Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Broadview of Banal Branding

On July 10, 1985, “Classic Coke” was introduced to much fanfare after a colossal failure of “New Coke” that Spring, after a huge public outcry.

One has to wonder whether the roll-out of the new name for Brink’s Home Security will be reversed in a few months, too, after much public confusion.

“We are now Broadview Security, the next generation of Brink’s Home Security.”

That’s the confusing message that welcomes people to the new Website.

Boring, bland, banal, colorless, under-whelming, and a stupid pissing away of 150 years of brand equity.

This new name, announced by company officials June 30, 2009 and foisted onto the world by Ketchum, conveys nothing, other than perhaps weakness, blandness and dullness. Shame on the branding experts at Landor Associates, an otherwise top-tier branding agency, who were engaged to come up with this yawn-inducing substitute. Folks, you’ve got it wrong this time.

I feel very sorry for the Brink’s Home Security employees. They must be devastated.

I know a bad public relations move when I see one, and this could be a big one.

Ad Age Magazine’s June 30 issue quotes a real branding expert, Denise Lee Yohn, as saying, "Trying to transfer that trust from Brink's to a different name is particularly challenging [in a
bad economy.] People are looking for proven suppliers with reputable names."

No kidding. And not only is the name gone, the traditional Brink’s Badge logo will be replaced by a logo with two odd “boomerang-like” swoops that suggest an Internet ISP and seem lifted directly from credit card giant Citi, only rendered in light blue (a weak color.)

In-yard signage and window decals will look something like a white fingernail, or a real estate sign. Will would-be burglars fear a white fingernail-shaped real estate sign in the yard?

The Broadview Website explains that the company spun off from The Brink’s Company last October, and is now a separately traded company. They also reveal that The Brink's Company granted them a license to use the Brink's Home Security brand for up to three years after the spin-off.

So why not keep it until the last possible moment? Why not transition? Why not keep elements of the Brinks name, as some of the “Baby Bells” did after the Bell System broke up in 1984 (Bell Atlantic and BelSouth, to name two.)

Just because change must happen, that doesn’t mean you pick a crap name to replace a time-honored one. That means you try to continue a legacy that has served them for 150 years.

As part of my work with clients who engage me on retainer as a public relations consultant, I always undertake an audit of all materials - Website, printed matter, signage, the works - to ensure that branding is clear and consistent, and that it makes sense.

Most of the time, being vague is a business killer.

Something like “John Doe Enterprises” is a worthless name, because it tells customers exactly nothing about what John does. “Well, I’m trying to be all things to all people,” I’ve heard. Well, that’s not good enough. If you’re doing EVERYTHING, you’re doing few things well. And it’s not about you, it’s about perceptions about you by your past, present and future customers.

In 2006, Stephen Abbott Communications became Abbott Public Relations, in part because the old name sounded like it was a phone company, and PR was my major focus. In 2008, I launched Abbott Media, a company that writes and sells electronic books, explores New Media, news reporting and other writing ventures, because these had nothing to do with PR. That, I believe, is smart branding. [In 2015, Abbott Media and Abbott PR became Abbott Media Group.]

The Broadview Website claims the new name “represents our legacy, our future and our unchanged commitment to "Creating Customers for Life."

Legacy? Seriously? Broadview as a name is the OPPOSITE of building a legacy. But this is marketing-speak, not real English, meant to be understood.

I have no doubt the people at Landor are sincere, and smart. The work on their Website (which, tellingly perhaps, fails to mention Broadview) affirms they are an astoundingly capable firm. And granted, branding is not easy or an exact science. But like many re-brands, this one seems to have clearly come up desperately short in the common sense department.
Six Possibly Better Names for Brink’s Home Security, off the Top of My Head:
  • “ShieldHearth Security” - It even has a warm feeling when you say it, and you know immediately that it shields your home and hearth.
  • “HomeSecure” - Again, blazingly obvious and quick to grasp what these folks do. (Although if the company seeks to reach into business security more, this may not be the best option.)
  • “SecuriGuard” - Security and Guard. Simple. Direct. Too difficult to screw up.
  • “Solidus Security” - From the Latin for solid. In English, it conjures up the same thing. SolidiShield would also help us envision solidity.
  • “AmeriBrinks Security” - This one is admittedly tongue-in-cheek, but why didn’t they fight for the name?

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