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Branding Issues and Australian Life Guards

by Jeffrey Mann  |  November 23, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

I’ve been in Australia for the last week or so for the Symposium event here, and was lucky enough to spend some time on a couple of the beaches in Gold Coast and Sydney. As well as being impressed by the scenery, sun and great swimming, the respect shown for the life guards was impressive. With the danger of strong currentsĀ it is no wonder that most people don’t need to be reminded about staying between the flags when swimming.

But seeing these people on the beach got me thinking about the effect of branding and the need for rebranding. Australial life and surf guards with their red and yellow caps are an iconic, worldwide symbol of strength, health, skill and competence. Yet when you look at those caps in isolation, it is hard to see them as anything but, well… kind of ridiculous and silly. The look of those caps instils confidence not because of anything inherent; they could hardly be seen as stylish or confidence-inspiring. They have acquired that connotation due to the work and dedication of the people who wear them.

IT companies periodically feel that they need to rebrand their products, choosing new names and logos because they feel that the existing ones don’t convey the image they want to bring across. I am always skeptical of these efforts. They often are a sign of a new executive who wants to erase signs of his or her predecessor or is looking to make big changes, starting with the symbolic ones.

My objection to rebranding exercises is that they never bring customer value and and can be tremendously distracting. For at least a year, sales people will be explaining the change. Marketeers will be launching the new brand, updating brochures and hunting down references to the old name. Legal will be updating contracts. Coders will be changing screens and help text. Finance will be updating Excel models so that they can make comparisons cross products with different names but really are the same. All this time, the competition will be concentrating on bringing out new products that really help customers. Is this really how you want to spend your company’s resources as a vendor?

I realise that words matter, but ultimately your brand is what you make of it. A logo or name is only as good as the product and service behind it. Those red and yellow caps do not inspire confidence on their own, but they have acquired value over the years. There is no need to rebrand Australian life guards with a more up to date look because they have given those beanies the meaning they want to convey.

So vendors, unless your brand has become absolute poison put your efforts into improving what you provide rather than wasting time and money on the name and logo.

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Category: symposium  vendors  

Jeffrey Mann
Research VP
20 years with Gartner and META Group
30 years IT industry

Jeffrey Mann is a Research VP at Gartner, covering cloud office, collaboration and social software.

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