We’ve all seen the above sticker on the back of a pickup somewhere. The offending logo can be Chevy or Ford or some other random brand. Besides the blatant copyright violation of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, the message is pretty clear: “I hate this brand. I hate it so much that I’m going to put this offensive sticker on my vehicle for all the world to see, good taste and decency be damned.” So the question is, who hates a brand that much?
Truth is, we all have brands we love to hate, for varying legitimate, ridiculous and even unknown reasons. I like Banana Republic because their clothes are generally cut to fit my tall frame. I like Fender because a lot of my guitar heroes played their gear. Of course, I like Gibson and Marshall and a bazillion other music brands for the exact same reason. There was a time in my early 20’s where some of my friend’s called me “Sony Joe,” because at that point in my life Sony made better than average consumer electronics, so that’s what I always bought. I joined Dollar Shave Club because I thought their marketing was brilliant, and the product suits me just fine. I drive an Infiniti because it looks like the car I used to doodle as a kid, has an interior that is laid out in a fashion that makes sense to my brain, drones a heavenly tone in fourth gear on the highway, and gets up and goes enough to put a smile on my face on a regular basis. Plus Debbie Millman once told me she liked my car.
There are brands I hate. Like Ed Hardy, because as much as he might have been a pioneer in the tattoo world, his work became synonymous with meatheads and vapid celebrities. I despise Polo, and most things Ralph Lauren, for no good reason other than some dude I wasn’t a fan of in high school used to bathe in it. I actually think that Ralph would be a fabulously interesting guy to hang out with, and I’d love to see his car collection. I will not use Gill Sans (and try to avoid any other typeface he designed) because Eric Gill was such a despicable human being. While hate would be too strong a word, I’m not a fan of Ford, because I’ve seen too many products (Probe, anyone?) that are complete garbage. I’d be more than happy if someone wanted to hand me the keys to a Ford GT, however.
In general, I resonate with brands that provide quality without pretension. This is all relative, of course. A brand I like may be an ostentatious brand you hate. Honda is a great brand. I hate their products. Utilitarian, boxy, unsophisticated, clunky. Reliable? Yes. Good value? Yes. Ugly as sin? Yes. But you might be the biggest Honda fan out there, because they do make a damn fine minivan. I’ll just never drive one.
This is the challenge in developing a brand. You can only control what you can control. Be deliberate in positioning your brand in a way that resonates with your desired target audience. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. Develop brand visuals that tell your story effectively. Empower your employees to be willing brand ambassadors. Doing all of this ensures that your customers and prospects are engaging with your brand for the right reasons — because they know/like/trust you.
So what brands to you love or hate? Let me know in the comments.