Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The power of brand identity

I was driving this weekend near St Paul and noticed a highway sign with two gas station logos placed side-by-side. One was for BP, the other for Sinclair gas.

My first reaction was astonishment in realizing that Sinclair still exists -- in my head it's a brand that dates back to the Model T that perhaps had gone the way of its logo...which is a dinosaur. Apparently not.

Seeing both logos next to each other provided a great illustration of the power of brand identity systems. You cannot find two more opposite identities for the exact same product. BP is the color of sunshine and flowers, it's logo conjuring a green company. (After all, isn't the new BP "beyond petroleum"?) And Sinclair is a dinosaur, conjuring decaying fossils buried under dirt and rock transformed into the oil that drives our Hummers by millions of years of heat and pressure.

I've been a fan of the BP identity since its launch. They've executed a total brand makeover from the corner gas station on up. Though I would like to see more evidence of what it is doing to go "beyond petroleum." A flower logo can only fool us for so long.

I give kudos to Sinclair for its honesty and consistency. If you're happy being a petroleum brand, then a dinosaur logo is spot on target. (By the way, you won't believe this, but the dinosaur's name is "Dino." Go figure.)

2 comments:

Dave said...

Great topic. One of my previous clients was a regional liquor brand and we helped launch their first international product line back a few years ago. The year of our launch, 90 brands of vodka were introduced to the market place. 85 of them were gone one year later. Sure, distribution is key in the liquor category. But breaking through the clutter in-bar and on-shelf is absolutely critical. And even if you manage to break through and gain initial momentum, your brand identity has to stand for something more than a fancy bottle and a clever light-up bar display. Long-term relevancy can be challenging (and fun) when you’re dealing with 20-somethings who think the next “hot” drink changes on a daily basis…

That’s why I’m so impressed with Absolut. After 90 years of doing business, they are currently the third largest premium liquor brand in the world. And they long ago lost the top-shelf battle to Grey Goose, Belvedere and others, but the strength of their brand identity is unmatched in the category. They don’t have to do anything other than show the silhouette of the bottle and consumers immediately recognize the brand.

David Murphy said...

Absolut is a very good example of how packaging and product design can be a source of differentiation in a parity category. Method has used unique packaging to stand apart among household cleaners. Ditto for Altoids, Heineken Light, 5 Gum, Aquapod, Target pharmacy bottles, Voss water and Gogurt. Could motor oil be next?