Oct 062012
 

forbes-logo-merriamPlease visit Forbes.com for our article on the demise of the Al Qaeda brand following last week’s drone attack on Al Qaeda’s most visible marketing executive and Inspire magazine publisher/editor.

UPDATE: Found on Jihad Jihad Watch. Seems bin Laden himself was worried about his brand. In documents recovered by the SEALs, he wrote that he was considering changing the name of al Qaeda to “Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad,” meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group. A second option he was considering was “Jama’at I’Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida,” meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group. Well, if drone attacks hadn’t killed the al Qaeda brand, it seemed like top management was poised to muck it up on their own.

Sep 062012
 

The article I wrote for Forbes earlier this summer, “The Democrats Have A Big Branding Problem, As Does Obama,” talked about how the Obama brand is “more defined by what he is not.” Bill Clinton’s speech last night showed that he, not Obama is a master at branding.

obama-brand

In one simple line, he repositioned the Democratic Party and defined a winning brand for the market: “If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.” Bill Clinton has offered the market a clear choice.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Bill Clinton isn’t running. Instead, the Obama brand is relentlessly negative and unfocused, veering from anti-Bain to “you didn’t build that” to Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital. Obama styles his brand as “incomplete.” Compared to the positive energy Bill Clinton offered, that doesn’t sound like a winning position.

Read Forbes article on the Obama branding problem here.

Sep 012012
 

lady-gaga-brandThe Lady Gaga brand is valuable. She is smart to be as aggressive protecting it as she has been building it. Estimates put the value of the brand at nearly $1 billion, including recording sales, concerts, clothing, fragrances, and more. She now rakes in over $90 million a year and hasn’t even begun to exploit the value of her brand.

Suing to Protect the Value of the Lady Gaga Brand

Lady Gaga filed suit this week in New York against a company that seeks to shake down a piece of that action.

Excite World, a shady Nevada corporation who’s Web site has been shut down, has filed for trademarks that most likely will never be granted. Claiming they want to sell a line of cosmetics and jewelry, they have filed to trademark “Lady Gaga,” “Lady Gaga by Design,” and “Lady Gaga Fame.”

Though the company has next to no chance of winning these claims, the filings do have the effect of blocking Lady Gaga’s own legitimate claims. Lady Gaga can pay Excite World a fortune to go away or she can sue. Having time and money on her side, Lady Gaga is suing.

More more on Celebrity Brands

Dec 122011
 

MashableMashable has an interesting take on the do’s and don’ts of creative job titles quoting Merriam Associates. Your job title is part of your personal brand so make sure it says the right things about you. Here’s the advice on Mashable.

 

Other quick tips:

1) Be clear. If it makes people stop and wonder, it’s a mistake.

2) Job titles are not the place to convey personality. More often than not, that corporate personality does not fit the person carrying the business card. It’s disconcerting to get a business card that calls someone a “rock star” when they are over weight, middle aged and quite shy.

3) Don’t over-promise or promise something you really don’t want. You can’t have a “guru” answer “I don’t know; I’ll get back to you.” As a client, do you want a “ninja” pressuring you to buy?

Oct 142011
 

Herb-Cain-Personal-BrandDavid Boorstin, a noted expert on brands and society, politics, culture and business, has an interesting take on the rise of Herman Cain’s personal brand and the 9-9-9 brand. We’ve had candidates who have effectively used marketing principles, but this is the first time we have a candidate who is himself a master marketer. Read David’s article here.

Jul 022011
 

Back in January, 2011, when Michael Vick signed his first endorsement deal with a local NJ Nissan dealer, we predicted the Michael Vick brand would come back as strong as the player himself. Today, Nike announced they have re-signed Vick to a multi-year brand endorsement contract.

michael-vick-brandTo recap why the Michael Vick brand comback was possible:

1) His crime had little to do with what built his brand in the first place. Vick made his name by playing winning football, and he is back playing winning football again.

2) He had a dodgy image from day one. His crime was just a further step down a bad road, not a jarring new truth. He never presented himself as a role model like Tiger Woods.

3) Vick paid a high price and is truly repentant. He lost his job in football, lost all endorsements, went to prison, and went bankrupt. Getting a second chance in football, he has worked hard and has earned the respect of his team mates.

Back in 2007, Nike called Vick’s actions “inhumane and abhorrent. ” Today, Nike says, “we support the positive changes he has made to better himself off the field.”

Everyone cheers a comeback. That’s a good start for the Michael Vick brand. The prodigal son is especially loved.

Mar 222011
 

amex-open-personal-brandingThe American Express Open Forum publishes advice articles for small business leaders. Today’s featured article, which quotes Merriam Associates, is about personal branding–how you can create a recognizable persona for yourself and your company. A personal brand has always been helpful for advertising, recognition, and networking. The growth of social media makes thinking deliberately about your personal image more critical than ever. Read it here.

Feb 072011
 

gawker brandGawker.com fans were in full rebellion over the Gawker brand redesign. Some threatened to never visit the site again. The Twittering class hated Gawker’s redesign launched February 7th. On February 9th, that all changed. Gawker.com broke the story of the “classy” Congressman showing off his flabby torso and traffic boomed.

Consumers pretty much always hate change–witness the initial flack when the new Starbucks logo launched last month. For the Gawker brand, the reaction to their new design was as hate-filled as it was predictable. From Twitter:

FruitMuffin The new gawker redesign is terrible! @Gizmodo and @Lifehacker, I’m sad to say it, but you just lost a reader, it’s too annoying to use.

Zombie_Rights Wow, ok. Who decided to let Satan himself redesign all the Gawker sites, anyway? I was wondering what the big deal was about, and yeesh

norahpdx gawker‘s site redesign makes my face hurt. what a disaster.

Wise companies use design for strategic purposes that may or may not initially please the masses. In Gawker’s case, their new design makes it possible to put their important stories first. The old design locked them into a a reverse chronological order, making an important story disappear off the home page as new material was posted after it. Strategically, the move made sense.

Consumers don’t always understand strategy–they are driven by familiarity. The wisdom of Gawker’s redesign hit two days after the new site look launched. The icky pictures of a congressman who imagines himself hot proved irresistible. Traffic was still up by 22% as of yesterday, the latest available Alexa stats as I write this post. And this hot story is on the Gawker front page (though a Tom Cruise/Scientology Slave article–with an equal creepy factor–has nudged it further down towards the bottom.) The new design makes it possible for Gawker to squeeze this story for all it is worth in terms of site traffic and time on site–and that makes strategic sense, whether you like the design or not. Likeability is a direct function of familiarity.

Design is important to brand, but in the end, product is more so. A great logo and great packaging can’t save a crappy product. The Gawker grand is about supplying “gossip from Manhattan and the Beltway to Hollywood and the Valley,” is something they continue to do very well.

As for the Gawker brand redesign haters, they can chill a bit. The new design will grow on them. Most brand redesigns do.

Feb 042011
 

sarah-palin-brandWe’ve covered political brands and the subject of brands who are people or with value closely tied to a real person, but today, the web site Mediaite has broken the story of the trademarking of the Sarah Palin brand. Pretty soon, that “R” next to her name won’t mean “Republican,” but “Registered Trademark.”

It’s not unusual for to trademark a name. Jennifer Lopez has done it, as has Paul Newman, Michael Jackson, and Martha Stewart–even Ronald Reagan. Still, trademarked names of politicians is rare. Barack Obama hasn’t done it yet. Neither has Nancy Pelosi.

That said, I suspect Sarah is in early on a new trend. Every brand should take every step to “own” their name. For people, owning your own trademark is an inexpensive way to protect your persona, whether you are a celebrity selling salad dressing or a politician turned opinion leader. If you don’t trademark your name, someone else will.

What is interesting about the Sarah Palin brand trademark application is what it reveals about Palin’s future plans. The left seems fixated on Palin’s political future, but it seems Palin is more focused on “information about political elections” and “providing a website featuring information about political issues”-in other words, a pundit brand, and the other for “educational and entertainment services … providing motivational speaking services in the field of politics, culture, business and values”–could more reality television be in Sarah’s future?

More on brands and real people:
Steve Jobs and Apple’s Future Brand Value
Michael Vick’s Potential as a Brand: Lessons from Martha Stewart and Tiger Woods
When a Brand is a Person

Jan 212011
 

KFC-brand-colonel-sandersBloomberg News is reporting that the KFC brand is defeating all other fast food brands for dominance in China. By getting in early, tailoring its menu to local tastes (hamburgers are foreign, while fried chicken is well accepted), and hiring local decision makers, KFC stores in China contribute 36% of parent company Yum’s global operating profit.

Bloomberg even reports that “Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao.”

Nothing breeds imitators like success—especially in China. When I last visited China, many cities boasted a local look-alike KFC brand contender. One wag has suggested this fake Chinese Col. Sanders might just be the famous General Tsao. . .

(Note: I know that KFC has updated their Col. Sanders logo, however, the Chinese copy is of the old logo, so I use the old one here for side-by-side comparison.)

© 2014 Lisa Merriam