Human beings look for meaning. In the absence of meaning, they will create their own. If a brand has meaning that aligns itself with the most emotionally intensive beliefs of the target audience, then it becomes a success. If not, the brand fails. Simple as that.
With that in mind, let’s consider the office supply stores.
Staples, the market leader, positions itself with an intensity concerning ease of use (“that was easy”), a name that is relevant and a logo that feels effectively designed. Office Depot, the number two, has a bland brand name and a brand themeline (“taking care of business”) that is non-emotional and rarely used consistently enough.
Lastly there is Office Max, in third place, with a bland brand name, a themeline that is about OfficeMax rather than its customer and is almost pleading in its emotional intensity (“work with us”) and a logo that seems counterintuitive to working (it suggests “fun”).
When you look at the category and the brand position each has taken, it’s no wonder Staples is the market leader, Office Depot is second and OfficeMax brings up the rear.
The question OfficeMax needs to ask itself is why would a customer choose it? Staples is chosen because it makes everything simple for the customer. Use Staples if you need a simple solution. Office Depot, while providing no value explicitly, has associated itself – however lackluster – with the business category.
OfficeMax not only lacks value, but it has added further complexity by giving its brand a themeline that says nothing about who the customers are when they choose it. Consumers have to fill in the meaning.
OfficeMax needs to rebrand to make a dent in market share. The opportunity for OfficeMax is that Staples often does not use its intensity of “easy” very effectively. Even if it did, there are greater intensities in the market that OfficeMax could claim. If OfficeMax does not act urgently, however, it will continue to bring up the rear of the pack.