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Branding Hint: Be Yourself

December 4, 2009

"At long last, popularity will be mine..."

STEWART K KELLY, Marketing Strategy

Many firms see rebranding as an opportunity to transform how they are viewed by people in their marketplace. But if you hear someone influential in your organization say “we need to become more hip,” it’s time to get very worried indeed.

As any teenager will tell you, you can’t just decide to become hip. You either are or you aren’t.

The secret to branding is not to conjure a false image to force people to change their minds about you. It’s about building on the positive characteristics you already have.

A nice recent example of this phenomenon was the advertising tiff between Apple and Microsoft. With its Mac guy, Apple gave us a personification of its brand: confident, relaxed, cool, and a little self-righteous. Microsoft’s PC guy was represented as the opposite: geeky, dithering, and defensive.

Of course Microsoft got all upset about this perceived insult. But was it really an insult? What’s wrong with being a geek? There are far more dithering geeks in the world than there are urbane young chaps. Who do you think Microsoft’s target market (i.e. the rest of us) identifies with more? As most commentators now agree, Apple actually did Microsoft a favor.

If Microsoft had a really smart marketing team on board, they would have played up this gift from Apple. Geeky is good, and more important, it is who they really are. Instead, they spent millions fumbling around with celebrities and other peripheral stuff.

If you want a successful brand, tap into who you really are, and run with it.

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