What Every CEO Can Learn From Best Buy’s (Continued) Branding Mistakes

Recently, I came across an article in Ad Age covering Best Buy’s most recent branding efforts.

Here’s what stopped me in my tracks:

"For the past 18 months, the U.S. marketing team, led by Drew Panayiotou, senior-VP marketing, has been working to reframe the retailer's brand proposition. Now it's ready to unveil its efforts. Best Buy's new tagline, rolling out this summer, is 'Making technology work for you.'"

And with that, the article continued with: "We want to be a brand that's about more than that."

I Hate To Kick A Brand When It's Down
I do. But when you’ve spent 18 months and come out with "Making Technology Work for You" as the new tag line, we have to take a cold, hard reality check.

Best Buy, your culture is about unloading inventory, not helping the customer. Taking a page from Apple’s retail strategy by adding "Central Knowledge Desks" will not replace doing something real and authentic. My personal experiences unfortunately have not changed what is inbred into your culture

But let’s get more fundamental: That slogan is not only tired, it is a death sentence that is bland, old, worn, uninspired and not reflective of a single strand of your customer’s aspirations. It reeks of "marketing speak" and "committee-itis."

What Was Shitty Yesterday is Shitty Today
In a previous Fast Company post, I wrote about what it takes to create a shitty brand.

In case you missed it, here it is again:

In light of something like this resulting from 18 months (or 18 weeks, 18 days or even 18 minutes), it’s a boring shame and violates one of David Ogilvy’s most succinct quotes. "You can’t bore people into buying your product."

The Love/Hate Angle of Branding
The strongest brands stand for something as well being opposed something else:

  • Apple is opposed to technology that sets the rules and asks people to adapt; it champions technology that adapts to the needs of the people.
  • Nike stands for athletic achievement and is opposed to sitting on your ass.
  • Dyson stands for no loss of suction and is opposed to stagnant complacency, first making obsolete the old guards of vacuum cleaners and then doing the same with their own technological solutions.

With all that said... Best Buy, what do you stand for? Also, what are you opposed to?

Until you answer those questions, the likelihood of rising from the ashes is grim at best.

Saab and its "Born from jets" campaign is a brand that is no longer with us.

JC Penney’s recent "rebrand," while attractive design-wise, has done nothing to revert their declining sales. It dealt on a very superficial level, sugar-coating JCP's presentation without driving home any meaning any consumer cares about. (Other brands try to make themselves meaningful with trite "corporate statements" and "mission statements." Candidly, I've yet to run across that did anything more than remind everyone they were working for a corporation. Zero inspiration. No passion. Total lack of authentic energy to inspire.)


Because they failed to address the two sides every brand has:

  • What is stands for and
  • What it is passionately opposed to.

Only after answering those questions can you honestly determine what to sound like, what to look like, what your design aesthetic is, and why anyone should care.

And if the best you’ve got is "Making technology work for you," then the likelihood anyone will care is very slim.

David Brier is a brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. Besides creating the Defy-O-Meter, David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David's series of videos shed new light on effective branding in these videos and interviews. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel or request your own free copy of David's eBook, "The Lucky Brand" .

[Image: Flickr user Ben Barnes]

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