In conclusion, it is imperative for organizations to maintain a consistent persona through their words, actions and advertising. If each of these elements remains consistent, they will create in their customers a “crucial, intrinsic, and implicit emotional connection that will form the basis of a long-lasting relationship built on the predictability of the brand’s behavior” (24).
This point was proven numerous times during my examination of Herskovitz and Crystal’s theory of brand persona through a study of Gap Inc.’s logo crisis, the new Marine Corps marketing and advertising campaign, Disney Youth Programs’ company misstep and Google Chrome’s award-winning advertising campaign. Each of these organizations has built their brand on a consistent persona, and they will have to maintain it in order to keep the trust of their audience.
The power of consistency is undeniable in the branding and storytelling of an organization.
Have you ever seen a commercial with a premise that is so cute, it detracts from the product being sold? This focus on plot before persona is a common pitfall in branding. According to Herskovitz and Crystal, “Marketing communications that start by focusing on persona, on the other hand, will always be memorable, regardless of the different plots that are involved. Those approaches that help us to know our brand better now will be valuable during times of crisis and sudden change. This is where understanding the brand persona pays off, because it lets us know how the brand will behave in different circumstances” (26).
On November 28, 2011, Adweek announced their 10 Best Commercials of 2011. Number four on the list was a personal favorite of mine and what I consider to be a great example of how to maintain a consistent brand persona in advertising. Take a look at Google Chrome’s “Dear Sophie,” part of “The Web is what you make of it.” campaign.
Adweek reporter Tim Nudd writes, “But the campaign’s crowning achievement was ‘Dear Sophie,’ a humbler execution, set to a simple piano score, that showed a young father using Google tools to fill a digital scrapbook with notes, images, and videos of his young daughter, which he intends to share with her ‘someday.’ The spot invariably leaves viewers choked up, and casts Google, often seen as a tyrant, as a facilitator of love. Data never felt so human.”
Google Chrome managed to display the compassionate side of their organization with “Dear Sophie,” and they did it without losing sight of their persona. Google Chrome is reliable, a leader in technology and easy to navigate. Each of these character traits was displayed beautifully in the commercial, as the father scrapbooked his daughter’s entire life with just a few clicks of the mouse. The way they used each of their products as a facilitator of love was brilliant and viral. Once again, consistency in persona has proven successful for an organization.
For those who are interested, I caught another “The Web is what you make of it.” Google Chrome commercial on television the other day. Check it out below!
Question: What’s your favorite commercial from Adweek’s Best of 2011 list?
Food for Thought: Is this really how audiences feel about advertising?
After graduating from college in May of 2010, I took a marketing and social media internship with Disney Youth Programs, part of The Walt Disney Company. Just one of the many programs Disney Youth Programs had to offer at the time was Disney Grad Nite at Walt Disney World in Florida. High school seniors from around the country would descend on the Magic Kingdom theme park for a night of concerts from artists such as Katy Perry and Ne-Yo, dancing, rides and, of course, a little Disney magic. Since the event’s inception in 1972, Disney Grad Nite had seen millions of high school seniors and became a right of passage for resident Florida seniors.
Unfortunately, on March 9, 2011, The Walt Disney Company made the decision to end this tradition and released this statement on their blog. Our audience became very upset and left numerous comments on the post, including:
- This is terribly upsetting… my daughter will be a senior next year and will not have Grad Nite to look forward to. NOT HAPPY AT ALL!!!!
- How disappointing! That is the worst news I’ve heard from Disney in a long time. My son has been waiting and planning for his HS grad trip to WDW for just this event — NEXT YEAR! He and his friends will be sorely disappointed.
- That is extremely upsetting. My mom is a teacher and class adviser and loves to plan Grad Nite as the senior trip. This should not be taken away. I hope this doesn’t really happen
Disney Youth Programs had anticipated such a response, and almost immediately informed fans that their high school classes could still celebrate Grad Nite with a Disney Senior Class Trip. This package enables high school senior classes or senior groups to be able to purchase specially priced theme park tickets and enjoy Walt Disney World parks in Florida anytime throughout the year.
Like Nike, Disney Youth Programs had a serious misstep. But, given The Walt Disney Company’s long and successful history of providing magical moments to guests, the organization did not suffer lasting harm. In fact, many fans that aired their feelings on the blog said that they understood where the organization was coming from, including one fan that wrote, “Its sad for the tradition of high schools, but Disney is a business and needs to do whats best for the company.”
Once again consistency has proven to be key in the successful branding of an organization. Disney Youth Programs told their fans in their blog announcement that high school seniors would still have the opportunity to take a senior class trip to the theme park, and they kept their word by developing the Disney Senior Class Trip package. This was just one of many small acts in Disney’s history that has helped the organization gain the trust and loyalty of millions of people.
You’ve seen the words “implicit trust” a few times now throughout this blog, including within UGAGirl211’s discussion about Apple and the post below about the Marine Corps. Loyalty and trust develop over a long period of time as a result of hundreds of small acts well performed. When you were younger, who did you trust the most? Most likely your parents. This is because they clothed you, fed you, nurtured you and never let you down. They consistently took care of your needs. The same concept exists with customers and organizations.
Herskovitz and Crystal say, “If your words and deeds are well matched – which a strong brand persona will make happen – you will create in your customers a crucial, intrinsic, and implicit emotional connection that will form the basis of a long-lasting relationship built on the predictability of a brand’s behavior.” Implicit trust distinguishes great brands, such as Apple and Disney, from the pack. The authors also theorize that, “It will also protect the brand when it makes a misstep” (24).
Herskovitz and Crystal give the example of Nike, a strong brand with the instantly recognizable tagline “Just do it” and swoosh logo. In 2006, Nike teamed up with alpine ski racer and Olympian Bode Miller, who was expected to win big after taking home a World Cup title in 2005, four gold medals at the 2003 World Championship, and two silver medals at the 2002 Olympics. Incidentally, Bode’s performance fell short and, to make matters worse, his was very blasé about the whole situation. The fit between Nike and Bode was clearly not a good one. The authors say, “A weaker brand might have suffered lasting harm because the plot went off course. Nike’s persona was not built on the achievement of a single athlete, however. Instead it draws on a heritage of performance and winning that started with Ilie Nastase and Steve Prefontaine, that grew to include Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, that reached new heights with Michael Jordan , and that continued with Serena Williams, among other top performers” (24). Nike is not successful because of its memorable tagline and logo, but because it has a history of associations between its products and champion athletes.
In summary, if an organization’s words and actions are consistently matched, the audience will trust them even if they make a mistake.
Question: What brands do you trust the most and why?
On January 20, 2008, the The United States Marine Corps premiered a groundbreaking new television commercial titled “America’s Marines.” According to PR Newswire, the campaign was initiated “to strengthen America’s understanding of the Marine Corps.” The campaign also consisted of a nationwide tour and new Web site. According to the Marine Corps Times, the campaign helped bring in 42,226 new recruits in 2008.
Unfortunately, recruiting numbers began to dwindle in 2009, and the Marines were forced to create a new campaign for 2011 and 2012. “The Corps has released commercials building on the ‘America’s Marines’ theme and continues to air them. They successfully captured the pride and heritage of the Corps, but the service must roll out fresh content to continue capturing the attention of prospective Marines, said Lt. Col. Darrin Kazlauskas, assistant chief of staff for advertising at Recruiting Command” (Marine Corps Times).
“The brand will not change,” Kazlauskas said. “The message will still be the same — that we’re still looking for those with the same attitude and qualifications to become a Marine” (Marine Corps Times).
The new campaign began in March of 2012. Reporter Pauline Jelinek of the Associated Press wrote, “A new Marine Corps advertising campaign starting this weekend takes its cue from research showing today’s recruit-age generation is interested in helping people. So the campaign is crafted to show Marines not only as warriors but as humanitarians and peacekeepers; not only as courageous but also as compassionate.”
Jelinek interviewed recruiting command spokesman Maj. John O. Caldwell, who said, “The campaign expands on old ones that focused more on the themes of what it takes to become a Marine, the fact that they come from communities across the nation and that they protect at home and abroad. It maintains the motto ‘Marines. The Few. The Proud.'”
Here is the new Marine Corps commercial:
It is important to note that in the interviews discussed above, both Kazlauskas and Caldwell state that both Marine Corps campaigns capture the pride and heritage of what it means to be a Marine. There is a consistent brand persona. Kazlauskas said in his interview that even though the Marines are creating a new campaign, “The brand will not change.” Caldwell said the new campaign “maintains the motto ‘Marines. The Few. The Proud.'” The Marine Corps understands that although they must change the content of their campaigns to keep it fresh and capture the public’s attention, it is important for the brand persona to stay consistent in order to gain implicit trust with the audience. Maintaining that trust is the only way they will be able to gain recruits.
This is one of my favorite campaigns of all time. Are you wondering what it has to do with the theory of brand persona? Stay tuned…
GAP’s new logo (left) versus the old logo (right)
The first Gap store opened in San Francisco in 1969. Today, according to their website, “Gap Inc. is a leading international specialty retailer with five brands – Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta – about 3,100 stores and 134,000 employees.”
Though the organization has expanded over the years, its classic yet stylish clothing options and devotion to the customer have always remained the same. That is, until Gap tried to update their logo in October of 2010 (see image above).
According to a CCN article published on October 8, 2010, “Since the logo’s debut on Monday, Gap customers have been storming social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to tell friends — and the company — just how they feel about the new logo.”
- “This is the worst idea Gap has ever had. I will be sad to see this change take place.”
- “If this logo is brought into the clothing [store] I will no long[er] be shopping with the Gap. Really a bummer because 90% of my clothing has been purchased there in the last 15+ years.”
CNN reported, “Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America, defended the logo on The Huffington Post Thursday, writing in a blog post that the move brings Gap into the modern age.” However, the chorus of criticism continued and Gap’s share price dropped to $18.25 (down 13% year-to-date). Eventually, company spokesperson Louise Callagy made a statement saying Gap was reverting back to their old logo.
This case is very similar to that of New Coke in 1985. Gap has been seen as a hub of classic American style for decades. When they changed their logo from the time-honored design to a look that aimed to be “modern and cool,” customers were thrown. They wanted the Gap that they grew up with, not this new, hip look. Gap, like Coke, stepped too far from its persona and paid the price. Through this experience, they realized that a consistent brand persona is key.
Reader UGAGirl211 is correct in her comment on the post below. Herskovitz and Crystal theorize that consistency is key in an organization’s brand persona. The authors write, “While a persona can live and breathe within a variety of different stories, the persona itself has to remain stable so that people can come to know it and appreciate its underlying consistencies and strengths” (23).
She also picked up on the importance of consistency during her discussion of Apple’s brand persona on the “Introduction to Brand Persona” post. UGAGirl211 said, “Apple not only claims they are technologically advanced, easy to navigate and customer-service oriented, but their actions match their words. This consistency creates not only a strong brand persona, but implicit trust between Apple customers and the brand, which will in turn lead to a long-lasting relationship. This is something I think you should discuss in your blog!” Snaps for you UGAGirl211!
Herskovitz and Crystal point out in their article that sometimes managers lose sight of their brand’s persona, which typically leads to bad PR situations. They discuss the example of New Coke, a sweeter formulation of Coca-Cola’s flagship product that was introduced in 1985. Market testing may have shown that people preferred the taste of New Coke to old-fashioned Coca-Cola, but that in no way ensured the product would be successful. Herskovitz and Crystal write, “The Coke persona is all about tradition and belonging: Coke is a member of your family. How does the “new” part fit it?” (23). Coke’s audience wanted their old family back, not a new member. The authors hit the nail on the head when they say, “Coke had stepped too far from its persona and paid the price” (23).
If an organization’s words and actions are well matched, the public will easily connect with their consistent brand persona. This has been proven time and time again, not only with Coca-Cola’s crisis, but with other brands as well. Who are these “other brands” you ask? Stay tuned…
Original post from Entrepreneur.com
1. Get personal: Amazon
2. Sell happiness: Coca-Cola
3. Live up to your promise: FedEx
4. Keep it cool (and fun): Apple
5. Design an experience: Target
6. Stay consistent: Ford
7. Can-do attitude: Nike
8. Forge connections: Starbucks
9. Serve up the quirky: Southwest Airlines
10. Focus on the customer: Nordstrom
Question: Which 2 of the above 10 secrets were discussed in Herskovitz and Crystal’s article on storytelling and branding.