Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Branding Overshadows Product

Snapple? Pepsi? The SciFi Channel? Tropicana? What are the people who work for these companies... these brands... thinking? Why rebrand? Or, in Tropicanan's case, un-rebrand? Was something wrong with the old brand? Is changing the spelling or a logo "rebranding"? If the product is exactly the same...

Clearly, the branding mavens are out of control, and have sunk their claws deeply into the belief systems of the influentials at these companies. Tropicana managed to escape (honestly I didn't mind the new logo, but I thought it was some abstract modern design and didn't initially notice it was just a glass of orange juice). The SciFi Channel seems to have gone insane. A rose is a rose, people.

Let's recap for a bit those of you who don't follow the insane branding world.

The worst of the four above recent examples is the SciFi Channel, which is changing how its name is spelled to "SyFy". Pronounced the same, it is unusual enough that it can be a legal property. "The SciFi Channel" and old logo weren't? Sure they were! Idiots. The NYT has a good writeup of the plain facts (and mentions Tropicana's reversal).

The NYT image caption is a head-scratcher, though. "Fans of other-world TV know how to say their channel’s new name." Well, no, it's not their channel. Seriously. 

Here's a good writeup about how scifi (and scifi/fantasy) is actually tremendously popular (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lost...) (And I know a Margaret Lyons but she seems to have vanished off of Facebook. Hmm.) The writer at cnet actually mentions New Coke. Ouch! But accurate. 

Most serious writers are avoiding the entire "it sounds like the word syphilis in Polish" debacle. So much for global brand awareness. (Thus it needs to be mentioned.) And really, they show wrestling! Pathetic. 

Tropicana is of course owned by Pepsi. Why did they rebraaaaa..... Ok ok, re-logo. They are both the same brands, let's be honest here. Same product, same executives, same company, same misguided branding mavens, the only thing that changed (and will unchange in Tropicana's case) is the logo. Changing a logo is not changing a brand. If you cannot make a decent product, the logo is irrelevant, and I think the entire "branding" mess overlooks this vital step. Here is an accurate take on the Tropicana logo remake

And Snapple. New logo does what? Snapple was the first big iced tea, but the field is crowded now, and to me it's a product problem. I want less-breakable plastic bottles (which I recycle), less sweet and no high-fructose corn syrup. Oh, the new logo does none of that? Really? Well then. (I think they may have expanded their product line, but I don't follow the tea market that closely.)