In Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin argues that businesses can no longer rely on run-of-the-mill marketing to sell quality products. That’s boring. It’s a strategy that doesn’t stand out from the herd; it’s another brown cow in a herd of brown cows. He advocates creating a purple cow- a cow that is remarkable – a cow that calls for stepping on the brakes and pulling over for a closer look, a cow worth commenting on.
A purple cow certainly calls for mentioning. But as the owner of that cow, my main concern would be having my name tied to that comment- my name insinuated by the cow’s brand. Purple or not, the reality of the young calf’s life involves a ten-second sizzle that permanently marks her hide- a brand that denotes ownership. Seth Godin provides directions on how to raise a purple cow. I’m interested in the next stage of the cow’s youth, the branding of the purple cow.
Considerations in Identity and Branding
Mindshare specializes in the branding of purple cows, the development of a novel idea. No matter what attempts are made down the road to tweak the initial branding efforts, the scar from that burn is permanent, along with whatever blotches might have been made by the wielder of the branding iron. Given the long-term repercussions from the first attempt to shape the identity behind the brand, it is worth analyzing a potential brand identity based on the following considerations:
Geographic Equity: Is there considerable “geographic equity” imbued in the brand’s birthplace (Aiken)? If so, will it be beneficial to link this identifier to the brand? Some geographic locations have a considerable amount of geographic equity, and evoke very strong connotations. If you are opening a night-club in Las Vegas, a city of the world, it would be beneficial to link the new brand to the city, and ride off of the common connotations sparked by “Vegas.” However, judgments and biases are likewise sparked, both positive and negative. Considering the shrinking “global [economic] playing field,” it might be more beneficial in the long-term to create an identity independent of any specific location (Friedman, 8). The brand becomes a “global brand”- or one that is not restricted by geographic boundaries and is translatable across borders and cultures. This strategy also bypasses the possibility of linking the brand to any negative connotations that might be evoked by its roots. For MindShare, we worked on a branding and identity project for a company that specialized in imports and exports. We ultimately chose a strategy that avoided attaching strong ties to any specific location, and instead opted for one that stressed “skipping” borders.
Brand Personality: What is your brand’s personality? What feelings should be evoked by your brand? Brand personality proved to be a significant factor for a branding project we worked on for an entrepreneurial company that provides cloud computing services tailored to urban farmers. We felt the name should feel somewhat lighthearted and amicable, yet simultaneously convey a technical competence. We brainstormed, and cut our extensive lists down to three top choices; FarmIt, CloudFarm, and Intellifarm. All combine the concept of farming with intelligence and technology- yet do not go so far as to exude an “overly formal stuffiness.”
Brand Perception: Where does your brand fall on a perceptual map with likely competitors? Is it a luxury or a commodity, or somewhere in between? Wherever you happen to find your niche, an eye towards the future is key. If your long-term strategy is for your brand to be perceived as a luxury product, it is a gross mistake to start out somewhere beneath that just because you found a niche. Rebranding efforts tend to be in vain- racking up extensive costs for naught but a confused customer who already had your brand solidly plotted in his or her personal perceptual map- right where you initially placed it. Despite McDonald’s extensive rebranding efforts to be perceived as “healthier”- my personal connation with the brand remains “obesity.”
Differentiator : What is your brand’s core competency- that primary differentiator? Most successful businesses have some process that they do better than everyone else, and that is where they find their niche. However, some lose sight of this core competency as they attempt to further differentiate themselves by branching out. This draws resources away from processes that strengthen the primary one, and can have a weakening effect on it. Identity and branding concerns should for the most part revolve around this core focus. Companies need to remain aware of what made them successful in the first place, and base their selling points off of those strengths. If you are selling a purple cow- the main attribute that you are selling is the cow’s unique lavender hue- not her exceptional milk-producing abilities (unless the milk is a youth-inducing elixir that also gives off a lavender glow).
Consistency: Finally, you want to maintain a consistency to your brand’s identity. Find that core competency and shape branding strategies around it. Multiple changes over a short time period creates confusion in the mind of the target audience, and weakens mental recall of your brand at key purchase moments. Keep in mind that the burn marks from the very first branding efforts are permanent- any tweaks following this first “brand” should be consistent with the first (unless the plan is to start a new herd of purple cows from the offspring). For example, the Starbucks logo has undergone multiple changes since the company’s conception in Pike Place market of the 80’s. However, these changes have been subtle- remaining consistent to the initial image of the beckoning siren, that ethereal mermaid that never fails to call in unsuspecting, caffeine-deprived passersby. This consistency has enabled Starbucks to drop the lettering in its current branding- a move that marks extremely strong brand recognition. The Starbucks logo of today is more streamlined than the previous, featuring a closer shot of the green siren, encapsulated by the same circular figure. The “brand” remains crisp, clean, and consistent with its origins- additional tweaks have only served to further strengthen the overall image. There is no doubt over who is the owner of that particular purple cow.
Overall, these considerations lend a sort of structure to the identity and branding process. A crisp clean brand applies to cattlemen and businesses alike. It not only allows the owner to differentiate his cow from other cows- it also denotes his ownership of the purple cow to others.
By Chelsea Stortz
Aiken, K.D. (2011). Class Lecture. Marketing Strategy. Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wa.
Friedman, T. L. (2007). The World is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Picador/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux.