Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Edgy Characteristics
Yet another great Seth Godin post - The caricature of your brand - got me thinking today about the brands I'm familiar with and how they admit (or hide from) their most telling characteristics. These are the things that people talk about, the thoughts that enter the room before they do, the points that our constantly-sorting and redefining mind choose to remember. Here are a few of my thoughts:

Gold's Gym
Gold's has a charicature in its logo - that intensely developed bodybuilder, holding a barbell that bends under its own weight. Gold's was a gym before there were gyms, and tells of its early days on Venice Beach, California. Everything points to the brand being for muscleheads - but they firmly attach themselves to the general gym-going public. In a recent mailing to me, the facility I'm a member of touted its new coat of paint as a customer service benchmark. While the walls look nice, they're not exciting, and certainly not mentionable. What if Gold's went all the way with the bodybuilder image? Not to alienate themselves from their membership (most of whom do not look like bodybuilders at all), but to create a place that people would talk about. Have you ever heard anyone say "I just love going to my gym?" What if Gold's designed its facilities to take advantage of a retro-California-beach image? What if you entered the gym and you suddenly felt like you were inches away from sun, surf and sand?

Think of a dentist and what comes to mind? Little Shop of Horrors? Dentists get a bad rap all the time. They're usually the worse-case scenario in many a conversation: "I wanted to travel to that meeting about as much as I wanted a root canal." Some are fighting back, acknowledging the fear of pain in potential patients by rebranding their offices with spa services and decor. What I wonder is, why doesn't the ADA take this a run with it?

Atlantis vs. RSVP

In the extreme-niche of Gay travel and vacations, Atlantis and RSVP are the two best-known companies. Both offer sea and land excursions. And recently, Atlantis bought RSVP. In their news release, Atlantis stated that they would keep the RSVP brand and continue to offer vacations through that label. But they never said exactly what that brand is. My friends and I have pondered the difference between the two. . RSVP was the first to offer gay vacations. Atlantis came in and... well, offered the same thing. But the caricature of an Atlantis cruise is tons of buff bodies, all night disco parties on the top deck, stunningly gorgeous men and slightly better ships. RSVP? TanDog (who's been on both) put it this way: The difference in eye candy between an RSVP cruise and and Atlantis cruise is the difference between an atom and the Universe.

Everybody who's ever been to a county fair knows the green clovers with the H's on each leaf. 4-H brands itself as the nation's largest out-of-school youth education organization. They know their caricature: Kids, Cows, and Cooking. Still, they've spent years playing down this image, in favor of chasing after more modern visuals and trying to convince the non-familiar that it's sophisticated and cutting-edge. But people love cows, and cooking (not so sure about kids).

Washington, DC
I've written about DC's image problem before - and suggested that the city embrace some of the aspects it's known for...

I can understand why companies and organizations would want to play down their most prominent features. Just look at how many people go for plastic surgery to "fix" what they feel isn't perfect. We all have a huge desire to blend in, not be noticed for what we're ashamed of. But we also want to stand out. Trouble is, we can't have it both ways (although we try and try and try.) Organizations that capitalize on their possibly-unpopular images could do themselves some damage, but could also be branded with a sense of humor.

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