Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Branding Lessons

from Laura Ries:

High Five to FiveFingers

Vibram with names

There is nothing I get more excited about than seeing a new category and a new brand hit the market. There’s the thrill of discovery the first time you hear about one or read about one. The challenge of finding the store that has one. The glory of getting your hands on one. The pride in showing yours off. And the jealousy and bewilderment on the faces of those who don’t have one.

I’m not alone. In every category, there are always enthusiasts or early adopters who jump on new trends and make them future brand successes.

Creating excitement is one of the keys to brand success. Easy to say, hard to do, you might be thinking. Wrong. There are some surefire keys to generating enthusiasm.

1. Be specific and narrow.

Don’t promise everything; promise one thing. Your product or service might be great at lots of things, but “lots of things” isn’t an idea that gets into the minds of consumers and isn’t an idea to get excited about. Focus on one key idea. Preferably one that is the opposite of the competition.

For years, running shoes have added springs, cushions, treads, electronics and all sorts of things. MBTs and Sketchers even have extra thick heals.

Vibram did the opposite. They don’t wrap your feet in an array of features; they free your feet. More of a sock than a sneakers, wearing Vibram FiveFingers is more like being barefoot. With 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments the typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution. Like the rest of the body, the feet need to be stimulated and exercised to keep them healthy. Vibram FiveFingers’ barefoot technology stimulates and exercises your feet.


FiveFingers = Barefooting.

Stimulating your feet to make you stronger and improve your balance.

2. Create a visual difference.

If your brand doesn’t have a visual difference it is going to be very difficult to create excitement. Shock and surprise is what generates excitement. You need to stop consumers in their tracks to say “What is that?!”

Sometimes a visual difference is a natural part of the product; at other times you need to exaggerate or create a difference.

Monster introduced an energy drink in a 16-oz can. That shocking visual difference generated interest and excitement. It also made Monster the #2 brand behind leader Red Bull whose 8.3 oz can created its own visual difference by being the first small can. Most recently 5-Hour Energy entered the market with the energy shot in the exciting 2-oz bottle.

With Vibram FiveFingers, the difference is shocking and easy to see.

Vibram toes

It’s the toes!

Vibram could have easily hidden the toe pockets, but they didn’t. Instead, the design enhanced them. Every time you wear a pair of FiveFingers you are sure to get several people asking “what is that on your feet?”

3. Make it pass along friendly.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not giving a product a strong brand name that consumers can use to pass along the message to others. Both the name and brand message need to be in language that consumers will actually use.

Seattle’s Best Coffee. Too generic, not distinctive, hard to pass along.

MBT. Meaningless initials, hard to remember, hard to pass along.

Eucerin. Impossible to pronounce, impossible to spell, hard to pass along.

Eucerin has survived and thrived in spite of its impossibly horrible, unpronounceable name only because of its strong in its position as the dry-skin treatment dermatologist recommend. (Apparently the dermatologist figured out how to pronounce it.) The rest of us are unlikely to ever learn it. I buy Eucerin, but never tell anyone, because I have no idea how to say it.

It’s best to have a name and a message that are both pass-along friendly. A unique, memorable name combined with an easy-to-understand and easy-to-explain message.

FiveFingers is a super name. Much better than TenToes which is too generic. The idea of using fingers for toes is what makes the name stick in the mind. They look like gloves for your feet. That idea hooks the visual difference into the name. Of course, that difference also leads itself into the explanation of why FiveFingers?

I love my FiveFingers because being barefoot is better for my feet. It makes them stronger and healthier and improves my balance.” A nice pass-along name and message.

Fivefinger logo002

A few problems with the FiveFingers brand.

First, the typeface they use is very difficult to read. Never sacrifice legibility for visual gymnastics. Graphic designers may love to create artistic looks, but the bottom line is that consumers need to read the words.

Second is the double branding and third branding when you throw in the model names. I bought the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila for example. Way too many names going on.

Vibram clasickp1  copy

Vibram-five-fingers-kso copy

The box has a large Vibram logo. That extra word just drags down and dilutes the idea. It is best to focus on one name. Vibram is unnecessary. Sure Vibram is the company that makes them. But FiveFingers is the brand. If Vibram is there at all it should be tiny and more oriented towards the trade. Consumers buy FiveFingers. The trade orders them from Vibram. Of course, the company is most likely in love with its Vibram name and heritage. Consumers could care less, they should have put the FiveFingers brand name on the shoes. Sadly the company doesn’t own the fivefingers.com website either, they use vibramfivefingers.com.

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