conferences, Neil Rosen's take on the movies, and Shelley Goldberg with her ageless blonde pageboy to tell us where to take our kids this weekend. And who doesn't love to watch key news anchor Pat Kiernan read the newspaper headlines to us every weekday morning? It's our morning tea, coffee, and weather person all rolled into one.

Last week, in an effort to make viewers aware of their ownership and the channel's exclusivity to TWC subscribers, Time Warner announced that they would be rebranding NY1, changing the name to TWC News and getting rid of the simple, yet iconic, blocky blue logo. The New York internet media reacted immediately, and not very happily. Gawker posted an article titled "NY1 to be Rebranded as 'TWC News' Because We Can't Have Nice Things." But anchor Pat Kiernan went on air and tried to assure viewers that nothing will change, saying  that the "logo is less important than the content."

In some ways, he is right, but not entirely so. What he was trying to say is that the anchors and content of the channel will stay the same, no matter what the logo looks like. At the same time, he was saying that there is going to be a brand disconnect between the station, its history, how it is known and loved by its audiences, and the new name and logo. He was asking you to stay put and not abandon NY1 no matter what happens at the corporate level. What he was really addressing was the issue of brand mismanagement, and a lack of sensitivity at the corporate level.

Time Warner might want to consider a name like TWC/NY1 News, or NY1: News From Time Warner. There are a number of options that would be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and that would hook the old NY1 into the bigger landscape of the Time Warner brand. Pat was saying, 'we're still here' and we will be, Pat, no matter what the logo looks like. That is not always the case for a brand, but in this case, we just can't give up our morning coffee and you.


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Celebrities and Brand Management: The 1% Factor

March 13 2013

After showing up two hours late to a concert at the massive O2 Arena in London last week, Justin Beiber arrived on stage to face boos and harsh criticism from his young fans--many of whom were upset because they were going to be forced to stay out late (past their bedtimes) in order to see his whole show. That same week, Justin was caught on video threatening and yelling profanities at the paparazzi. He also fainted at another concert, and then cancelled an upcoming show on his international tour. Now it seems like we're all just waiting for him to follow along behind many other troubled pop stars, and mysteriously check into rehab for 'exhaustion.'

So is this the beginning of the end of Justin Beiber's career? Probably not. 

In general, I would say that brand mismanagement hurts your brand equity. But for celebrities, this is (yet another) indulgence, or off-brand management, that would not work for brands at large. Because Hollywood loves a comeback story, celebrities can mismanage their brand in a profound way -- the public and the entertainment business is okay with it, because we are as interested in seeing stars come back as we are seeing them fail. Take Robert Downey Jr., for example. Hollywood, the media, and the public have all embraced the handsome, reformed drug addict turned Oscar nominee back in the fold as a respectable and credible actor and box office draw.

So, who then is the other 1%? They are the stars who go beyond the pale, like Mel Gibson. When Mel Gibson said that the Holocaust never existed, he effectively shut the door on his Hollywood career, particularly in an industry where many of the key players are Jewish. The public and the industry were offended, and could not disassociate themselves fast enough. It was not simply self-destructive behavior. It was aggressive and wrong-headed, destruction turned outward rather inward, unlike many stars who crash and burn personally only to return to Hollywood success. Was the public upset when Hugh Grant was caught with a prostitute? Yes. But we forgave the charming Brit, and all rushed to see him in Notting Hill with Julia Roberts.

Ultimately, I'm not worried about Justin Beiber. His young, adoring fans will forgive him. Eventually he will stop acting out, and have another act in his career. Keep in mind, though, that the entertainment industry plays by its own rules. The scenarios I’ve described are not acceptable for brands at large, where it’s essential to be endlessly vigilant about every point, communication and way they intersect with the public and their investors. Can you say “BP”?

          Image via justinbiebermusic.com

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What is a Lifestyle store, anyway?

March 06 2013

A very enjoyable part of my time over the past many years has been spent assigning lifestyle photography, or in developing brand strategy and providing creative direction for lifestyle photographers and photo agencies that represent lifestyle creatives. As a brand strategist and trendwatcher, I'm always paying attention to the marketplace, in particular to the ways in which brand touch points are connected or disconnected where they intersect with their varied audiences and customers. I'm also very sensitive to the language aspect of branding, as my clients well know. Your brand name, the category you use to describe your brand, and the language you use to describe your brand can be as potent as any tool in your arsenal.

On to the category of lifestyle stores. The rise of the uber-lifestyle brand at retail really came to prominence about twenty years ago, with the push forward of stand–alone stores for brands like Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Anthropologie. These brands created highly cultivated destinations that offered an encapsulated view of a particular kind of life, one where you could carry the brand home in many forms -- from women's fashion to homewares, like bedding and tableware, to fashion accessories –- all in one place, and not presented in the fragmented department store environment. These lifestyle brands offered product options at different price points, so that you could bring home a twenty dollar cup or a thousand dollars gown. They offered an easy, transporting experience where consumers could easily envision themselves as part of the romantic Anthropologie or minimalist Calvin Klein lifestyle and aesthetic.

Today I was walking down Madison Avenue in NYC, where I passed the well-known card shop and e-tailer, Papyrus. Right there in the window they claimed to be a lifestyle store. I thought to myself, “They are a shop that sells different kinds of paper goods!” feeling quite surprised by their claims. Then I read their window signage, only to find that their definition of lifestyle means that they offer custom printing as well as a full-line of Cranes papers. The outcome: I was let down, and I felt misled.

Folks, this is not what you want when you put your brand out there in public. A basic tenet of brand strategy involves never promising something that you can’t deliver every time. Papyrus is clearly not a lifestyle store. They are a gift and card shop with additional customer friendly services.

The moral: I’m reminding you to think carefully and analytically before you put your brand out there, so that you know what you stand for, and communicate it accurately. This will help you to attract and retain loyal customers. 

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