Yesterday, Imus was interviewing George Carlin on MSNBC. Joking about some future catastrophe, George Carlin said he expected to wake up some morning and see it on CNN. He could’ve said that he would expect to see it on MSNBC, especially since he was appearing on MSNBC, but he said he would expect to see it on CNN because CNN is the dominant brand in his mind.
Today, I received a joke by e-mail which referred to a journalist investigating a news report, however the joke didn’t just state that a journalist was investigating this report. It stated that the journalist was from CNN. What was the point of stating that the journalist was a CNN journalist? There wasn’t any, except for the possibility of the joke writer intending to elevate the status of the journalist, indicating a more serious matter that was being investigated. Whatever the reason was, or even if there was no reason, CNN was only mentioned because it is the dominant brand in the joke writer’s mind.
You can’t just buy branding this powerful. I call this Stage Two branding. I define Stage One branding as the point at which your brand begins to become imprinted in the public’s mind. I define Stage Two branding as the point when your brand is so powerful that it is mentioned in various media, whether it be in print, talked about on web sites or blogs, on the news, or even mentioned in TV shows or movies.
Spend enough money, and Stage One branding can usually be accomplished. Branding will usually begin to take effect after one to two years of continuous advertising, but branding can be both hastened and increased with careful planning. Stage Two branding must be both carefully planned and earned from a continuing, investment of time and service to customers.
Choosing what to brand, what name to choose for a brand, whether you should change your name, and many other factors such as color, are vitally important. For instance, CNN is just easier to say and sounds better than MSNBC. Of course, being first didn’t hurt. CNN stylized the letters to create a simple logo and used red to emphasize the letters, while MSNBC chose white lettering so as not to take away from the colorful and well-known NBC peacock logo. Emphasizing the NBC peacock logo in an MSNBC brand weakens both the NBC brand and the MSNBC brand at the same time. Deemphasizing the MSNBC brand by using white lettering also fails to strengthen the MSNBC brand.
When a brand reaches Stage Two branding, branding really takes off in a viral effect. The best part is that this type of branding achieves exposure not normally achievable, creating even stronger branding and it’s all free! My brand, 1-800-HURT-911 has already been written about in a Bar Association newspaper, an ABA Journal article, an upcoming ABA Journal article and several web sites and blogs. As an example of the viral nature of publicity, because of an article about 1-800-HURT-911, it was mentioned at a New York State Trial Lawyers seminar on advertising and appears on a video of that seminar.
Since each industry and each business is as individual as a person, planning a brand is a custom tailored venture requiring substantial knowledge of both branding and the business together with common sense and an understanding of psychology. Large companies can afford brand consultants such as Ries & Ries and MSNBC should have retained them, but if you’re like me and plan your own branding, be sure to read The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World-Class Brand Hardcover Paperback by Al Ries and Laura Ries.