Archives for posts with tag: brand identity

American't Express itself.

And, no, that first word in the title there is not short an apostrophe; nor is it French. Why is American Express not forward-thinking in their ads and customer service? We all know they can afford to be. Yet after being a cardholder for 25 years, they have proven they don’t care about loyalty. In fact, they cannot even entertain such a concept, even how-to suggestions. Their worst traits became all the more frequent: outright refusing to listen, completely missing the boat on the ability to learn from their customers and the inflexibility of a spent rubber band. So, with the picture painted, and upon viewing these ads in the June/July Esquire, I wondered:

Q: Why couldn’t legal counsel and/or the marketing team — to talk up their ability to score their members great concert tickets (among other supposed perks of batting their cards around like hummingbirds or starlets with eyelash extensions) — strike up an agreement with some celebrities on tour THIS, NOT LAST summer or fall?
A: Slapping real or fictitious dates on illustrations of tickets (not even images of the tickets themselves) to concerts that took place in 2010 is easier, faster and cheaper. And much less original.

Take a look at either ticket.

Q: So, you mean the privilege of a card with a stiff annual fee only gets me general admission?
A: I guess the negotiations with Ticketmaster weren’t as successful as they’d have liked.

I have seen American Express get uppity with friends and family over the decades, so I guess it was only a matter of time. Alas, in an age when they so openly gloating about their quarterly profits and their customers as being almost exclusively mega-spenders, the fact that their image cannot keep up with their identity is ever more obvious. Maybe research said that braggadocio and “green” underwriters who talk and walk like they just “graduated” kindergarten are the quickest route to new customers. Given where I saw this ad and one of their reps at a public speaking engagement this Spring, that is my impression. AmEx is desperately trying to woo a younger audience but is not in touch with those generations. Three swipes and….amusing to watch this brand derailment. What I call ex-Membership Rewards.


“Remember, there are babes in the woods.”

My favorite forest fire prevention PSA out of all of Smokey’s tireless evangelism is “Death rides the forest when man is careless,” which actually predates him. Born in 1943, “the bear/man” is approaching seventy. Take a walk along his trail map of gracious and patient pleas to see how he has grown up yet never aged.

Smokey has always kept good company. From Bing Crosby, Art Linkletter and James Arness (Gunsmoke) in the 50’s and 60’s  to Spock, The Grateful Dead and Cheech and Chong in 1985 radio spots and Sam Elliott (smokin’ himself) in 2008, the threat has evolved in name, too: from forest fires, range fires and campfires to wildfires and backyard leaf burning. HotFootTeddy was kind enough to lend the website images of all kinds of stuffed Smokeys over the decades. Alas, Smokey was more real before CGI rendered him artificial, less personable and convincing — you know, as hollow as that decayed stump over there.

Crippled by mediocre design.

Pluses: So excited to learn from my Winnipeg friends that the Jets were heading due north. They never belonged in Atlanta anyway. Ecstatic they kept the name (it had so much going for it if only they had picked up from where they left off). Happy to hear St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador now have something to scream about.

Minuses: Disappointed that Reebok did not come up with something more inspiring and/or the hat trick of brand identity decision makers (NHL, Reebok and True North) chose something as flat and still as the Canadian prairie. Don’t get me wrong…flat and still are great in the right context. This is not that.

As a former competitive ice hockey goaltender, I feel I have earned some modicum of opinion with respect to design and the role it plays in jumpstarting brand loyalty. Supposing I am a circa 2011 Jets player, when I put on this jersey, does it inspire me to play better, to win, to be a great teammate and sportsman? Does it give me butterflies to don this logo-ed gear? Do I feel proud wearing it? Do I want to send logo-ed wearables to my friends, family and fans? Do I slap a sticker on my car or a patch on my jacket? The answer to all the above is a resounding no. The CFAC deserves a more soulful, more choreographed shout-out.

Furthermore, the tagline, “Fuelled by passion,” (yes, with a double “l”) is as crash-and-burn as they come. It’s so “done,” so “obvious,” so ‘90’s. The team and Winnipeg merited a full-throttle brand identity rather than what they got:  a watered down, emotionless, superficial, “designed by committee” knee-jerk “solution.” There are a lot better ways to say “jets” and all the positive associations it has going for it than slapping one on a logo. In fact, in the name alone, you have already said it, so the illustration is redundant! This is an example of a lost messaging opportunity a.k.a. dumbing things down. Now, I’m not advocating a ubiquitous, meaningless swish or swoosh to show energy, motion, tactical superiority, finesse, speed, etc., but that winged thing just looks parked on the tarmac. And, if they had to get the blessing from Toronto to use the maple leaf as a secondary design element, that alone means it was/is too close to the former’s logo in the first place. The dismal lack of fortitude to be original is a shame.

Management, you want game shut-outs, not fan shut-outs! The first puck of the season has not even dropped, and I’m not feelin’ it.


No, not the latest Asian model or starlet. I’m talking about SILPADA. They’ve got everything wrong, except their craft. I love sterling silver jewelry, preferably the vintage American Indian and mid-century Nordic kind. For the purist, the only silver is sterling. Unfortunately, sterling doesn’t anything along the lines of a Denomination of Origin that would inform the buyer as to what is and is not sterling, much less to the fact that there is a difference. Part of the problem stems from ignorance (intentional and not). Salespeople say “silver” and only the informed know to ask if it’s real…meaning sterling or .925 or above silver content. Thankfully, this brand is upfront about the quality of its silver; it’s praised as “handcrafted,” yet the company never divulges the origin of the goods outside of the “world.” So, let’s get on with what I’m not sold on.

Nothing is credible in this ad, dated or not, or at the website. The tagline here tells me what they’re peddling, but there’s really no need…could this lady have on any more jewelry? So much is bad taste; it just cheapens the idea…and the wearer. Such a display even cheapens sterling, which has a long-standing image issue to the less artistically inclined. (Some people won’t wear anything but gold, even if it is gold-dipped, vermeil or 10-carat.) Sterling lacks fans mostly due to things like this: poor product design (there’s just no depth or soul to what looks and is overly commercial) and even poorer branding. Also, sterling tarnishes, and people are lazy. They don’t want to do any maintenance on their adornments. But, it’s just like most everything…you need to keep your purses, shoes, teeth and earbuds clean. Gold needs cleaning on occasion, too.

I never could figure out this ad (from InStyle, November 2009) of a few years back (yes, I’m going through some magazine clippings) — What do vacation days have to do with jewelry? I don’t naturally associate “controlling my time” with a vacation. Why do I want to escape with jewelry? Is that my retail therapy? The colors of the gal’s outfit? Again, nothing aspirational.

Fast forward to 2011. OK, so you’re trying to sell me on the idea that a lifestyle consists of pushing your products at hosted parties and plugging your brand whenever I can get a word in? Such is not a lifestyle (a word which is altogether deserving of another post); it’s unrealistic,  another job and would alienate my friends. The Tupperware, Mary Kay and Avon of sterling. Sorry, you three. You’re good. Just referencing the channel. Silpada, it’s demeaning to see you pitch success defined as a lifestyle built around not only wearing gobs of mass-produced sterling silver jewelry, but selling the stuff. (Want a little .925 with that salad?)

I see that they somehow have secured the domain (over the previous I wonder how much that cost them. The name is not bad, but it’s not pretty either. It’s got some VCV (vowel-consonant-vowel) going on, making it easy to pronounce, and the “Sil-“ informs me of the metal, but the name sounds more like a pill or a shoe insert. Font confusion: The font in the name has no personality; they try to make up for it with the arrows, but it doesn’t work. The font in the logo on the home page is different from the font in the “Welcome to….” The current tagline: Live Life in Style.” is over-capitalized and doesn’t need two fonts. It is Bonneville flat (without the speed). So far, between the name and the tagline, I have no idea what line of business you are in. “Sil-“ only helps with a visual cue. I figure it out by a few nav buttons and “financial freedom.” You can never have enough jewelry, but you can wear more than enough.


The first few times I experienced this store, I was impressed. That was a decade or thereabouts in Seattle. Time has been relatively good to this brand, but I am not their target audience (if I ever was). I used to enjoy the mix of seemingly old and new, different labels under one “house,” and the discovery that was always a part of their brand. Just seems that they’ve been on a slide to bland. The clothes look and feel much cheaper now, there’s too much of it out (the racks are clogged). The need to hit the refresh button. The merch is increasingly poorly sewn, knit designs are stamped instead of woven, the countries of origin of the independent labels are more and more those hawking cheap labor, the fabrics are flimsy and lack hand, the amount and sizes of goods put on sale reflect a disconnect with the knowledge of their audiences. The one constant is the catalogs — amazingly concepted and shot — and learning about the occasional label that is one-of-a-kind, sometimes from former Anthropologists. The ‘logs “transport” you, even though they keep their locations a secret, which is silly. Their online vintage offerings are remarkable particularly with respect pricing. The stores are still fun for a quick walk-through now and then, less now and more then.

All puffed up and no air to go.

Let’s get one thing straight. The World Wide Web is not a product of Lufthansa. Keep reading…the disclaimers get more granular, yet nebulous as you go down the page. Lufty, I’ll take your word that you offer broadband Internet service across the ocean. But wait. The fine print says it’s only on transatlantic flights. Oh, and with my loupe I now see that it is available only on “select North Atlantic routes.” This ad is as shifty as the onboard service is sketchy. True, there IS a better way to fly, but it’s not with you.

Portable Polynesia

I’m a sucker for packaging if you’ve not figured that out by now. I’d just had my first surfing lesson on Maui, and the waves were calling me back. Since I couldn’t get to Hawaii, I had Hawaii come to me, Kona-style and bottled. They brand the heck out of this carton, yet it still feels as free and open as being out on the Pacific. The story on the bottom of the packaging sets the mood, but it’s what’s on the top that makes me grab for the 6-pack in the first place: “Liquid Aloha.” Aah, Coca-Cola can’t touch that for “refreshing” and “happiness.” There was fun under the bottle caps as well, with each one teaching me a word in Hawaiian:

“Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take ya…”

Moana = ocean
Kanaka – person
Wai = water
Honu – turtle
Mano = shark

If only the name were as handsome…

The name of this company is more than meets the eye. True, it looks Greek. Could it be an obscure goddess? Nope. According to Aletheia, their name is ‘the classical Greek word for “truth and disclosure,” of bringing facts into the open.’ So, it is only fitting that “an independent, registered investment advisor dedicated to uncovering investment truth” dug deep for meaning. However, this name came to acquire different shades of that over time (and more than those dealing with truth and then disclosure), particularly in the early to mid-20th century, thanks to German philosopher, Heidegger.

Their ad here implies they are above taglines, but they have one, even if they don’t want to admit it: “Research and Management.” Meanwhile, online, and perhaps since that ad, they have migrated to “Research and Management, Inc.” The “Inc.” does not help them at all. In fact, it looks cheap and detracts from their specialty. A tagline helps you position yourselves in the minds of your audiences. Waving around the fact that you are incorporated adds no relevant value. Further puzzling is whether or not they even do any advertising anymore, as on their philosophy page, they supposedly subscribe to “an avoidance of…traditional information channels….”

While the name has great intention, it is dogged by the fact that most will not recognize the word as having anything meaningful to it. The name looks made up, with the goal being to secure a pristine .com, what with all the vowels. Long ago a more understood word, it is now arcane. As such, the company loses an opportunity in their tagline, by which they could have brought me more into their story. If they told me more about how they do research and management, how they outdo the competition in that area, well, then they’d be talking.

For more truth of the matter, see:

Pringles: all tuckered out.

One way to leave your brand.

These ads are ridiculous. Really painful to see what this brand has become. The circa Laura Ingalls man and loudspeaker look like Mr. Whipple with gastritis. With the 57th way to enjoy these crisps being called “The Pucker-Up,” I cringe to think how they named the other 99 ways, although I can bet you 95 or so don’t exist. The only redemption the Procter Gamble Co. (PG) gets for producing such lame ads and letting the brand flop to irrelevancy is that in April they offloaded Pringles to Diamond Foods (DMND) for $1.5 billion. Yes, with a “b.”

It helps to know that these chips are sold in over 140 countries, often nodding to regional preferences, like the cucumber-flavored ones I found in China. Those were so mild, I had to be reminded of what I was eating. Luckily, I discovered Flutes, which completely outdid them in taste, shape and durability. Yes, there is such a thing with chips — durability, that is; the one reason these have to be sold in a can is to keep them from looking like sand at their destination. As the last of P&G’s food brands to be shed, the company can now focus on its core cosmetics and healthcare units. Let’s hope this is a good buy for Diamond. They have their work cut out for them in bringing this brand back to its game. Let the crisps begin…again!

Maybe it was a contest.

Rota-dent (Circa 2007). That name hurts. I can’t see anyone putting something called Rotadent in his/her mouth. It sounds like something that belongs under the sink, for other cleaning jobs. It brings to mind Fix-a-Flat.

Don’t know what kind of success these folks are having, but I can guarantee you the salespeople would be a lot happier with a savory name. I learned of this product from my dentist, who knows the business I am in. Even she, unsolicited, commented on how bad the name was. That is key, because this electric toothbrush is only available through a dental professional. Not only has Zila, Inc., the parent company, not had their own internal sales force and marketing in mind, they’ve also lobbed a heavy load to the very audience who directly sells them!

Their tagline: The prescription powered brush. This is good. Of course, without context, this could be any kind of brush…for the hair, for the shoes, for the mustache, for the shower, maybe multi-purpose. Also, nouns that modify adjectives should be separated by a hyphen. Showing a relationship between the words aids reading comprehension: The prescription-powered brush.

Yes, I'm sure of it.

Rotadent Plus (Circa 2011). The Professional Rotary Toothbrush. The name, tagline and logo have undergone some hygiene. The name still sucks. The tagline gets them nowhere and is stiff from over-capitalization. Godzillas! However, I see that they’ve decided to throw in the wordpart “tooth” to better message what industry they’re in. Good move, all things considered. The logo is less unique, to the point of not messaging “rotating:” now it’s not technically within the name, but rather lassoing the “d.” They should try making the “d” more like a toothbrush. The hands around the brush could be the rounded part of the “d,” and the rest of the wand could be like a Serif tail. The rotating action could be represented more meaningfully by the brush itself, not those ornamental, lazy swirls there now. Zila, are you listening? I gotta give ‘em this though: these brushes are proudly made in the U.S.A. Go, Zila!

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