The brand canary in the coalmine

The idea that you can change a brand by changing a name and logo returned to the headlines last week (did it ever really go away?), with the ‘Big Australian’, BHP, the latest company to peddle the myth, dropping the Billiton and updating its logo.

The new veneer makes for a dandy marketing ploy and is sure to earn their agencies a nice pay day, but underneath it is much ado about nothing.

A fresh coat of paint and a bit of landscaping makes even the most dilapidated house look more appealing to passersby. And that’s all so-called “rebranding” is. Because, if when you open the door, there’s dishes piled in the sink, a layer of dust sits on the furniture, there’s a hole in the floor and no one is doing anything to clean up inside, then not much has changed.

Perhaps we should start looking at these efforts as a proverbial canary in the coalmine of advancing decline. BHP has had a rocky few years. And when a company struggles with its performance, its agency is one of the first phone calls they make.

What follows is as predictable as one, two, three. The bright shiny object dangles. A new name, logo and advertising campaign follows. Business continues as usual and the decline continues.

A little over a year ago when Optus toyed with a name change I wrote the following:

Looking at ‘brand as a result’ leads to a profound shift in thinking about the things an organisation does to build that brand. Divorced from the usual marketing-driven approaches that pay little attention to operational realities, ‘brand as a result’ demands they be part made of the equation. A few weeks ago I talked about this deep work.

When brand is a result it is all connected.

What you are wired for (purpose and values) shapes what you can do (strategy and goals), drives what you do (actions and decisions), is what stakeholders experience (promises kept), and results in the brand.

To learn more about why you shouldn’t ‘rebrand’ click here.

I haven’t learned or seen anything in the past year to change my mind about the role and place of brand. But the thinking and work has resulted in the following formula.

                         experience [employee/customer]
Identity  X   ––––––––––––––––––––––––––  = brand
                         promises

Looking back at what I wrote, the pieces of the formula were all there. The organisational identity, found in purpose and values (aka what you care about), which shapes the everyday actions and decisions driving experience, and filters through the promises made and kept. With brand as the result.

Where does changing your name or logo fit into that formula? Simply as one action and decision, no more important than the thousands of others you make. And with that one, same as any others, be deliberate, do the deep work and strive for harmony. But don’t let anyone seduce you into thinking a change to your name or logo will change anything but your name and logo.

See you next week.

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