Johnson's World: Understand Your Brand, Part 2

Brand loyalty that's cool and sweet.

August 1, 2014

Last month I wrote about the intricacies of branding and buttressed my points with a few examples of branding faux pas. Because Johnson’s World is such a happy place, I’d now like to give equal time to two examples of branding done well.

Our story begins in Pittsburgh PA, where a meeting with the good folks at Printing Industries of America included being treated to a Pirates baseball game at PNC Park thanks to guru extraordinaire Julie Shaffer.

At the game, representatives of General Motors were out in force, promoting their flagship brand: Chevrolet.

In exchange for my disclosure of the holy trinity of marketing info (mailing address, email address, and permission to contact), I was offered a chance to win something big (I think it was a Camaro) plus the immediate gratification of a pair of sunglasses in Pirate gold and emblazoned with the Chevrolet logo. Although I am neither a Pirates nor a Chevy fan, I took the bait.

Fast forward a few months. Having lost my expensive cycling glasses that I thought made me look so good, I donned my free sunglasses in a moment of sunblindness. To my surprise, they were comfortable and surprisingly effective. Even more surprising was the reaction from the young girls, who commenced to swoon.

Well, maybe not, but one of the world’s toughest fashion critics (my teenage daughter) grudgingly registered her approval with a left-handed complement.

“Those are awesome sunglasses, Dad,” she opined. “I’m surprised that you’re wearing them.” Um, thanks, I think.

General Motors’ marketing team just scored a home run.

What did GM do right?

First, they targeted their brand to their audience. The Chevy brand sells to GM’s youngest demographic, and they took the time to match the style of their giveaway to their intended audience.

Secondly, their giveaway (or opt-in gift, as we say in online marketing) was versioned to the local demographic. Even though Chevy is an international brand, the sunglasses handed out in Pittsburgh were Pirates black and gold, with the Pirates logo as prominent as the Chevy symbol. If this exercise were repeated in the Bronx, I presume the sunglasses would be Yankees navy blue.

Thirdly, the giveaway was inexpensive but not cheap. Last month I bemoaned the giveaway of costly pens that didn’t write very well. This month I complement branded eyewear that not only promotes the Chevy brand but also filters out the sun’s rays. A year later I still own and wear them. If they didn’t do their job I would have pitched them long ago.

All in all, Chevy hit a branding home run at the old ball park.

By the way, sunglasses might not seem to have much to do with cars, but they have everything to do with the good feeling that is an integral part of branding. You look cool in these shades; you’ll look ever so cool in a Camaro.

Warm cookies

A hotel chain, on the other hand, isn’t so interested in being cool as it is in being warm, friendly, and comfortable. A freshly baked chocolate chip cookie conveys that very message for Doubletree hotels.

Doubletree is one of a dozen or so Hilton hotel brands. Yes, clean rooms, friendly service, blah, blah, blah. What really distinguishes Doubletree is the warm and tasty chocolate chip cookie that every guest receives at check-in. When my kids were little they loved Doubletree. Now that they are grown they still do, and maintain an affinity for the Doubletree brand, mostly because of a few chocolate chip cookies.

Did you know that May 15 was National Chocolate Chip cookie day? On social media sites such as Twitter there was as much mention that day of Doubletree as there was of cookies themselves. Doubletree took advantage of this publicity windfall by giving away cookies all day to anyone who asked for them.

How do I select a hotel room in a major city (Doubletree’s target market) once I’ve identified several that all offer equivalent quality, service, price and location? A cookie, that’s how! Now that’s a really sweet brand identity.