Companies need to build trust to build a successful brand
Great brands are made, not born. Ask any marketing expert and they’ll tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to build the recognition and trust necessary to create an indelible brand for a product or company.
“Really and truly that is what a brand is — trust,” says Nancy Stephens, an associate professor of marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “When I see your brand mark on your service or your product, that tells me, ‘Yes, I know that company, I’ve had great experiences there every time, I know I can trust it. If it’s different, I don’t know if I can trust it, but maybe I can give it a try and I’ll see if I can.’”
The Valley is home to major companies that have dealt with significant branding issues over the last decade. The first, and most high profile, came about as the result of America West Airlines’ merger with US Airways in 2005. Almost overnight, a brand that had been ubiquitous in Arizona disappeared.
“It was a difficult decision to give up the America West name for us, because it was just so well-known and, we’d like to think, well-loved within the Valley and also certain communities like Las Vegas where we have another hub,” says Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for US Airways.
Eventually, of course, America West took on the US Airways name because company executives felt it better captured the more national and global direction the airliner was heading toward. Not unexpectedly, the name change created confusion among customers.
“We had logistical issues,” Mohr says. “US Airways had their ticket terminals in Terminal 2 in (Sky Harbor International Airport) and America West had theirs in Terminal 4. For some flights, you had to go to Terminal 2, for some you needed to come to Terminal 4. And then we had two separate ticket counters because there were two separate reservation systems at the airline. That could be rather confusing and frustrating to a customer.”
In the end, Stephens says the test for any company re-branding itself is how customers will react — and how the company will respond.
“(Changing a brand) is not an ideal thing to do and it’s an expensive thing to do because you’re going to have to send a message to a very crowded market that says, ‘We were that, now we’re this,’ ” she says. “I would not hammer with the media money until you have the experience down right, because then you get killed. Because if you say, ‘We’re still the same great company and we really care about you, and it’s going to be efficient and our employees are going to be very nice to you,’ and it’s not that way, then all your media money works against you.”
Another longtime Arizona company that is in the process of re-branding itself is the former Phelps Dodge. Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold acquired Phelps Dodge in 2006. Despite the radical name change, Stephens says Freeport-McMoRan has different branding challenges than those faced by a retail customer-fueled corporation. Freeport-McMoran is a business-to-business company, but it still has constituents in the form of suppliers, buyers, investors and even the communities in which the old Phelps Dodge made its mark.
Another branding challenge companies’ face is when they take steps to change the look or even the name of a product. Locally, the Shamrock Foods Company decided to change things up in 1994 by creating the Shamrock Farms line of products, revamping its packaging and adding an illustrated “spokescow” named Roxie. It was a daring move for a company that had been around since 1922 in an industry not known for generating much excitement.
“They have taken a really boring, old product and made it pretty exciting with this new packaging,” Stephens says.
Sandy Kelly, director of marketing for Shamrock Farms, admits shaking things up was exactly what the company had in mind.
“It was a real pivotal turning point for the business overall and for the brand,” Kelly says. “We really looked at what was going on and how other consumer packaged goods brands went to market, and what we realized was that the dairy industry has typically been more commodity driven and there isn’t a lot of branding going on nationally. So we wanted to be different.”
Kelly adds that consumer focus groups continue to say they love Roxie, and as a result, the bovine has become the cornerstone of the company’s marketing campaign. In 1998, in an effort to take on soft drinks, Shamrock made some noise again by introducing milk in single-serve bottles instead of the traditional carton. The single-serve bottles are available across the country, including at 21,000 Subway locations. Just recently, Subway launched a milk mustache television ad featuring the company’s spokesman, Jared, holding a single-serve bottle of Shamrock Farms milk.
Also, the company has launched a new line of organic milk and emphasizes that it does not use the synthetic hormone rBST on its dairy cows.
While the company continues to update and add to its brand, it hasn’t lost sight of what makes a brand successful.
“We use the saying: ‘Tradition meets innovation,’” Kelly says. “We have a lot of trust built up with our consumer, but at the same time, we’ve been able to stay relevant with the needs of today, which is a challenge, especially in the dairy category. We’ve been able to have that trust, we’ve been able to build that trust.”