You Don’t Look Like Yourself

Johnny Molson


Got a look?  Don’t mess with it.

“Well, in the newspaper I have a coupon for 30% off your first visit.  My website is a template from Shopify, that’s really for the Millennials.  I have radio ads on that “listen-at-work” station talking to soccer moms, and my billboard is a picture of my granddaughter.  Isn’t she cute?”

Overthinking your message and trying to guess how to talk to different audiences only causes confusion.  Your customers need to know who you are and what you stand for.  If your message gets squishy because you’re trying to say the perfect thing that “doesn’t alienate,” you end up with a faceless department store mannequin.  Nothing is wrong with it…but nothing is particularly right, either.



1837 Blue

The iconic color of Tiffany’s gift boxes is always one color.  Pantone, the color standardization company, lists it as #1837.  It isn’t teal, it isn’t robin-egg, it isn’t baby-blue.  It’s #1837.  It’s always #1837.  No other hue, gradation, or variation is allowed.  It’s registered with the United States Trademark and Patent Office under serial number 86571740.

Don’t mess with your look.


Tom Bodett

The first time you heard “Hi, Tom Bodett for Motel 6…,” his name was likely foreign to you.  In 1984 he was living in Alaska, occasionally contributing to NPR’s All Things Considered.  In 1986 he was asked to voice radio commercials for Motel 6.  He is still the voice over 30 years later.  “But what if some people don’t like homespun stories with a midwestern twang?”  Those people can go sleep at Red Roof Inn.  As you know, Red Roof Inn is the place where… … … … hmm.  I don’t know what Red Roof Inn is known for.  They’ve had 48 different voices and sounds while Motel 6 has had only 1.

Don’t mess with your voice.



Baby Back Ribs

“I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back…I want my (Chili’s) baby back baby back baby back (Baby back ribs!)… Chili’s Baby back Ribs… (barbeque sauce).” 

A jingle so infectious, Chili’s couldn’t help bringing it back after it lay dormant for 20 years.

But they also couldn’t help screwing with the words.  The temptation was too big for a twitchy ad writer and the present-day reboot of their jingle is a hodgepodge of unsingable, and unmemorable words.

“When was the last time you had a great lunch…Chili’s has lunches for just $7…Just $7 for 10 awesome lunches…’Cuz lunch is back, baby…It’s Chili’s for lunch…Chili’s is back, baby back baby back.”

You can almost hear the committee saying, “Instead of highlighting our signature baby back ribs and being known for something, let’s reverse the words and say 10 lunches are back, baby!”

That rolls off the tongue like a cat choking up a hairball and sounds just as attractive.

Don’t mess with your words.


The Red Collection

The aforementioned Red Roof Inn recently introduced a “soft brand” they are calling The Red Collection.  A “soft brand” is hotel-chain terminology that appears to be a guerrilla marketing tactic against luxury hotels.  Fair enough.  But upon driving past one of Red Roof’s test locations for this concept, there is a glaring flaw:  The Red Collection displays Red Roof’s stylized “roof” icon above the word Red.  My perception of what was a nice hotel, suddenly became a mediocre motel.  The consumer will never think of Red Roof Inn as a “nice hotel” no matter what color of lipstick they put on it.

The correct approach is what Honda and Toyota did.  Honda and Toyota are good mid-to-upper range cars.  They are not luxury cars.  The solution:  Honda becomes “Acura,” and Toyota becomes “Lexus.”  Now they can play luxury car game, minus any baggage of being a mid-range brand.

Don’t mess with who you are.

(And if you must to be someone else, BE SOMEONE ELSE)


From your website, to your office, to your business cards, to your Facebook page, to your uniforms, to your TV ads, to the language your staff uses on the phone— you must have a consistent look, feel, and voice.  If I ever lose the scent of who you are and what you stand for, you can expect I’ll lose confidence and trust that you’ll be consistent and reliable.

Consistency and reliability are two of the strongest tools in your brand-making toolbox.

Don’t mess with it.


Johnny Molson

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