Fast Company

The Sh*tty Brand in 3 Easy Steps (infographic)

A Fast Company infographic for mature branding professionals, business owners and CEOs who don't want to have their brand "step in it"

With the recent branding meltdowns of some notable global brands, it's become increasingly obvious that companies may be lacking a little checklist on how to avoid creating brands that are, in a word, shitty.

To do that, we would first need to isolate what factors or qualities made a brand shitty so this didn't fall into an argument over such trite factors as cosmetics, opinions and Pantone-favorites like, "Well, you might think it's shitty but I don't!"

A Shitty Checklist
Based on 30 years of branding and observation, I've witnessed the following:

  • Brands that blend in don't perform as well as brands that stand out (duh)
  • Brands that innovate (either their product, their channels of distribution, the way they service customers, or the way their product is packaged) have stronger brands, stronger brand loyalty and stronger performance in the marketplace
  • Copycat brands are seen as copycats commanding little value if any other than "saving money"
  • Consumers seek out something beyond average, whether it's the product features, product add-ons, user experience, distribution channels or possibly even price (if you're in a very price-driven category or economy). In short, consumers seek out something more in some aspect, not something less (and it's our job as branding professionals to find out what the "more" is)
  • Brands built on the opinions of friends, family and pets lack the qualities seen in brands which are built on passion

The Short List
In short, that leaves a few guidelines of actions to take that result in a shitty brand:

  • Using cliches (second only to red-tape bureaucratic committees in helping a business fail)
  • Copycat strategies and copycat tactics are not your friends
  • Opinions of random family members, strangers, fellow passengers in elevators, etc. are not proven and reliable tools
  • For the sake and sanity of branding professionals, CEOs, CMOs, VPs of marketing, branding, etc., etc., here is a diagram to know where to step in your next brand evolution and where not to step. It's a basic "what to avoid" if you value your job, your company, the respect of peers and shareholders (as well as not becoming the latest scandal in branding missteps like the recent Gap disaster).

How to Create a Shitty Brand in 3 Easy (mis)Steps

All of which leads us to...

The Anti-Shitty Brand
If your goal is to achieve the opposite, try:

  • Observing the cliches and find a sweet spot where your brand can avoid being, using or claiming one of those cliches
  • Searching for the miraculous, the remarkable, the great. And persisting until you do find those.
  • Finding your passion, your values, your passionate audience and building your brand around that, not something Fido barked at and an in-law praised at a cousin's wedding....

By the way, shit in this context does not stand for Stupidly Horrendous Idiotic Trash (...on second thought...).

Happy branding.

Follow David Brier on Twitter here.

Recipient of over 320 national and international design and branding recognitions and awards, David Brier is an award-winning brand identity designer, author, and branding expert. His firm's work has won the admiration of peers and organizations but has, more importantly, helped clients jump-start their brands in new and innovative ways, even (and especially) when they've failed in previous brand makeovers. Most recently, David's celebrated work for Botanical Bakery was selected for the 2010 Communication Arts Design Annual and will be featured in "The Big Book of Packaging."

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