#Snapdeal rebranding: Visual Change Alone or Change in the Brand Core?

Snapdeal’s full page newspaper ad announcing its new brand identity came as a bit of surprise to someone used to seeing only realtors and occasionally Amazon and Flipkart cover jacket ads.

What did not come as a surprise that Snapdeal eventually changed its logo. I don’t claim to have any powers to prophesy, but way back in 2010, when I was happily ordering books from Flipkart(that’s the only thing apart from train ticket that I bought online then), someone pointed me to Snapdeal, and within few seconds, I told him that Snapdeal logo, in both colour and design would not do. Yes, I did! The logo appeared outdated and amateurish to me in colour, styling and what it appear to stand for.

In that sense the box logo, unveiled today comes from the question – What does Snapdeal do? It delivers (happiness). By the way, that is what Dominos Pizza also promises by “Khushiyon ki home delivery”.

That exactly is my point. Is delivery(implying convenience) and cost the only two values in the eyes of our marketers nowadays? Has the market not moved onward from an early discovery phase to something more mature? Amazon’s logo has an arrrow, Flipkart has a cart and now Snapdeal has a box. Do you get the continuum? I can hazard a guess that if there were a fourth player in this space, they would have a credit card as their logo, because that’s the only thing that’s missing from the deal!!

Coming to colour chosen, which is a shade or red, officially called vermello by Snapdeal, is nice. In my view, Snapdeal could have done with more of ‘gravitas’ into the logo by making it darker. Sounds contradictory?!!

Very unconventional, because one has traditionally associated only fast food outlets with red colour. But then, this is a subjective space and this is my opinion. But was this a rush job by any chance?


Will Audio Branding be the Next Competitive Frontier in Marketing?

Sound is a very important element of sensory branding. But before we begin, listen to the sound in the below audio clip.

For anyone of my generation who has grown up in India, the above sound, though only about 1 second, can evoke an instant nostalgia of a train journey. Give it a try. That’s the power of audio branding. A more laid-back variation of the same sound can be heard below. We will discuss the different attributes of these sounds little later in the post. Right now, have a listen.

We remain inundated with visual advertising all the time creating a communication clutter, which is only exploding. The power of audio branding, also called sonic or sound branding, comes from our ability to memorise sounds easily, and associate events, characters, places or brands with them.

The legendary Walter Werzova created the sound that we so strongly associate with Intel.It has the confidence of a leader, dash of techno, is agile and has gravitas, all rolled into hardly 2 seconds.


Here are some more audio marks, which have strongly created to the greater brand recall. Some of these, have changed over a period of time to be consistent with the contemporary branding requirements.

Automotive industry, particularly bikes, is a segment very distinctly identified with sound. But have we thought of why, for example, a Yamaha bike gives the Yamaha sound and a Harley has a specific sound signature? If fact, auto industry understood the power of audio branding much before others. They even spend huge money in a specialized branch of acoustics to develop those specific sounds that they think reflects their brand personality. And why not, if sound becomes a critical element in success or failure of a new model developed at huge cost. Check out this well compiled post on ‘The 12 Best Sounding Motorcycles of all Times’.   But it is not just the engine sound based branding that auto companies have invested in. A nice case study on European automaker Peugeot’s recent audio brand development activity is documented here.

Then there are engineering companies that help you get the desired sound for your vehicle. AVL, for one.

Is it fair to assume that audio branding tends to work only for the automotive industry? Banks, for example, can effectively use audio branding across multi-touch points – from music played on phone to branch to even ATMs. But there are some prerequisites that are required to be understood before embarking on audio branding. First, your audio logo is just like your visual logo – it reflects the personality of the brand and needs to convey the right attributes. And just like a professional logo development process, audio logo too costs time and money. I recommend you to read this excellent post on audio branding.

Going forward as we deal with more visual clutter, we will can expect brand managers to invest more creative energies in audio branding. In fact, we are at just the start of the competitive vroom.

Marketing Automation: Before Exuberance Gets the Better of You

It is easy to fall for the charms of the shiny new baby in town wooing marketing professionals by promising to fill the big hole that has long existed in a marketing process in the digitally connected world. That big gap was about actionable information on your website visitors and newsletters and the ability to action in quick time, with no sweat. Yes, by promising to convert strangers into delighted customers, Marketing Automation platforms  hold a lofty promise for your organisations. No wonder, organisations are racing to deploy Marketing Automation solutions such as Pardot, Act-on, Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot or even an open source solution, Mautic. But before, you sign on a platform, it might be worthwhile to look at some questions:

  1. Application and Data Security: I know it sounds cliched but let me tell you why this is at no 1. Inside a Marketing Automation reside your entire marketing assets (videos, whitepapers, case studies, newsletters, email drafts, business rules of operation), and vast amount of customer data, some known, some unknown and some partially known. Depending on what goes wrong, you could be staring somewhere between a nightmare – disaster continuum.
  2. Interop with CRM: Once a visitor to a site is reasonably known, and qualifies as sales lead, it is time to push this visitor into the CRM. Often that is a separate manual exercise and the sales and marketing teams continue to operate in silos after this handoff. That poor chap in sales has no idea that the prospect he is after, is silently looking at products different from what he is pitching in with. Irony of it? Looking for different product on their own website!
  3.  Data Interop with other Marketing Automation systems. Often vendors reassure you that your data can be extracted and given to you if the relationship is called off and you migrate to a new platform. But what to do with huge chunks of CSV files, if the new solution or platform is unable to load your ‘legacy’ data? Choices before you are: (a)lose your data, and (b) invest big monies in remapping and reloading the data, or even customising the solution.
  4. Reports: How good are the inbuilt reports?  Can I create my own reports? Is it very costly to get my own custom reports? How much time does it take to create new reports? Does it provide long range behaviour analytics?
  5. Digital Asset Management capabilities: The Digital Asset Management repository is the single place for all the images, audio, video, downloadable documents which your customer sees or downloads. These assets need to be often used in mailers or landing pages, edited, replaced or even retired.After a few hundred assets are added to a repository, it becomes difficult to locate or search an asset, sometimes even leading to duplication.  All new houses look great. But the real test is only when you move in your stuff.
  6. Codeless, really? In fact, all solutions promise you liberty from html coding, a skill is often not found in marketing teams. Drag and drop is  a nice term to hear, but get references that tell you the solution you are considering to buy does a good job of it. Even if you are a tech firm, begging for resource time from a client project to help straighten the CSS/html on a soon to go live landing page or the form is no fun – take it from me.
  7. Templates: How easy is it to setup custom templates for newsletter or landing pages? This is crucial because assets such as landing pages or newsletters are client exposed, and need to respect the organisation’s branding guidelines, which could be specific.
  8. Outcomes Measurement: You must find out how the success or failure of a campaign is measured in the solution under consideration. Else, you could be looking at dashboards that look nice, but don’t mean much.
  9. Total Cost of Ownership: Penny wise and pound foolish could come visiting, if the Marketing Automation solution chosen by you incurs low upfront cost, but requires, for example, a dedicated technical support. What if the premium templates that the marketing team can’t do without are priced separately, or if the solution is hosted on a less-than-quick service, which impacts productivity?
  10. Workflow: Most teams are geographically distributed today. Does the solution support workflow based reviews and approval?

Marketing is the last frontier of an enterprise to be invaded by IT. But today IT is central to a marketing team in a growth-seeking organisation. Do not  let yourself down by falling for exuberance.

A Poorly Chosen Brand Name Can Spoil the Party in this Digital Era

It all starts with a name. Over a period of time, a name becomes a brand name, and the brand name becomes the container that stands for the brand promise and embodies the brand values. A poorly decided name can even trouble a country as proven by the recent moves by Czech Republic to rename itself as Czechzia[More on that here].

Yet, one finds how the basics of name development and qualification are often given a go bye by the startups. For example, Vistara is a name that defies any naming logic (see my blog post on Vistara here). [Frankly, I think Vistara as a choice of name is a big fail].

Over a period of time, due to our heavy exposure to commercial messaging, our brains have started meaning discounting, which means essentially, that a name such as Blue Sky Airline, which may have made great sense in the 1950s when civil aviation was in early phase, would probably be seen has not having a distinctiveness now. And, if it were to be adopted by a new airline, it would hardly be seen as carrying any specific meaning or distinctiveness. So names have to be chosen to bring in some intrinsic advantage to a product or service even before full-fledged marketing takes over. Why? Because at startup stage every brand needs a trial and often the name is the only brand asset a startup has.

Yet, many startups fail to grasp this, mainly because they are too concerned with getting the tech right and hiring the teams and often take a name without doing a proper evaluation. I have friends whose tech companies are named Gazelle and Tranquil – what intrinsic value for the customer being targetted would such names bring to tech startups?

Choosing a well-considered name, therefore, is an opportunity to save lot of effort and money in establishing the basic purpose of your brand – maybe even taking our first five minutes of the introductory call or few words out of the intro email because it leverages the internal bias we have for those words.

Having gone through a name selection process, I can say it is a mix of deductive logic and a reasoned art. While there are tonnes of material available on the net about how brand names are selected, I feel many of them are from the times before digital became the centre of our lives. Hence, this is my way of approaching:

Distinctiveness: This is at the heart of brand name. Besides being able to stand out,  a name should have inherent stickiness within the target group. Frankly, that is why we need brand names in the first place! Think about a name such as Zovi when reading this point.

Phonetic Disambiguation: S-mart and Smart are different words, but they are hard to distinguish phonetically. If either of these brand names exist, you’d do well to stay out of this name. Plus, there are names that can be pronounced in more than one way, owing to prevailing pronunciation slants in the target group due to geography or cultural reasons.

Visual Disambiguation: Little and iittle are both going to look alike unless written with great care, particularly in lower case. A name should have only one possible spelling that’s where a name such as Grofers does wonders.

SEOability: It might appear odd to see it so high up here but if someone else is ruling that keyword globally, your brand starts its journey with a severe handicap. For example, if there is a movie such as Fan which will have huge volume of content on the net, never name your brand Fan (I know you wouldn’t have a name such as Fan for a product or service, but I have seen real cases of serious corporate brand names clashing with a blockbuster movie name and therefore, always figuring in page 3-4 for their own brand name). It will require huge SEO efforts to progress up and compete with the movie.

Domain name: This is extremely important. You should have an uncompromised TLD available for your business or product. It means no hyphens in between, no add-ons etc. Chose a country TLD only if your target market is that country alone because that is how search engines work.

App Store availability: This is crucial if your venture plans to have a mobile component to it. Do search Android, iOS, and if you are keen, Windows app stores to see if there are no apps that clash with the candidate name that you have developed.

Trademarkable: A brand name is yours only till you have a trademark right over it. In most cases, a name that exists in English dictionary will not be granted a trademark by the trademark office, particularly in India. More importantly, there should not be an existing registered trademark or trademark application pending for your chosen word.

Logoability: Vertical format logos for example, have vanished in the digital era because the logo has to be placed on the website as well as physical forms such as office branding, product literature and packing etc. Even if you are in digital business, you may be making branded gifting merchandise for your clients in the festival season and realize you have a problem in reproducing your logo in two colours. In addition, social media profiles such as Twitter and Facebook have their own size requirements and a vertical logo does not work well. Square and horizontal logos work well. And if your brand name is too long, it will not fit in one line below the logo or the font will have to be too small, killing the personality of the name as well as hitting the readability.

Twitterable: An unqualified Twitter handle should be available for your brand. Check out before you finalize.

Pronounability: A name such as Triskaidekaphobia may possibly meet many of the above criteria, but if the target group is rural and unable to pronounce the name, consider your brand as done! [To those curious about Triskaidekaphobia, it means fear of number 13!!]. Car companies are master of this art and that’s why you have lovely names such as Kwid and Tiago.

Nonnegativity: Negative names such as Monster and Fossil evolves into a bearer of positive promise due to sustained brand building efforts. But if you are likely to be a little light on your brand spend, don’t do this adventure. Plus, examine the same sound in other languages, at least, widely prevalent languages in your market or home location, and in colloquial use as well. Do ensure that your chosen brand name does not rhyme with a cuss word.

Meaning Correlation to Offering:  A brand name should have this as boolean, but no intermediate values. For example, a name such as  Freshdesk clearly hints at its offering via its name and seeks to suggest a differentiator in the name itself. Names such as Upgrad, Coursera etc work very well in the educational context. But Udemy is somewhere in between and perhaps score lower in this score. You can even look at newly coined composite words that do not relate to what your product or service offers but no midway names.

Intrinsic Pull Score: A name such as Urbanclap clearly touches on an urban problem of finding a plumber or electrician on the go. It has a great intrinsic value and the brand will reap its reward in the times to come.

Call to Action: If you are a product or service, you would like to give an implicit call-to-action messaging via the brand name itself.

Curiosity Value: Some names make you curious. Such names are great at getting  digital footfalls and in inducing trials.  Chances are, that if you see an online apparel ad for a brand such as Cabbage you may find it unusual, and click the ad.

I write this post because I often see how casually some startups choose their corporate or product brand name and become a victim of its gross negative score.

And last but not the least, someone recently checked with me how the name xStacy would sound for a retail hyperlocal brand. Please suggest me an answer!