Why The Return of “Geoffrey the Giraffe” Demonstrates the Power of Brand Marketing

A recent conversation with a business executive reminded me that, for many non-marketers, there’s often vagueness or even confusion about the term “branding” and its application.

I suspect it’s connected to a fuzziness about what marketing is/does in general and the use and power of brands, branding and brand management in particular. That’s unfortunate because excellent marketing and effective brand management can be cornerstones for strong customer relationships and sustainable long-term business success.

Take last week’s announcement that Kroger is mounting a major 2018 holiday season push to sell specially branded toys via the launch of Geoffrey’s Toy Box across a multi-banner network of nearly 600 supermarkets.  The branded store-within-a-store is a reconstituted marketing and brand concept created from Toys “R” Us intellectual property. More on this in a moment.

Credit: Geoffrey LLC.

First, as a general principle, when it comes to your products and services, it’s an excellent idea to brand them. Doing so creates a distinct identity and perception with your customer that can generate sales, establish differentiation and produce loyal, repeat business. Lack of a brand name may put you into an unknown, generic box with everyone else. Continue reading

Why Every Marketer Dreams of a Wiffle Ball Type Customer Connection

WIFFLE®, the beloved and iconic American brand of white plastic ball and yellow bat, celebrates its 65th birthday this year.

While you can buy other baseball-size, plastic balls, there is no comparison when it comes to the combination of Wiffle’s performance and emotional attachment. These two factors make the 65-year sales run an excellent marketing and brand management achievement. The National Toy Hall of Fame agrees. They inducted the ball last year.

Photo Credit: Harvey Chimoff.

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Brand Management Dilemma: Grow, But Don’t Kill the Core

I think, in retrospect, we may have tried too hard to attract new guests. That left some of our fans shaking their heads, asking ‘What happened to Applebee’s?’

Patrick Lenow (VP Communications and Public Affairs, DineEquity – August 10, 2017)

That’s an eye-opening, unusually direct assessment. There’s even more blunt analysis from Applebee’s president.

First, let’s set the stage with some framing thoughts on brand management.

A Quick Primer – What To Do and Not Do

It’s a constant dilemma and challenge: how to expand the appeal of brand x and/or position it for growth without alienating existing customers and destroying the core business.

Depending on the type of product or service, many actions can be implemented, such as: product upgrades, promoting secondary usage, launching new products, stimulating growth of the overall category, expanding distribution channels, developing brand refresh/renovation tactics, or even complete repositioning.

JCPenney failed.

Domino’s seems to have had success.

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. is trying to reboot their image and brand positioning.

Effective brand management requires smart discipline. To borrow from Ringo Starr, it don’t come easy.

► Building brands is a process, which requires steady, disciplined hands at the helm. It can take time and money. Unfortunately, steady discipline, time and money can be in short supply in CEO suites and boardrooms where results are measured short-term in weeks and quarters. Plus, marketing teams themselves can fall victim to a lack of steady discipline on occasion. Continue reading

Marketing Blasphemy: Don’t Use Your Logo?

Google famously broke the rules about brand logo use.

Logo Branding MarketingWhile their maverick approach has paid off, general best practice guidelines are still relevant.  Consistent logo use across marketing communications is one.

Another best practice is making sure you have contextual appreciation and a corresponding usage plan.  Unfortunately, when that fails, the outcome is lousy communication.

For example, take the billboard that’s impossible to absorb at 65 miles per hour. The creative probably looked great on the computer, where the approver had time to take it all in at close range.  But not on the interstate highway.

Another example is retail signage.  Whether designed to be read from a fast-moving vehicle or just at a distance in the parking lot, the same principle applies: the communication must register quickly.

Of course, maybe the logo itself needs some design improvements.

Graphic credit: Olive Tree Marketplace website.

Graphic credit: Olive Tree Marketplace website.

Which leads me to the Olive Tree Marketplace, soon to open its second store in Denville, NJ.

The self-described “perfect hybrid of gourmet meets grocer” seems to offer an exciting food shopper experience:

“Our name was derived from all the healthy and natural ingredients we sell in our market and the inspired gourmet food we prepare with Italian, French, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean influences.  Our complete line of natural, organic and gluten-free products along with our extensive deli, baked goods, gourmet prepared food, fresh seafood departments and chef-made gourmet catering is combined with everything you’d find in your conventional market.”

Great.  I know what to expect and will visit.  But what about the thousands of cars passing by on the 50 mph state highway every day?  Will they be able to take note of the name and follow-up like me?

Not likely.  Here’s the temporary sign on the main shopping center stanchion. You can’t read the logo driving by — nor via full-zoom on my smartphone camera.

Denville Commons shopping center - Denville, NJ. August 10, 2015. Credit: Harvey Chimoff.

Denville Commons shopping center – Denville, NJ. August 10, 2015. Credit: Harvey Chimoff.

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BoltBus Provides A Branding Ticket To Ride

Advertising Age magazine just named BoltBus one of “America’s Hottest Brands.”

Not knowing who this company was or why it was so hot, I had to investigate.

First, some background.  In March 2008, BoltBus was launched in the Northeast United States, and currently operates roundtrip service to New York City or Washington, D.C. via four markets:  New York City, Boston, Philadelphia (including Cherry Hill, NJ) and Washington, D.C. (including Greenbelt, MD).  BoltBus, headquartered in Secaucus, N.J., is a division of Greyhound Lines, Inc., operated in affiliation with Peter Pan Bus Lines.

Apparently, Greyhound’s objective was to target urban professionals, college students and commuters traveling on the popular Northeast corridor, and to penetrate a segment of the market known as “Chinatown buses” (provide curbside service from one city’s Chinatown district to another).

Here’s what’s interesting about BoltBus from a marketing perspective:

  • In order to jettison any Greyhound “baggage” that might prevent the success of the new enterprise, the company created a new brand;
  • To reduce operating costs associated with being located in city bus terminals (building and labor overhead), BoltBus adopted a curbside pick-up service model.  In other words, the bus stops at designated street locations similar to intra-city bus service;
  • BoltBus offers free wireless internet access and seat-back electrical outlets, perfect for today’s connected travelers, plus extra leg room;
  • BoltBus has a unique pricing scheme, in which seats start as low as $1 and then are priced according to demand;
  • You can order your tickets in advance on-line, or buy them right at the bus;
  • There’s a frequent traveler, loyalty program.

Greyhound used California ad agency Butler Shine Stern & Partners to help create the new BoltBus brand.  For the marketing launch, BoltBus worked with key, urban bloggers and utilized media relations outreach to create awareness and demand.


Brand extension is over-used.  Don’t be afraid to create a new brand if your new product or service has a different target and positioning. Yes, it’s more expensive to launch a new brand than to piggy-back on the current brand, but the idea is to be successful and win in the market, not to save money.  Remember to make sure you fully evaluate branding options when you start your next new product development project.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.