What “Hoosiers” Can Teach Us About Brand Management

In a piece for Advertising Age aptly titled, "Sometimes You Need to Let the Town Drunk Coach the Team," Tom Denari, president of the Indiananpolis-based ad firm Young & Laramore, explains how Angelo Pizzo’s cinematic masterpiece (a.k.a. "the best movie ever made" in this critic’s opinion) can help you manage your brand. The advice is timely and quite creative. Here’s a 20-second timeout’s worth, but I’d advise you read the whole thing:

Work on the boring stuff, like defense and ball handling, first. When Coach Norman Dale arrived at Hickory High, he didn’t just roll out the ball and start scrimmaging. Instead, he wanted to see what kind of talent he really had, and then he worked his players tirelessly on the basics of the game to ensure their fundamentals were sound. Dribbling around chairs and doing defensive drills wasn’t fun for his players, but these basics had to be sharp before they’d be ready to play a game.

Too often, new CMOs want a quick fix, thinking a new campaign or a new ad agency will solve everything. They choose to jump into the most outward demonstration of change — the advertising and communications plan. While it’s the easiest aspect to adjust, a new campaign will make the least amount of difference if your brand’s fundamentals aren’t right.

Before you change your campaign, ask yourself a few questions. Can you easily state your brand’s promise? Is your brand’s product offering deficient in any way? Is your pricing appropriate? Does your service model support what your brand stands for? Until these basics are tended to, the communications part of the equation is meaningless. Too often, we forget that brands are more about the consumer’s experience with a product than the ad campaign that tries to sell it. One of the best examples of a company that gets this is Zappos, which is completely focused on the unglamorous, hard work of getting its service model right. Making sure that its service is consistent at every consumer touchpoint has paid big dividends beyond any ad campaign it could have produced.

Sit the player that doesn’t follow the game plan. During Hickory’s opening night of the season, Coach Dale yanked star player Rave out of the game, even though he was making one-handed set shots one after another. Why? Because Rave wanted to play fast and loose, ignoring his coach’s game plan of passing five times before shooting. Despite Rave’s early scoring, his coach knew that instilling discipline and sacrificing short-term gains would lead to team success later.

Especially given the current environment, exercising discipline is difficult. What are you doing in the name of short-term results that you’ll regret later? Are you selling a product that doesn’t fit your brand promise? Are you discounting to the point that it’s mortgaging your brand strength? Don’t forget that a brand is not static — it’s either getting stronger or weaker. Which direction is yours headed?

Wisconsin Tourism Foundation (WTF) Changes Branding Over Abbreviation, Takes Heat

Anyone even remotely associated with social media these days is familiar with the cute little abbreviations that dominate text messages, Twitter updates, and — unfortunately — now general correspondence. You know, LOL (laugh out loud); BRB (be right back); OMG (Oh my God); and of course, WTF? (What the … "frig?").

Naturally, the latter has become a bit of a sticking point for the Wisconsin Tourism Foundation (WTF), causing the organization to ultimately change its name to the Tourism Foundation of Wisconsin  (TFW) — even though it had been around for 30 years. Communications company Ragan.com took the TFW to task for caving into the confusion, rather than embracing it. From their PR Junkie blog, they offer:

Wisconsin, you blew it.

The Associated Press reports that your Wisconsin Tourism Federation — WTF — quietly rebranded in July, changing its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin — TFW.

Get it? WTF to TFW.

So, what prompted this rebranding? After all, Wisconsin’s WTF was around well before teens, and later adults, started saying WTF to mean “what the f***.”

“Blogs started poking fun at it,” the Association Press reported.

Because blogs started poking fun at it? Really? One blog, it seems, made fun of it. That blog is called YourLogoMakesMeBarf.com. On July 1, the blog posted the Tourism Federation’s logo with this comment, “would really think someone would warn them about this kind of stuff.”

Ouch. Better call up the PR SWAT team for that one.

Other blogs and articles are claiming the people of Wisconsin cracked wise about the acronym endlessly, and the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, a group of businesses in the state, finally got sick of it. Clearly, the blog YourLogoMakesMeBarf.com played a strong hand in the decision, given the timing.

It was a big mistake. This organization had a marketing goldmine. Wisconsin’s “WTF” was branded in 1979. So, WTF, optimize it! Next time someone types WTF into Google, there’s your site. Someone types WTF into a Facebook update or Gmail e-mail and an ad for Wisconsin appears.

What are your thoughts? Should the WTF have changed its name, or simply celebrated its unexpected entry into the world of new age jargon?