The Benefits of Annual Reports

In the name of transparency, every publicly-traded company must put out an Annual Report. It’s a way for them to divulge crucial information to shareholders and ensure a formalized source of communication is accessible to the public. Annual Reports are valuable tools investors utilize to make informed decisions about potential investments. For publicly-traded companies, they are not only a necessity, they are critical.

But what if your business is not public? Perhaps you’re a small business owner or run a non-profit organization. While you’re not legally required to do so, producing an Annual Report can prove to be an invaluable marketing tool. Here’s why:

Tell a Story

An Annual Report, at its heart, is a story – one that exists to communicate past years’ performance in an authentic but compelling, confident and inspiring manner. It should have a theme that ties many threads, including current market performance, industry context, the company’s financial performance, and its success accomplishing its strategic objectives, with a common story that frames the financials in a positive light that appeals to various target audiences. It must speak chiefly to investors, but also the industry, employees, and even competitors. The information selected, order of content, tone, and specific vocabulary choices are key considerations when crafting an Annual Report.


Connect Audiences with Leadership

An Annual Report provides your organization’s leadership the chance to speak directly to a variety of audiences. Not only does the included letter from the CEO allow them to address those with a vested interest in the organization, it also serves as a point of discussion and opens up dialogue about the company’s current state and future goals. Unless in the media, rarely does a CEO get the chance to connect with audiences who have a stake in their organization, and even then, it’s indirect. An Annual Report allows leadership to check in and develop a deeper connection with those who make the business possible.

Think Ahead

As mentioned, an Annual Report has the ability to tell a story. However, not only does it provide an accurate depiction of your organization’s most recent fiscal year, it also has the opportunity to set the tone for the future. By reconnecting invested audiences with your organization’s fundamental beliefs and values, an Annual Report becomes a source of information for what direction the company is going in and what it’s going to take to get it there.

While an Annual Report can be a resourceful communication tool for any organization, it is also very important to ensure the information is presented in a way that grabs the attention of whoever is reading, be it an investor or competitor. It is crucial to first identify the story you want your organization to tell in order to tell it effectively. To ensure marketing efforts are maximized, brand consistency should be maintained throughout and the design must be present information in a manner that is readily understandable by the reader and conscious of their attention span. To do that, it’s vital to create context for the data in a manner that is more visually interesting.

At William Joseph, our passion telling stories and connecting clients with their customers and stakeholders makes us ideal partners when it comes to developing your company’s Annual Report. We make an effort and take the time to build a solid relationship with your team, listening to your needs and partnering in every way we can. We also analyze your brand standards and relevant, current marketing initiatives to ensure we design to your standards and see the larger picture. Beyond the expertise and professionalism expected, we ensure that we are collaborative, respectful, are passionate, and most importantly, are easy to work with. We get to know your story, inside and out, so we can share it with your audiences. Our extensive experience in developing Annual Reports for a variety of businesses in ranging industries makes us confident we can create something special with you.

Are you ready to explore the possibilities an Annual report can bring to your business? Get in touch with us today.

The Power of Brand Communities

Brand Communities are a fascinating topic in marketing; they are uniquely located at the intersection of branding, consumer behaviour, and sociology. Communities, as a topic of social human experience, have been studied in philosophy and sociology for quite some time, and marketing has utilized these ideas and adapted them to understand the concept of community in a consumption context.

As first introduced by Muniz and O’Guinn in “Brand Community”, Journal of Consumer Research,  “A brand community is a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand”. This unique phenomenon has consumers participate in shared rituals and traditions, hold similar values, and together form collective consciousness all focused on the common admiration of a brand. Members of these communities have well-developed understandings and feeling towards the brands they are connected to. These communities are social in nature, and reflect how embedded our favourite brands are in our daily lives.

Important Aspects of Brand Communities

The shared consciousness or “we-ness” of these communities is a very important and powerful aspect of these communities. Members of these communities feel a deep connection, not only to the focal brand, but also to other members, who they feel they understand on a deeper-level even if they have never met in person. Harley-Davidson owner groups, both officially organized and not, are a great example of this. Although there are many different groups that experience Harley in there own unique way, there are common values that all groups share. One distinct value that is shared by this group is Personal Freedom. Most Harley owners identify with this idea of liberation through their bikes.  When talking about the freedom of riding, and the freedom to customize your bike to experience your own unique ride, our own Creative Director can verify, “you all belong to Harley, but you all do Harley differently”.

Interestingly, brand communities often define their identity by why they do NOT consume as well. For many Samsung Galaxy owners, they partly define their identity by NOT owning an iPhone. Or for many Mac users and fan groups, they partly define their identity by NOT owning a PC.

Rituals and traditions are also important aspects of these communities, as members often spread meaning through shared practices. Almost all brand communities have little examples of rituals that they share, which adds to the meaning of the brand. For example, many vehicle owners have heard of a specific wave to give the owner of the same brand. The “Jeep wave” and the “Audi wave” that owners give to each other on the road are just two examples of this. Little traditions like these add to the experience that one has when being involved with a brand, and adds to the experience that members have when interacting with each other.

For many years, marketers have harnessed the power of brand communities by organizing events like “brandfests” that gather admirers of a brand together. These events facilitate social relationships and traditions, all while focusing on a brand. Camp Jeep and Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) events are two great examples of companies mobilizing their own communities around their beloved brands. But, brand communities don’t need to be organized exclusively by the parent organizations. There are many examples of fan groups for brands that organize themselves and develop their own consciousness surrounding their favourite brands.  Remember Pokémon Go? Many of these loyal users still organize their own events to celebrate and play the game together.

With advances in communications technology and social media, brand communities now live and thrive online. People from all over the world organize themselves based on their admiration of a product, service, idea, or brand and create rituals, have shared values, and experience the brand together. A quick search on Reddit will reveal many different subreddits organized by brands, experiences, ideas, products, and services. Each of these communities has their own unique rituals, values, and understandings that are shared by members. These communities across the Internet can be huge sources of un-tapped value for organizations to directly access their fans and understand how they use and experience their favourite brands.

Benefits of Brand Communities

Brand communities have many sources of value for organizations. As highlighted by McAlexander, Schouten, and Koenig in “Building Brand Community”, Journal of Marketing, this value can manifest in many ways for organizations:

  • Research and insights: members of brand communities will often give feedback on experiences, products etc. that can be a valuable source of information into what is working and what is not.
  • Learning and Teaching: members facilitate learning for other consumers; members get involved in teaching each other how-to use or the best ways to experience the brand.
  • Brand missionaries: members of these communities will communicate the brand message and their experiences to other social circles they are involved in and spread the message organically through word of mouth.
  • Forgiveness: when a product, service, or experience fails or does not live up to expectations, members of these communities are much quicker to forgive the brand and continue purchasing.
  • Loyalty: these consumers are less likely to switch to competing brands even on differences of quality, and become emotionally invested in the success of the brand.

In addition to all of these benefits, Brand Communities can also be a source of competitive advantage, and can protect organizations from the constant challenge of pushing the boundaries of innovation. It can be exhausting for organizations to constantly run towards a finish line that is continuously being moved farther and farther away. With that in mind, McAlexander, Schouten, and Koenig (2002) identify an interesting opportunity for brands to create advantages by differentiating themselves from competitors. They further explain, “differentiating on the basis of ownership experience can be achieved through programs strategically designed to enhance customer-centered relationships”.

Building and cultivating customer-centered relationships through tactics like Brand Communities can be an extremely effective way to construct deeper emotional relationships between your customers and your brand. If your customers are fans of your brand, it can be extremely beneficial for you to develop a platform where consumers can share their experiences and connect with your brand on a deeper level. This can be a key point of value for your customers, and set you apart from competing brands.

Infusing your Brand Into your Work Space

When you walk into someone’s home, you quickly get a feel for the type of person they are.  Maybe they have a bohemian vibe about them, or a certain level of sophistication. Maybe you can sense that they’re really uptight, or maybe just the opposite – they’re a bit sloppy and neglectful.

The point is, physical environments tell us a lot about the person – or the company – that inhabits them, and anyone that pays a visit gets an immediate and lasting impression from it.

So what kind of impression does your place of business make? Does your work space align with your brand? It should, and here’s why:

Branded environments improve productivity, and subsequently, increase profits.

An article on states that branded office spaces increase productivity by up to 20%, and in 2014, Fortune magazine reported that disengaged employees cost businesses in North America a staggering $550 billion each year. So what’s the correlation?

Think of it this way: in order for your brand to be powerful, it has to resonate with people deeply and on various levels, and in order for it to resonate with people your brand has be believable at all touch points – including your work space. If your work environment is out of alignment with your brand, your brand loses credibility – not just with customers, but also with your employees. You want and need your people to feel invested in your brand, because when they do, they perform better, and there are no greater ambassadors for your brand than the people who work for you.

Branded environments improve customer satisfaction.

Your business’s physical environment has the same effect on customers and clients as it does on your employees. If what they see when they visit you doesn’t line up with the values and image your brand is meant to convey, you’re brand is going to lose credibility. If you walked into a cleaning company’s office space and saw that it was cluttered and filthy, would you hire them to clean your home? Probably not. When your company’s work space aligns with what your customers or clients expect, it creates a level of comfort and confidence that drives engagement and promotes good will.

Branded environments are an extension of your corporate identity.

You spent a lot of time, energy and money creating your company’s visual identity – creating the perfect logo, choosing corporate colours, etc. and incorporating that identity wherever customers or clients engage with you – on your website, in your advertising, on your business cards and letterhead. Shouldn’t your work space get the same attention? If you neglect to brand your work environment, you’re missing a major opportunity to reinforce your brand. And it doesn’t just apply to offices. Retail shops too need to align with their corporate identity to create brand equity, and the best brands make every effort to nail it. There’s big difference between Starbucks and the Tim Horton’s down the street, even though both stores basically sell the same thing, right?

How do you infuse your brand into your work space?

There are some basics that you need to cover when branding your work environment, and the place to start is making sure your corporate identity is infused in the space. Going back to the coffee shop example, it would be strange to walk into a Tim Horton’s and see pink walls and a bunch of blue couches, wouldn’t it? Point being, choose furniture and colours that match up with the corporate identity you worked hard to establish.

Beyond that, think about your corporate values and mission, and consider ways you can reflect that in your space as well.  Is your company passionate about kids? You’ll want to have bright primary colours and a rather playful space to work in. Are you about environmentalism? Eco materials, natural light and probably a good number of large live plants would be in order. At William Joseph, we have a great collection of artwork that helps give our space a lot of creative energy. And don’t be afraid to get your people involved. Ask them what they feel the space should include and incorporate what you can. Giant companies like Google and Dell have famously created some of the most incredible work places in the world, largely based on what employees have said they want and need in the space.

Have you seen our office spaces? Come on by for a visit and lets talk more about what work place branding is all about.

Sensory Marketing – Make Your Brand Irresistible Without Saying A Word

Pretend for a second that you’ve got a glass Coke bottle in your hand. You can imagine it there, can’t you? Its distinctive curvy shape and cold, smooth surface – you can perceive how it feels even though its not there. You can probably even imagine the sensation of putting the bottle to your mouth; the way the rounded rim feels as it rests on your bottom lip and the rush of bubbly sweetness you taste when the dark liquid inside washes over your tongue. It’s a pretty vivid image, isn’t it? Now consider this: is the image you conjure as vivid if you replace that Coke bottle with a bottle of say, Ginger Ale? Can you imagine that bottle so well in your hand? Probably not. That, dear friends, is the power of effective sensory marketing.

If good marketing is all about creating positive customer experiences (and it is) then sensory marketing techniques are a way to hotwire those experiences in customer’s minds. Scientific studies have shown that what we perceive through our senses influences our thinking, mood and decision making on a subconscious level, which means the right combination of sensory experiences can influence how customers think and feel about your brand, and greatly increase the likelihood that they will want to engage with it. When it comes to sensory marketing, subtlety is powerful. Consumers don’t perceive subtle sensory tactics as marketing messages, and therefore don’t react with the sort of skepticism or resistance that ads or promotions sometimes generate. Rule of thumb is, it’s better to tread lightly than be heavy handed when it comes to sensory marketing.

The glass Coke bottle is a great example of tactile sensory marketing (sense of touch), but what about the other four senses?

Smell: Our sense of smell is the sense most closely correlated to memory. The aroma of freshly baked bread may take you back to being a kid in your grandmother’s kitchen; the smell of a fairground may bring up memories of feeling shy and nervous on your first junior high school date. Marketers have cleverly employed aroma for decades to influence how customers feel in a place of business and encourage them to make purchases as well. Dunkin’ Donuts ran a hugely successful sensory campaign on South Korea’s transit system a few years back. The company jingle was played over bus sound systems while an atomizer simultaneously emitted the smell of fresh coffee in the air. Dunkin’ Donuts stores saw a 16% increase in visits during the campaign, and a 29% increase in sales.

Sound: Background noise can soothe, stimulate and aggravate us. It can make us feel happy and it can make us feel sad. What we hear in terms of sensory marketing very often is so subtle we hardly realize it’s there – but the effects of sound are undeniable. If high-end spas started playing punk rock music in their treatment rooms (rather than sounds of nature, for example) do you think customers would still walk away feeling relaxed and refreshed? Pay attention to what’s coming through the speakers the next time you’re in retail environment. Victoria’s Secret, for one, plays classical music in its stores to make the experience of lingerie shopping there feel classy and exclusive.

Sight: How a place of business looks is every bit as important as what it sells. Marketers spend millions creating environments that reflect the essence of a business’s brand, and consistency between stores is key. Walk into a McDonald’s restaurant and the look is always the same, regardless of whether you’re in Tampa or Tokyo. Colour impacts how we feel about a brand too. Although culture and personal experiences influence how colour is perceived, generally speaking, the spectrum of colour running from cool tones to hot tones correlates directly to feelings of calm to those of excitement.

Taste: Taste is the most specific of the five senses, and the most personal too. What appeals to one palate may be repulsive to another, and taste is highly influenced by other senses – smell, in particular. Very often the experience of eating or drinking something is highlighted by where we are when we consume it. So for sensory marketing, when it comes to taste, connecting feelings (such as fun or satisfaction) to the brand is important. Successful restauranteurs know that the ambiance in the room is every bit as important as what’s on the plate – and sometimes the charm of being a “hole in the wall” establishment with incredible food is part of a winning customer experience.

There are lots of ways your business can incorporate successful sensory marketing techniques, no matter what industry you’re in. Let our talented team help you discover and make the most of them.

Why Brands Fail (And Why Yours Doesn’t Have To)

The graveyard of dead brands is a massive landscape riddled with headstones that bear some pretty big names: New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, Blackberry, MySpace, HMV – the list is endless and somewhat surprising. Even the biggest and most savvy companies in the world can miss the mark when it comes to solidifying the success of their brand, and only the very strongest can recover when they make a gaffe with it. For every success story there is an equally sad demise, and avoiding the pitfalls isn’t easy – because branding isn’t an easy thing to do.

So how can your business avoid the brand graveyard? The first thing is to realize that creating a successful and solid brand takes a lot of thought, research, and strategic planning on the part of a comprehensive and objective team of strategists, designers, writers, and managers that ensure things stay on track.  Internal marketing departments are often too close to the brand to do it justice. Not being able to see the forest for the trees is a common reason for brand failure, but there are other typical culprits too.

Ineffectual Storytelling

The planet is swirling with marketing messages. If you want yours to be heard, it has to be meaningful, compelling and unique. Without exception, brands that don’t make it are brands that failed to tell a relevant story to their audience. If you can’t make people listen, you can’t sell to them. Story is key.

Being Inauthentic

Authenticity in marketing, as it is in life, is about knowing who you are. Your brand should stand for something and stick to it. If you deviate from that, you’ll lose the trust of those who relate to you and they’ll go looking for something (or someone) else who does. Know who you are, know what you do best, know who you’re serving, and stay the course.

Breaking Your Brand Promise

For consumers to buy into your brand, you have to offer them something of value. That’s your brand promise. Too often brand promises are thought of as taglines – but they’re much more than that. Your brand promise is your commitment to your customers – something you’re providing that they need or want on an emotional level. Volvo’s promise is safety, while BMW’s is The Ultimate Driving Machine. Same brand category, but very different promises – and very different buyers because of it. Break your promise and your brand will suffer, bottom line.

Misjudging Customer Perceptions

Your brand exists in the minds of your customers, so it’s imperative that you have a grasp on what they believe, think, need, want and expect from it. Thorough market research is an essential part of effective brand management. The minute a brand loses touch with its customers is the minute it begins to fail.

Poor Competitive Differentiation

Most brand failures aren’t the result of a single massive marketing mistake – they’re a gradual and sad demise due to underwhelming messaging and lack of effective differentiation. You’re competing in a crowded marketplace, and all your competitors are vying for a piece of the same consumer pie. To grab attention, you’ve got to clearly define what makes you different and exploit it loudly, boldly and often.

Don’t allow brand failure to be an option for your business. Partner with a proven team of professionals who understand what it takes to make your brand stand out – and stand the test of time. If you need to better establish your brand and get your message heard,  the team at William Joseph Communications is here to help.

Making Your Brand Stick

Let’s say you’re starting a DIY home reno project and you need to buy a bunch of supplies. Which hardware store comes to mind? When you read the words luxury vehicle, what set of wheels pops into your head? If you were craving a mid-afternoon cup of joe, what coffee shop would you hit up for it? Would you go to the same place if you wanted a latte?

Brand loyalty is the holy grail of marketers everywhere, and although a consumer’s brand preferences are influenced by a lot of different things (overall product experience, connection to the brand’s essence, just generally liking the product or business…we could go on) the magic can only happen when a brand is strong enough to stand out from the crowd. The goal in marketing, always, is to make sure your brand is the first to come to mind whenever a consumer is ready to make a purchase – to make it “stick” in the public headspace. If it does, your chances of generating a large following of loyal customers is a whole lot better.

So how do you make your brand stick?

  1. Create a Marketing Communications Strategy

A solid marketing communications strategy is the roadmap for successful brand building. It is the difference between momentary achievement and enduring success. Without a carefully thought out and thorough strategy, your brand will wander aimlessly without ever taking shape in the marketplace, or in the minds of consumers. A professionally researched and written marketing communications strategy will clearly outline what your brand is all about – its unique value, character, and purpose. It will define your organization’s identity, values, emotional offering and the experience of engaging with your brand. It is the springboard from which all decisions guiding your brand (and your business) should be made, and black and white reference point for consistency going forward.

  1. Make it Personal

Your sales pitch can be perfect, but unless your brand reaches people on a personal level, it will never be top of mind. There should be a tangible benefit associated with choosing your brand – a promise your brand makes to the customer which they not only can’t overlook, they won’t get it from your competitors either. Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, Johnson’s assures gentleness and peace of mind with their products, and Nike makes us all feel that we can Just Do It. A strong brand promise equates to perceived value in minds of buyers – an essential component in creating “stickiness.”

  1. Get Graphic

Ever wonder how much the visual identity of a brand affects its success? An executive at Coca-Cola has this to say on the subject:

“If Coca-Cola were to lose all its production related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything visually related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.”

The imagery that represents your product or business IS your product or business in the minds of customers. Your visual identity is the entire compilation of colours, fonts, photography, materials and textures that represent your brand in the marketplace, and it hinges on one crucial element: your logo. For a brand to really resonate with customers, it first and foremost needs to be consistent – but the best visual identities in the world are simple, impactful, and memorable too. A great logo does all the heavy lifting in this regard. Let’s take the golden arches, for example. We don’t even have to mention the name of the fast food company they represent for you to know who we’re talking about, now do we?

  1. Be Original

If you know the “why” of your business – meaning, the reason you went into it in the first place, then you are already well on your way to identifying what makes your company unique. Your story is your difference – it’s your greatest selling tool because it makes your brand distinctive. Of course it’s fine to take notes from other businesses that have a strong brand position, but don’t try to be them. It’s a losing strategy and you’ll get lost in the noise of your competition. Be yourself. Nobody does it better.

Whether you are in the B2B, B2C or non-profit marketplace, brand loyalty is relevant and important to the success of your organization.  A strong brand will elevate your business to new heights, and if you need help crafting one, or simply refreshing your existing one, the team at WJ is always ready to partner with you and get strategic. Check out some of our branding work here.

Building your Start-up Brand: Where to Begin

Fifteen years ago, on a Thursday afternoon, two marketers embarked on a courageous journey to start a full-service marketing agency – one founded on the vision of using smart strategy to strengthen creative aimed to spark curiosity and instigate action. Using their middle names as inspiration for the name, these marketers had no idea they had established the roots of what is now William Joseph Communications.

Founded from humble beginnings, William Joseph is no stranger to the hard work and challenges that face start-up companies when it comes to building a brand. Where do you start? Who do you talk to? What do you research first? Essentially, your brand is the experience you give to customers, and good branding should be at the heart of your business. Based on our branding experiences, here are some things to consider when building your brand as a start-up.

Choose a good start-up name: Put simply, the name of your company can drastically affect the consumers you attract, your reputation in the public eye and the overall acceptance of your business. If the name is too complex, is hard to say or is hard to spell, it will be difficult for people to remember you. The complexities of your company name can also affect your marketing efforts. If you decide to be edgy and name your company Apple, for example, you’re probably not going to have the budget or resources to be competitive in the digital sphere. Have a look at our previous post about naming and re-naming your company for some of our top rules when considering your name. (We broke down how to name your company here!)     

Define your brand:  A carefully cultivated brand tells current and potential customers what separates you from your competitors, and carves out a space in your audience’s conscience so that your company name, and images and messages associated with it, calls to mind a complex web of associated signifiers. Ask yourself some questions when defining your brand and its attributes: What are your mission, vision and values? What is unique about your brand, and what emotional and function attributes are you hoping will be associated with your brand experience? Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so having a well-defined brand could be the difference between your success and failure.

Do your research: While you will conduct a lot of research when you define your brand, we cannot stress the importance of doing thorough research enough. Aaron Shapiro, the CEO for brand strategy agency Huge, said “In the tech world, there are no truly original ideas; everything is somewhat similar to what someone else is doing.  So, you need a way to communicate what your start-up does with a special twist.” Bearing this in mind, doing a detailed competitor analysis is an important step in identifying how the value of your brand is different from theirs. Research will also help you determine where your business see’s itself in 10 years, and what it will take to get you there.

You’ll also need to identify your target audience, and have an in-depth investigation of their psychographics, geographic locations as well as their social status, needs, and motivations. To be successful, you’ll need to establish an emotional connection with your consumer base, one that inspires loyalty and provokes action. This is virtually impossible without a comprehensive knowledge of who you’re targeting.

Create a compelling story: So, you’ve figured out your brand, identified your target audience and done thorough research on your competition. Now, it’s time to tell your brand’s story. As mentioned above, you’ll need to create an emotional connection with your audience. You can do this by being authentic, aligning with your audience’s values and relating to them by just being human.

As the WJ team always says, effective marketing demands powerful messaging to overcome competing voices, and to stand out, you must be original, connect with the public and provoke action. Creating a compelling story can help make this happen. So, how do you create a compelling story? Through smart strategy, content creation and marketing, visual identity, active voice, well-crafted creative, the list goes on and on. Whatever story you create, make sure that you’re transparent and open about everything you do and the products and services you provide. Otherwise, you may ruin your reputation before your brand has even begun to take shape.

Invest in your brand – It’s OK to ask for help: Building a brand from scratch is no easy feat, but don’t be scared. Having an experienced professional on your team who has done this before can make all the difference (especially one which has significant experience with start-ups). Marketing and branding specialists like William Joseph exist to help you realize your potential and succeed, right from initial research and analysis all the way up to branding and building your marketing plan.

While marketing is an investment, it is one that can generate powerful returns. See WJ’s previous blog on Why Start-ups Need Marketing  here.

Five Puzzling Brand Extensions

Each year thousands of new products enter the marketplace and many of these products will fail. Some are from new companies and others are launched by already established groups. Some of the most famous product flops of the last 40 years are New Coke, Betamax, and more recently Google Glass.

In addition to new product launches, established companies with strong brands will often attempt to extend their brand. When a direct correlation is made between the brand and the extension, for example Clorox Bleach expanding into a wider array of cleaning products, these extensions are successful. Successful brand extensions also leverage the qualities of the existing brand, as well as the emotional connection the brand makes with its consumers.

Why Brand Extensions Fail?

Arguably more interesting than the successful brand extensions are those that have failed. Brand extensions most often fail when a direct correlation is not made with the parent brand. A strong parent brand can be detrimental to launching sub-brands as consumer associations are so fixed they are impossible to overcome. In these cases, products should be launched as sub-brands instead of extensions. A sub-brand is a brand that operates on its own without a direct connection to the parent company. For example, Pfizer is the parent company for sub-brands, such as Advil, ChapStick, and Robitussin. All of these brands are stand alone.

At William Joseph, we work with many clients who are trying to market a wide array of products and services that are not always related. Through our strategic process we can determine whether these products and services can work under one brand or if they need to be segmented. Brands could be segmented as sub-brands or divisions or the parent brand.

There are lots of great examples available, but we have narrowed down the list to five famous, and definitely puzzling brand extensions.

  1. Kitchen Entrees by Colgate

In 1982, Colgate launched Kitchen Entrees by Colgate. These were frozen entrees intended to compete with products, such as Lean Cuisine. The strength of the Colgate brand was the downfall of this product, as the strong association of toothpaste with meals did not appeal to consumers.

  1. Zippo, The Woman Perfume

Another example where a strong association with the parent brand did not connect to the brand extension. Now off the market, Zippo Perfume was packaged in a bottle made to look like a large Zippo lighter. Customers could not help but think the perfume would smell like lighter fluid, not to mention the even stranger association of spraying yourself with a large lighter.

  1. Evian Waterbra

Popular bottled water company Evian made a brief foray into the lingerie/swimwear business. By all reports it is unclear what this product was all about. It could have been playing on the trend of bras enhanced with water gel or quite possibly just a bra filled with water to cool down. Some believe it was for water storage and it was also rumoured to be worn as a bikini. The odd association between bottled water and a bra were the first problems with this extension, as well as the lack of clarity around the purpose of the product. It was also released as a single product and not a line of items, not to mention who wants the Evian logo on their bra or swimsuit. Evian was reaching with this product and as a result, it was a huge failure.

  1. Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes

Smith & Wesson, the famous gun maker, produced a mountain bike that had little correlation with its famous guns other than the Smith & Wesson name. Although available for individual consumers it is now sold primarily as a mountain bike for police officers. There is also some speculation that Smith & Wesson bikes are manufactured by a different bike company and sold with the Smith & Wesson logo. There do not seem to be any advantages of owning this bike unless you are extremely loyal to the brand.

  1. Hello Kitty Beer

Hello Kitty is famous for brand extension and appears everywhere from children’s toys to bedsheets. Hello Kitty Beer is a low-alcohol beer targeted to women that comes in a variety of fruit flavours. Hello Kitty Beer could also be an attempt to expand for a children’s/teenage brand into an adult market, but blurs some lines and could be potentially disastrous.


In order to launch a successful brand extension it is important that there is direct correlation between your brand and the extension. Gather input on your brand extension internally and externally to determine this correlation. The connection may seem obvious to you on the inside, but the connection needs to be obvious and meaningful for the consumer. If product and focus group testing reveals that there is not an obvious connection, but you still feel the product is outstanding, consider developing a sub-brand. Use the resources of the parent brand, but launch the product on its own. This way you will enjoy a successful product launch and avoid failure and brand dilution.

Your Company: Naming and Renaming

The name of your company is more important than you think. It has influence on all of your interactions, and can affect your credibility, reputation and brand.

Did you know that some of the most successful corporate giants actually have unique stories behind their company’s name? Shell was inspired by the founder Marcus Samuel’s father, who had a business selling seashells in the early 1800’s. While on a boat trip with his father to collect more seashells, Marcus recognized the potential of oil trading, and thus Shell was born. Moved by the romance of the seas and nautical traditions of early coffee traders, Starbucks was named after a character in the novel Moby-Dick. While the most natural assumption for Apple, founded by Steve Jobs, is that it was named after the fruit, Steve actually came up with the name after returning from an apple farm and being moved by the “fun, spirited and entertaining” nature of the name.

Even the name William Joseph was devised from the very middle names of our founders. The reality is that inspiration behind a company’s name can come from just about anywhere at any time. When coming up with a company name, it is important to follow a few basic rules that will save you a lot of grief in the future:

  1. Pick something that is easy to remember. If your name is forgettable, your business is forgettable too.
  2. Don’t make it complicated. Make sure that your name doesn’t use complex spelling, sounds or imagery. If it’s not easy to pronounce, people are likely to forget it, bringing us back to point 1.
  3. Your name has to be relevant to your business, brand, and to the products and services you provide. In other words, it should tell your story. Alternatively, if your company name does not relate to what your company does, such as William Joseph, your logo and tagline should.
  4. It should be available, in terms of trademarking, domain names and website creation, branding, copywriting and for SEO purposes. Do your research ahead of time and test the market to make sure your name differentiates you from competition. If you own a new small burger business, you’re not going to call your company ‘The Burger King’. That is a battle you just cannot win.

As industries evolve and businesses grow, some companies find themselves in a place where their name, logo or brand does not match their current products, services or business goals. If this is the case, consider investing in a rename and rebrand. While there is likely a substantial amount of history, admiration and equity behind your existing company name, and renaming probably makes you nervous, as the WJ team always says, nervous is good. It means real change.

So why should you rename? Consider the following reasons:

  • Your name does not reflect your products, services or business goals
  • Your name is too generic, or competition is too large
  • Your target audience, and their values, have changed
  • You’re growing, want to build stronger branding and bring new air into your company
  • You’ve had bad PR, and need to start fresh
  • Your current name does not meet all of the recommended guidelines above (i.e. It is very difficult to pronounce and its spelling is complicated)
  • Your name is holding you back

Of course, rebranding and renaming can be a challenging and emotionally-charged process. William Joseph is highly experienced at guiding clients in times of change, developing bespoke visual identities that tell your story, and that follow the 4 rules outlined above. Reach out, and we can help guide the way.


What Cadillac Can Teach Us about Positioning a Brand

Positioning is about reflecting what you offer, who you offer it to, and how it’s different from the competition. Stated simply, a brand’s position is the space it occupies in consumers’ minds. A strong position can be a powerful asset for a brand. Volvo is the safe car. BMW is the ultimate driving machine. Both positions have served those companies well. Cadillac has tried to position itself as many things over its history with varying levels of success: comfortable and luxurious, bold and sporty, and artful and advanced. Positioning is more than a single association with a simple concept though, it defines what a brand does, who it’s for, and what makes it different.

To position a brand is to control perceptions of it in the marketplace relative to the competition so that it owns a certain position in customers’ minds, whether it is a product, service, or company. A well-positioned brand will be one of the top ones a consumer calls to mind when she needs what that brand offers. There are many forms of positioning, such as positioning for a certain type of customer, positioning relative to the competition, or positioning in a certain category, but all should present the brand in a differentiating, compelling, and most importantly authentic manner.

If a brand’s performance is weak or worsening or its offering is changing, a company might try to reposition it to excel under current market conditions. Repositioning involves changing a brand’s distinct position relative to the competition. It differs from rebranding in that a rebrand is more of an aesthetic overhaul of a brand. With a rebrand, the positioning statement and foundation of the company could stay the same, but the name, logo, colours, taglines, messaging, and even customer experience might change. One need not necessarily rebrand to reposition.

Since 2014, Cadillac has been repositioning itself to better attract younger buyers who are expressive, entrepreneurial, and nonconformist. Cadillac, once the car of Sinatra and Dean Martin was becoming the car of anyone from that era still around to drive. Cadillac was stuck in the past and not speaking to the right audience. Bring in Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s new CMO. With a CV that includes Montblanc and BMW, Ellinghaus had the insight that no other automobile was aligning itself with the entrepreneurial, fashion-forward, art-focused, and food-obsessed people of America’s metropolitan cities.

Because Ellinghaus understands Cadillac’s customers, its business, and its current environment, he has been able to successfully reposition the cars for a new audience while remaining true to the brand. The old Cadillac was powerful and luxurious. It catered to every need of its drivers and their passengers.  The pinnacle of the automobile industry, it was associated with sophistication, distinction, and the highest quality. It was the Cadillac of cars. It was also distinctly American and bold in styling. Under Ellignhaus, Cadillac is a brave American icon, a car that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and is unapologetically daring in its styling. Cadillacs stand out, and Cadillacs are for people who are bold enough to stand out, not just in terms of image, but in terms of pursuits and accomplishments. According to Cadillac, “Our world burns brightest for those who fly highest. For those for whom the life worth living exists just beyond one’s limits, Cadillac is the co-conspirator in their irrepressible pursuit of life.”

The key to Ellinghaus’ success repositioning Cadillac is authenticity. Before him, the company made several unsuccessful attempts at repositioning itself. For example, best known for enormous, comfortable luxury vehicles, Cadillac once tried to be sporty and high-tech. That’s not Cadillac. Cadillac is bold and American, with its art deco styling, entrepreneurial history, and powerful engines. Its new positioning seeks to attract a new audience, but authentically. Cadillac today is still based on the same brand identity: Bold Passion (breakthrough originality), Optimism (the spirit of America), and Sophistication (the quest for the exceptional). Its cars are still luxurious, powerful, and audacious in design, only they aren’t just for your grandfather anymore. Cadillac’s new position and marketing advances all its differentiating attributes, but in a manner that’s more compelling to younger audiences.

Though early, Cadillac’s efforts are already proving effective. In 2016, Cadillac sold the most cars since 1986, with an 11.1% YOY increase. In December 2016, global sales for the month rose 15.5% over the year prior.

“It was a stunning year for Cadillac’s global growth in 2016. Drawing more customers than any year in the past 30 is an excellent springboard for the robust product offensive from Cadillac in the coming years. While growing the business significantly and attracting a youthful and affluent demographic, we continue to elevate the aspirational character of the brand.” –Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen

Repositioning isn’t as easy as changing a positioning statement. Cadillac has completely transformed its marketing and even its operations. The company moved its headquarters to New York; it now focuses more on an aspirational lifestyle than the car itself in advertisements; and, it aligns itself with art, food, and fashion by hosting and sponsoring events related to them, among other tactics. Even with successful marketing, repositioning a company can take years, even a decade or longer. Cadillac’s resurrection as a boldly American automobile is just starting.