Branding redux: I get it now

Tax Deduction #2, male, 3 years old, doesn’t read, taught me a very valuable lesson yesterday when he saw this: wmlogo

in the bottom right-hand corner of a TV commercial with no other identifying branding and no voice-over identifying the company.

He knew what it was immediately. Pointed at it, blurted it out. Dude didn’t know what it was until the company identified itself.

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from me.

Mojo Branding Lesson #1.


Toothpaste, packing tape, and e-books

Today I saw the most brilliant thing I have seen in a week or 2.

Okay, so you know how you go to the store and while you’re waiting in line to cash out, there’s gobs and gobs of utterly useless crap and empty calories surrounding you? They scream at you: Buy me! Buy me! You need me! You cannot live without me one more second!

I’m mostly inured to that now. I’m too busy trying to figure out how Nostradamus gets so much press and I don’t.brand

However, today I had reason to go to Office Depot. Now, you must understand. Office Depot is like a crack house for me. I go in, I don’t come out for days, high on the scent of new paper, new pens, new plastic floor pads (the ones that go under your chair). Ah, the smell of bubble wrap in the morning.

But today I only needed to return something and went straight to the counter. On my way out, however, in that space reserved for mindless crap wanting you to buy it, I saw a good ten linear feet (3 feet high) of trial-sized toiletries. You know, like at Wal-Mart. Only better. More thoroughly thought out.

I looked. Looked again (and crap, didn’t take a pic; I’ll go back). Studied what they had. Nothing useless and several brands of each type of toiletry (Crest and Colgate, for example).

You may think this is no big deal, but it IS. This is value-added at the finest. It’s not Sony “fashion earbuds” (although those were way cute); it’s not some weird executive toy I couldn’t figure out how to work; it’s not the ubiquitous calendar. It’s also not the candy/pop/bottled water section.

No, it’s TOILETRIES. People need those. People who shop at office supply stores need those because, you know, I bet lots of business travelers end up at an office supply store. And they might have had to stop at Wal-Mart or Target later to get one of those toiletry items, but they don’t have to now because Office Depot had it. HALLELUJAH! I’ll tell you, the trip from my Office Depot to my Wal-Mart (across a highway from each other) would take half an hour because of traffic, parking, and walking. That’s money saved, people. And just think if a business traveler already knows those things are there! When he’s in a strange city, he knows he can go to the nearest Office Depot and get his packing tape AND his toothpaste.

And BRANDING! I will forever now associate the Office Depot BRAND with stocking things business travelers NEED. It’s not a high-cost item. Doesn’t take up much floor space. Dollar for dollar, I’ll bet that’s got a high ROI.

Okay, so what does this have to do with e-books?

Value added.

Things you can’t get in the print version.

If you were inclined to buy my book, but you knew the e-book version had about 10 extra scenes or character vignettes or lists of resources I used or a list of the songs I listened to while I was writing it (things that are not in the print version), would you be more inclined to check it out?*

I would. Give me a favorite author in e-book (one I’m inclined to buy in hardback anyway), tell me it’s got extra stuff on it, don’t slap any stupid DRM on it, and I’ll buy the e-book for the extra stuff and the hardback for the art.

Value added.

Value added.

Value added.

*It doesn’t yet. Be patient. I’ll retroactively send the extra package to those e-book purchasers.

The dangers of homogeneity

Quick linguistic review. From the Greek, homo- = same.

kraft_foods_logo1On Twitter the other day, I clicked on a URL that normally wouldn’t interest me, but for some reason caught my eye. It was about the new Kraft corporate logo:

Read the whole article, because it’s instructive, and I’ve been thinking about that off and on ever since. I don’t know why. Then I saw Sunday’s Wal-Mart insert and saw its new(ish) logo:wmlogo

Do you see a difference?

Most of you will, I’m sure, since they’re back to back, but I, in all my ADDness, will glance and not see anything of import to differentiate the two. Thus, I will gloss over both. I’ve seen many other, similar logos, but I couldn’t tell you what companies they belonged to. I guess that’s my point.

I follow several different blogs that talk about social networking, branding, marketing, etc. because I know zero, zilch, nada about all this bullshit and I’d really rather not learn. However, it seems to me, in all my naïveté, that you would want your brand/logo to stand out, no?

All the writerly/agently/editorially blogs talk about branding one’s writing. Do we have logos or don’t we? How does one “brand” something that is, inherently, about…you? You have one product, or two, maybe sixteen, but really the product is you. If you have a following, your following buys you. If people don’t like your product, people don’t buy you. You are identifiable by your name.

But then there’s something like this:

Okay, I’m as much a sucker for matching anything and thematic continuity as the next fashion-obsessed girl, and don’t mistake me—these are gorgeous covers and put ’em together like this, they look plenty different. But put me in a bookstore without a list and I won’t remember which one I have and which one I don’t. What’s scary is that I could chalk that up to my gnat-like attention span or my ADD, except I’m not the only one with the complaint. By far.

It’s not just corporate brands or book covers. It’s cars, too.

When I was in high school, a girl in my class had a ’72 Torino. A guy had a ’69 Nova. Another had a KITT car. I drove a ’72 or ’73 Beetle (one of those freaks of nature with the auto-clutch). Occasionally. I used to be able to tell what car was what, and possibly the year.untitled-22

But now?

They all look alike. It was annoying when I didn’t have a vested interest in cars, but I went looking for a luxury car for Bishop Steel Baron (Magdalene, book 3) and I found…nothing that would differentiate a luxury car from a cheap Saturn, it was downright maddening. Are you kidding me? All this time I’ve been attributing that to the laws of aerodynamics and that’s probably the most likely explanation for it, but across the brand/corporate spectrum, from Saturn to Volvo, from economy to luxury, from SUV to SUV, the vast majority look

I put him in a Bugatti, in case you’re wondering.

Don’t get me started on tract housing, and that includes McMansions.

I know it’s human nature to be drawn to the familiar, but humans also like variety. I’m feeling a bit of brand oppression. The smoothing out of fonts, the smiley faces and flowers, the streamlining, the…aerodynamics.

Am I missing something? I thought branding was about differentiation. If people can’t tell you from someone else, how do they know to throw their money at you?