Archive for May, 2011

Oprah’s Branding Challenge

May 25, 2011

Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s most gifted brand builders; over the years she has demonstrated her ability to create and build a truly remarkable brand.

But she now faces a rather big challenge: evolving her brand.

Today Oprah signed off, ending her run as a daytime talk show host. In branding terms, she just shut down her core business.

What happens now to Brand Oprah?

There is every reason to believe Oprah will try to reinvent her brand, transforming it into something beyond the icon it currently is. At the end of her show today she notably didn’t say farewell, she simply said “Until we meet again.” Oprah doesn’t intend to go away.

Of course, reinventing a brand is difficult, especially when the core business isn’t running any more. A strong brand like Oprah has a clear set of associations; this is a source of strength but also a limitation. Oprah is most firmly associated with the thing she no longer does, host a daytime show.

I suspect Oprah will struggle to define her new brand and bring it to life. And she will surely be tempted to play off and reinforce the brand she had. The easy road would be to launch a new talk show, but I can’t image that is what she has in mind.

Oprah has shown that she can create and build a great brand. It will be interesting to watch her navigate this next and perhaps more difficult phase.

Nokia Cuts Ovi

May 16, 2011

Today Nokia announced that it was dropping the Ovi brand, replacing it with Nokia.

My opinion: the move makes sense but it doesn’t solve Nokia’s core branding challenge.

Nokia created the Ovi brand for its software products and services. On the Ovi website you can find software for mapping, email, games and music.

The concept of using a new brand for services isn’t necessarily bad; this is what Apple did with iTunes. It is iTunes from Apple and Ovi from Nokia.

The problem is that creating a successful new brand requires a breakthrough idea and an enormous investment. Ovi hasn’t taken off; it lags far behind competition. In addition, Ovi doesn’t appear to have a distinct positioning; it is a bundle of different services and products.

Companies should only introduce a new brand if the opportunity is compelling, the new brand is very distinct from the existing brand and the company has enough money to support it.

Ovi fails to meet two of these criteria; the line between Ovi and Nokia isn’t clear, and Nokia doesn’t have enough money to support it. Nokia is facing massive problems and is short on funds; investing heavily in Ovi isn’t a priority.

Given this, folding Ovi back into the Nokia brand is a reasonable move.

Of course, Nokia has a bigger branding problem and this move doesn’t fix it. Indeed, if anything the move will make it worse.

Nokia needs a distinct positioning in the market. Nokia is huge, but the brand lacks distinction. What precisely is Nokia? In a competitive market, having a brand with clear meaning is critical. Nokia is a nice brand, but it isn’t as focused and powerful as Apple or Google.

Killing Ovi is a smart move but there are bigger challenges ahead.

The Royal Wedding and Branding

May 1, 2011

The marriage of Kate and William was a joyous event but also an incredible bit of brand building.

It all looked effortless and natural, but of course it wasn’t. I am quite confident the entire affair was carefully constructed with an eye on the brand.

The organizers deserve an enormous amount of credit; it is hard to imagine a more powerful brand building moment.

The event received extraordinary coverage. Perhaps two billion people watched it around the world. Eleven networks in the U.S. covered the event, and more than 22 million people watched, according to the Associated Press. This is a fairly remarkable number given the rather early hour it aired in the U.S.

More remarkably, virtually all of the coverage was positive. People applauded the dress, the kiss, the ceremony, the guest list. The right people were apparently invited and the right people were not. I didn’t see a single negative article or comment.

I was most impressed at how the event reinforced the brand. The ceremony embraced continuity and tradition. It would have been easy for Kate and William to make at least symbolic breaks with the safe, standard approach. But they didn’t. And this was brilliant; the event was a powerful brand building tool because it reflected the best things we know about the royal family.

Vast, positive media coverage is what builds strong brands in the world today. Kate and William showed us how to do it.


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