In many posts in the early years of this blog, I was (and still am) an ardent opponent of the idea of municipal branding. Municipal branding is the crazed idea that is sold by branding consultants to government leaders that just slapping a logo and a tagline on a location somehow makes it different.
This phenomenon has now raised its ugly head in my backyard as an area of downtown Bowling Green is now supposedly known as the milquetoast brand of “City Center“.
(The name somehow reminds me of Delta City in Robocop. I’m also fairly sure the City Center folks in Las Vegas may have some legal questions for the downtown BG folks.)
…While visual and tactile representations like logos and colors are important, the real significance of a brand is not something that can been seen or touched.
At its most basic, a brand is a relationship between something and an individual. A brand is a promise that past performance will be an indicator of future results. A brand is shaped by a customer’s positive and negative interactions with the brand. You might see a brand as something only related to a company or other structured organization. However, anything can be a brand: a product, a service, an experience, a person.
Your brand is your most powerful asset, but it’s also an asset that you don’t really own. Branding is not developed from the top down. It’s developed from the bottom up. The consumer, not the company, dictates what the brand image is for any product. The frustrating reality of branding is that while you can provide the tools and platforms of a brand strategy, the brand actually exists only in the minds of the public, the same as the zeitgeist….
I totally concur that visual representations of a brand like logos, taglines, etc are important. They provide visual shorthand for what the brand means. But the real key to building a memorable brand is to provide positive customer experiences and build on the brand equity that is already there (downtown Bowling Green has existed since 1798).
I stand my my mantra: “Marketing is best built-in, not slapped on“
It’s summertime. I know this for two reasons: It’s hot and I’m hearing more Coke commercials on the radio.
Whenever I hear Coca-Cola jingles on the radio, my mind goes back to the mid-1990s and the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign.
Those were my radio days and I distinctly remember the Coke commercial reel at the station. I was still doing production grunt work and I had to dub the Coke commercials we needed off the 7-inch reel (which I’m sure was half track stereo tails out at 15 ips) onto a cart for use on the air.
The reel had a lot on it. There was the standard jingle, but the reel also had about 20 different tracks in :30 and :60 versions. There were different cuts for different radio station formats. It was essentially the same jingle that had been remixed as a country version, an urban one, a rock mix, etc.
I found all those customized cuts remarkable at the time because it helped us keep the format of the station on track even during stop-sets. But looking back with branding and advertising strategy in mind, there’s a good lesson there for any business. Customize your message for your audience.
In the nineties, only companies like Coca-Cola could work on that level of customization with mass media. Today with targeted keywords, landing pages, social media channels, and much more; anyone can do it. It’s lazy not to customize your marketing.
Also looking back, I wish that I had lifted one of those reels out of the station. It would have been a unique piece of Coke memorabilia. I’m sure it stayed in the production filing cabinet until I probably threw it away when we moved the studios.
(side note for the observant reader: Why is this version only :48 instead of :60? It’s for the local station to drop a :12 tag at the end.)