Branding: The need to simplify

Arrogant Branding often involves reducing a company’s core beliefs (or offerings) to a very simple idea. But it’s surprising how many companies don’t get it. I often sit with people trying to elicit this and the first try brings out buzzwords and industrial language. Why do people speak (think) like this?

An article by Wharton professor Eric Clemons puts it this way. Complexity is like pollution –it builds over time. He is speaking about complexity in organizations, not language, per se. But it is connected. Multi-channel companies who compete in categories that are blurring so fast, bring out Swiss army-kinfe-like offerings that tend to retain the language of these complex processes. Some mission statements are great examples of how not to use language.

But complexity can be countered –only if it is recognized. Take this example by Arizona State University. They recognize that they need a brand language that incorporates the new direction and focus of ASU.

58,000 voices, 4 campuses, 19 colleges, countless institutes, committees and programs, and at least 20 seperate in-house design departments creates a cacophony of interpretations of the ASU brand.  Excerpted from this page.

So, they actually have a page on Brand Language!

Sometimes the language can be reduced to a quirky, but memorable use of the company name. The British case of 118-118 for a directory inquiries company is one. One of my favorites, is Arrogant Bastard, the beer. Another is iLife –the Apple tool that integrates music, movies, photographs, blogs and podcasts.

As for Mission Statements, I randomly picked this from an organization that will remain unnamed:

The primary mission of the (name withheld) Society is to gather and disseminate honest, accurate, reliable data about (category withheld) and related types of (activity withheld) to it’s Membership, and to enhance the pleasure and passion of the sport through forming a collegial network that facilitates communication, socialization and recreation.

If you think this is wordy, here is a 15-paragraph Mission Statemement (!) from the Pain Relief Network that is really an ‘about us’ piece. The real Mission is buried in paragraph 11.

Final point: Not every outfit needs a mission statement written in the arcane style of mission statements. The Tortise and the Hare a small specialty running store has a MS that ought to shame many big corporations. Just 7 words!

"To bring out the athlete in everyone."

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