Tag Archives: Bob Lamons

The Importance of Speaking with One Voice

Before we get to the heart of this post, I’d like to thank Bob Lamons for authoring it and serving as a guest blogger here @ On Brands – it’s truly an honor to have him.

Bob is a 40-year practitioner in B2B marketing and advertising, but many of you will know him as author of The Case for B2B Branding: Pulling Away from the Business-to-Business Pack. This book was the first in the branding field to focus exclusively on B2B marketing. Today, Bob is the Chief Expectations Officer of Industribrand, a consultancy focused on industrial B2B branding.

Below are Bob’s thoughts on brand consistency.

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In branding, freedom of speech is unconstitutional.

Every time I make that statement, somebody cringes, but it’s true. In order to build a focused brand image, you have to associate your brand with an expectation, usually tied to a single attribute that will help customers, prospects, suppliers, employees-to-be and any other important audience understand why they should do business with you. And because of that, you can’t have divisional marcom people emphasizing things that might create different expectations.

This is not as restrictive as it sounds, because by definition the overall brand expectation has to be fairly broad. When Kathy Button Bell took over the branding program for St. Louis-based Emerson, she found sixty-six autonomous divisions doing their own thing. Rather than tell them what they couldn’t say, Bell and her branding team came up with a slogan, “Emerson, consider it solved,” and an overall campaign aimed at turning Emerson into a company of problem-solving zealots.

No matter what kind of widgets they’re selling, those widgets still have to solve problems or customers wouldn’t buy them. So now, roughly eight years after the “consider it solved” program was launched, Emerson is perceived as an organization of cross-functional teams selling integrated solutions. And sales to their largest “marquee” accounts have gone way up.

Same thing with General Electric. When Jeff Immelt took the baton from the legendary Jack Welch in 2002, he saw an image shift was in order. Immelt correctly perceived that future sales gains needed to come from internally generated technology, and unfortunately, GE wasn’t being given much credit for innovation.

So out went “We bring good things to life,” and in came “Imagination at work.” I think the program’s working because major magazines like FORTUNE are now ranking GE at the top of their list of world’s most innovative companies. It’s just a matter of emphasis.

Caterpillar took control of its brand image in the mid-90s with a program actually called One Voice. Again, they avoided the punitive aspects of telling people what not to say, and simply focused on creating an accurate picture of what Caterpillar is: a manufacturer of rugged, reliable construction equipment. Today, I think Caterpillar is the strongest example of a focused b-to-b brand you can find.

In each of these cases, divisional marcom managers are free to promote product or service related messages, but they do it under an umbrella that supports the overall brand expectation. Every GE product or service ad has some aspect of innovation in it. Emerson ads show how products solve problems. Caterpillar ads are always strong and manly (never delicate).

So I guess “freedom of speech” is relative. What I’m really saying is stay in character. Say what you want as long as you’re consistent with the brand personality and overall expectation you want people to have when they see or hear your name. That’s how brand power is created.

You can reach Bob Lamons at lamons@industribrand.com. You can also find him on Twitter: @boblamons.

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Defining Brand Personality with Help from Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods

Great brands stand for something. They project a strong personality.

What personality do you aspire to put forth for your brand?

Can you easily answer that question? If not, Industribrand CEO and 40-year marketing and advertising veteran Bob Lamons has a way for you to begin crafting your answer.

legally-blondeBefore I get to his counsel though, bear with me and read through the following excerpt from the script of the 2001 comedy film Legally Blonde. In this flick, Reese Witherspoon is Elle Woods, a blonde sorority queen who’s out to prove she belongs at Harvard Law School.

Elle sits at the outdoor table, ignoring her slice of pizza, as she looks around for Warner. Not finding him, she turns her attention to the Group Leader, a BURNED OUT 2L (second-year law student) in a red t-shirt.

BURNED OUT 2L: “Okay. Welcome to law school. This is the part where we go around in a circle and everyone says a little bit about themselves. Let’s start with you.”

He gestures at a guy with glasses, DORKY DAVID.

DORKY DAVID: “I have a Masters in Russian Literature, a PhD in Biochemistry, and for the last eighteen months, I’ve been de-worming orphans in Somalia.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Awesome. How about you, Enid?”

ENID, a militant feminista, looks up.

ENID: “PhD from Berkeley in Women’s Studies—emphasis in the History of Combat. And last year, I led the march for Lesbians against Drunk Driving.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Killer.”

He looks at an intense guy in his late twenties, IVAN.

INTENSE IVAN: “I’ve got an MBA from Wharton, worked on Wall Street for four years, mushed in three ididarods and I’ve figured out how to crash the stock market in Sri Lanka if any of you want to get together later.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Sweet. What about you?”

He looks at Elle. She sits up straight.

ELLE: “Hi! I’m Elle Woods and this is Bruiser Woods and we’re both gemini vegetarian. I have a Bachelors degree from USC, where I was Sigma Chi Sweetheart and president of Delta Gamma, and last year—I was Homecoming Queen.”

ELLE: “Oh! (dramatically) Two weeks ago, I saw Cameron Diaz at Fred Segal – and talked her out of buying a truly heinous angora sweater! Whoever said that orange is the new pink is seriously disturbed.”

She looks around, pleased. Enid snickers as the rest of the group stares at Elle, dumbfounded.

So, how is all of this relevant to our discussion? Can we cull any lessons on brand personality from the scene above?

You bet we can.

What do we see happening? Each student introduces himself or herself. We get a sense of what they stand for. We get a sense of what they’re all about. We get a sense of their personality, of what matters to them.

That’s exactly what great brands do—they project personality.

Lamons says to get into the mindset of crafting our desired brand image we should think about how we would introduce our brand as a good friend to someone else.

And when you introduce a good friend or yourself, he says, you don’t dump everything out on the table. Instead, you narrow it down and focus on the key information, the most important traits.

It’s the same in branding, isn’t it? You can’t stand for everything, and nor would you ever want to. But you want to stand for something specific, something memorable. You want to stand for what matters most. And by doing so, you distinguish yourself and carve out a position that’s uniquely yours.

And if you’re Elle Woods, then you’re not scared to be you. You don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. You stand for who you really are, no matter how badly you may want to present yourself differently to fit in and connect.

If you must be anything, be authentic to who you really are.

Personifying a brand, of course, to flesh out its character isn’t anything new.

What are some other ways to think about and define a brand’s personality?

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