A few weeks ago I moved into a new house.  It’s been both great and exhausting for me and my family.  Fortunately the exhausting part – all the boxes, dust (from painting) and the general sense of disorientation (“Do you know where the toothpaste is?”) – is temporary and the great part will endure.

One the frequent, early bumps in the road is discovering the array of small things that don’t work and deciding whether you need to fix them.  For example, in one of our new bathrooms, the tub drain doesn’t fully close, which didn’t seem like a big deal until we learned that that the only way to fix it properly was to completely open up the wall and install new plumbing.  This is firmly in the “you gotta be kidding me category” and a project that we absolutely want to avoid, though when confronted with the notion that a bathtub might not be useable (ever!) you quickly start thinking through how much a drain you can close is actually worth to you.

Before capitulating to yet another project, my wife cagily bought an $8 Oxo tub stopper in an attempt to avoid the ~$1,500+ project.  It was sort of a running joke with the knowledge that we’d soon be showing the thing to the plumber and the tile guys and all laughing.

Except that, amazingly, it works beautifully.  As in I’m-never-going-to-replace-this-thing beautifully.  So, no need to open up the bathroom wall.

We were subsequently frustrated with the setup in the kitchen sink – another minor annoyance.  Volia!  The $9 Oxo drain cover saved the day.

The Oxo brand promise, as I understand it, is amazingly simple.  If the Oxo name is on a product it means, to me, that it is the best-designed version of a particular gadget at an affordable price.  Since Oxo so consistently delivers on this promise, my decision about buying an Oxo product isn’t whether it will be good or about choosing between Oxo and a competitor.  I simply need to decide whether I feel like a particular gadget could be improved upon.  If not, I don’t buy the Oxo product (spatulas or can openers); if yes, I do (peelers and storage containers).

The reason brand conversations get so convoluted and end up feeling like wordsmithing exercises is because so often brands don’t stand for anything.  So instead of capturing what you stand for, or capturing how what you stand for needs to evolve or be sharpened, you instead end up pretending to stand for something and then writing pretty words around an idea that has no core and no truth.

Unfortunately, the branding team (and the firm they’ve hired) isn’t in a position to actually get the company to stand for something.

The next time someone suggests a branding exercise, a new logo, a snappier tagline, grab ten people in your company and ask each of them to tell you in simple, plain words: what do we stand for?

(By the way, I’m sorry to say I now find myself wishing Oxo made freezers.)

28 thoughts on “Brand

  1. Sasha
    I believe the same could be said about the need for a clear blog manifesto:
    Extending the idea to a retailer’s banner, trust-based repeat purchase has to be part of what a vendor’s and retailer’s brand stands for…see
    Hope your new house learning-curve is coming to a satisfactory end…

  2. Great post!
    “…you instead end up pretending to stand for something and then writing pretty words around an idea that has no core and no truth.” To that I say, Amen!

  3. Love this ! So often we see marketers and brand specialists talk about “what are you famous for?” and working to that. Your “what do you stand for ?” is very powerful. At Shirlaws when we talk about Positioning with clients, we start with “what do you WANT to be famous for”, then they can look at what they may need to put in place within the business BEFORE they look to set their positioning to the outside world. Oxo will certainly have set up their business from the inside out to be able to assess the need (can a gadget be improved upon), then have a team research, design and develop that improved (and simple / inexpensive) gadget. Now that they have their “stand”, their “Why” (as Simon Sinek would put it), it makes the “How” of marketing them easier.

  4. Could. Not. Agree. More!

    I am one of those “branding/messaging” people, specific working with nonprofits, foundations and other do gooders. One of the main reasons I see these branding processes go sideways with the mission-motivated of the world is because of the word ‘brand’ itself. It allows you to de-personalize the conversation–and therefore the outcome. ‘What does our brand stand for?’ is a very different question than ‘What do we, as an organization–and as the people who work/donate/volunteer for it–stand for? What do we want to be known for? If we were to close our doors, what would be different in our community? Who would miss us and how much?’

    Ironically, when you avoid the word brand, you end up with a much stronger one.

  5. Sasha, I was directed to this page from Seth’s daily message. Your post made me smile,think and learn,great job. Why is the word “simple” so misunderstood ? The stopper was a simple fix ,but a major savings and learning tool for all of us. It is important for all of us to keep our brand and mission clear and simple. Thank-You and have a Great Weekend. I will be back.

  6. I like the Oxo brand dish cleaning brush-and-soap-dispener. It is good and sturdy. I will look into the drain stops for our bath and sink also.
    A brand has to stand for something in the mind or else it is an also-ran in the minds of customers. On a personal level, the header on my blog reminds me to stay the course and stay on point whenever I am tempted to digress into farther greener pastures that will stretch my brand without deepening it.

  7. Great post Sasha, thank you.
    It’s very interesting. This stuff is something that is taught at every marketing school, the “USP” as academia/P&G called it. Somehow, it appears that Marketing 101 is forgotten after graduation day.
    If just more brands went back to the basics.
    But, then again, the few that do are the remarkable ones.

  8. I also question what the people stand for who told you to rip out the wall. If asked, they might likely say they didn’t want to steer you in a bad direction. Standing for something means risking being wrong later. They might not have known a plug could solve the problem but my guess is, they’d happily have embarked on the $1500 project. I try not to someone something they don’t need.

  9. I think I was pretty narrow in the question I asked them, Jane. It was “how do I fix this drain” instead of “how do I keep water in this tub?”!

  10. Brilliant & simple… I don’t believe branding could be described any simpler than that… well done.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.