We are fast approaching tax season and that means one thing: We will see lots of ads for H&R Block. A few years back, there was news about H&R Block’s rebranding, which simply means it updated its logo and refreshed its color palette.
This year, the familiar tax return firm has tried to update its look a bit again, this time featuring a grandfatherly looking gent, seated at a desk in a suit and H&R Block green bowtie.
It is an interesting visual and there are some positives to be said about it, but there is a part of the advertising that feels insincere.
I want you to think about brand as if it were architecture and design. Not a pure marketing play. So ask yourself the question, does form follow function? In the case of these ads, the lime green bow tie seems contrived in reinforcing what the company believes is its brand. H&R Block doesn’t really understand the value that its customer must place in the company to use it. We don’t want to see it as puffery and as an illusion. We want to see it as clear, concise and focused.
Now, H&R Block is not the choice of most professionals. Those with any real tax issues to navigate beyond filling out a standard form, well, they have accountants to do the work. So in many ways, H&R Block is not competing for serious business, it is competing with the dirt-cheap software that allows millions to do their filing in a jiffy and file the return electronically. Block overlooks this avenue, even though it also has software. Instead, it focuses on our new medical care program and its tax implications.
This seems like the confusion of subject matter and reality. Much like the urban myth that we invaded Iraq because it had something to do with the 911 World Trade Center attack. This is not politics with deep-felt affinity to a nation or a political party. This is commerce.
I fear this confused brand message is ill thought out and is a desperate grab at any lifeline H&R Block can find or fabricate.
It’s time it put the storefront to bed and migrate to the do-it-yourself software H&R Block already has. But it might be too late for that.