The different world of John Hancock

Readers of this blog, visitors to our site and all our clients know that Stealing Share develops brands that are a reflection of the audience. That’s how you build preference.

The shocking thing to us is how few brands actually practice that. Most brand messaging – or just messaging in general – is either identical to the competition or about the brand itself, or both. That’s the single biggest reason why there is stagnation in most markets.

Therefore, there’s always a bit of elation when a brand actually practices the art of having a brand face, who customers believes they are when they use the brand.

Even though it doesn’t go far enough (more on that later), the new ad campaign for John Hancock does it right. The campaign, with the heading of “Different World, Different Approach,” actually considers who the target audience has become.

One of the spots features a variety of couples getting married, including interracial and same-sex couples. That ad is nice, but the one tilted “CEO” is the winner.

It works because the hallway of past CEOs represents the old way of doing business. In an indirect way, it positions John Hancock against the competition. When the young Hispanic woman walks past the row of profiles, we know it is a different world – a direct reflection of the world we live in today.

The brand of John Hancock needs to make the next step.

Kudos to John Hancock and its ad agency, Hill Holiday, for this campaign. The campaign is terrific, but here’s the problem. The brand is still the same. This is just an advertising campaign. It does not signify a radical shift with the brand. It may be a different world, but it’s the same old John Hancock.

So, this campaign will air over the next few months, then John Hancock will switch to another ad campaign and what the brand of John Hancock means will remain unchanged.

To prompt a true change in the market, one that creates preference, John Hancock needs its brand to reflect the target audience. It’s all well and good that it has a campaign that does, but long-term preference comes from the brand.

The rebrand of MasterCard isn’t a rebrand

Doing a re-launch of a brand is hard work to get it right. You have problems to overcome, not just with your outward face like a your current logo, but also what you do operationally. You have to do hard quantitative research, examine the competition (so you are positioned against it) and slay any sacred cows within the company.

MasterCard
MasterCard introduces MasterPass but not much else.

The re-launch of an updated MasterCard brand gets it only half right, but in a weird way. The credit card company now has an app that you use to pay, ala the Apple Store app. This is the wave of the future where physical cards become extinct. (A purchasing app is also something retailers should do more often.)

MasterCard with its MasterPass app has taken the first step forward and I expect its competition, such as Visa and Capital One, to follow suit. In fact, because MasterCard has always had an old feel to me, I’m a little surprised that MasterCard was the first to step forward.

Why MasterCard did not truly rebrand.

MasterCard got the operational part of the brand re-launch right, but the new logo is actually just a refresh of its old one. It won’t affect target audiences much. It might help it get rid of that old feel a bit. But it doesn’t have a new promise or anything new to say. And it’s not connected with anything new MasterCard is doing, such as MasterPass.

Companies are loath to completely rebrand, which is why I’m using the word re-launch. That seems to soothe companies because a rebrand sounds scary.

To steal market share, all options must be on the table. That’s why the slaying sacred cows edict is so important. Companies are wary that a complete rebrand will scare away current customers, but that’s not true. They are already ambassadors of the brand. The target audiences you want to reach are the customers of your competition.

MasterCardThe old adage goes that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That’s what MasterCard has done here. It has, I’m sure, poured money and time into this re-launch and it will have negligible effect. It will be left wondering why the re-launch didn’t move the needle and its leaders will believe that any kind of future rebrand would fail.

But that’s because MasterCard did not rebrand.

Brexit succession means nobody wins

The unthinkable happened with Brexit

Brexit is racismBrexit was a bloodless civil war. We have come along way (or have we?). Time was an obscure Archduke could be assassinated in Bosnia and the whole world would be dragged into a global war later called the First World War in history books.

In 1861, the United States of America began a bloody struggle to decide the legality of succession. We called that fight the Civil War and it took four blood soaked years and millions of lives to settle. In the end, the decision was made that no state was sovereign enough to resign its place in the United States.

Shelby Foote famously said that, before the Civil War, people said the United States “Is” and after the Civil War they said The United States “Are”.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom VOTED to leave the European Union. In our Twitter world, the vote was shortened to Brexit. It is an example of how blind nationalism can cloud judgment and how people will emotionally vote for things that in the long term are not in their own best interest. I wonder if Scotland wishes it had another shot at their historic vote to remain in the United Kingdom? Scotexit never became a word.

Brexit means?

Brexit winsI think a great deal of world stability will be shaken by this vote. I can see further troubles stirring in Northern Ireland again. I believe the uncertainty in the world’s monetary systems will shake rattle and roll the financial markets for a while as the global community tries to discount this tsunami of change. Everything we have come to rely on in this global world has been challenged.

But the reason I write this is because NO ONE doubts the RIGHT of the UK to secede (not to be confused in any way with succeed).

In the US, we thought the illegality of succession was decided and written in blood 150 years ago. Americans believe we have a corner on the market when it comes to freedom and liberty. We are wrong.

Freedom of self-determination was just exercised in Europe to an extent we can’t even fathom in the US. Had this RIGHT been self evident, I would be penning this blog in the Confederate States of America because I live in North Carolina—a state that lost 1 out of every 4 casualties at Gettysburg  during the Civil War.

To me, it does not matter if you think the American Civil War was fought over state’s rights or slavery. The impetus for the temporary dissolution of the United States in the late 1800’s was due to a racist issue.

I think the same is true for Brexit.

Racist underpinnings

I don’t believe it was so much an economic issue as it was over a war on immigration. The UK did not want Europe dictating immigration policy. They just don’t want THEM settling in the UK any more.  Think about it, the UK never surrendered their currency to the Euro. The Pound  Sterling remained.

BrexitSo much for economics driving succession.

I find Brexit a sad move. Not for all the obvious reason of a common market and ease of travel. I find it sad that bigotry wins anywhere and under any circumstances.

You can have your DNA tested for just a couple of dollars (or Euros or pounds) these days. It points to your REAL ancestry.

Funny, the differences are very small. We all began in Africa and are very much the same. Only the adopted and insignificant drapery of religious preference and favorite cuisine separates us all one from another.

The confusing Google Alphabet structure

Google announced that it is forming Alphabet to be a holding company of sorts for all of Google’s many and varied businesses. The explanation for this new venture is that Google wanted to separate its money-making businesses from those still in development. That way, the thinking goes, it will be more transparent to Wall Street.

Okay fine, but I don’t really see how creating a parent company is any different than what Google has now and Alphabet is certainly not a better name. YouTube, for example, is not known as Google or even YouTube by Google. It is simply YouTube and the same can be said for Android.

For the sake of simplicity and focus, why add an additional name to confuse matters? The Google division of Alphabet will most likely always dictate what the other business units can and can’t do. The money Google makes has a direct relationship to what, where and how far the other moonshot ideas can go.

That is the way it always has been with Google. Or do I now call it Alphabet?

Adding to the complexity.

I understand the financial desire to break apart disparate businesses. But the reality is that companies already do that with adding complexity. Sony reports the sales figures of each of its divisions, as do all conglomerates. But even with the mistakes that Sony has made over the years, it has kept its name intact.

Here’s the kicker – Sony’s mistakes are well documented, including by me. (Particularly as they related to missing out on combining its music catalogue with its music player only to be kicked in the teeth by Apple’s iPod and iTunes.) But it remained one company with one name.

Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?
Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?

This Google Alphabet structure is running a terrible risk of losing the innovative culture that has propelled the Google brand to be one of the most successful companies on the planet. Adding another layer of bureaucracy, management and complication will not make Google Alphabet more innovative as some have predicted. Instead, it has the real possibility of squashing innovation.

The success of Google has always been the result of it applying its wealth of knowledge from computing to consumer data to infrastructure to other seemingly non-related endeavors, taking brain power from one area and applying to others. Creating a parent creates unnecessary compartments that Google has never had before. In essence, creating a parent company is a direct conflict with its company culture.

Google is relinquishing a portion of its brand equity, throwing away the power of its brand and creating an inefficient brand architecture that it really did not need. Brand is about being clear and simple and easy to understand. Alphabet or Google (I don’t even know what to call it) has done the exact opposite on all counts. Alphabet is not clear, simple and easy to understand.

I have been involved with many companies who claim they are highly innovative and the one thing I know for sure is that red tape kills innovation. Google has created red tape. It’s no longer one Google, it is a collection of companies.

Alphabet will have a honeymoon phase where everyone will play nice and get along. But I have a feeling that, over time, cross pollination of ideas will begin to slow down and some of Google’s world-class talent will view the new structure as a hindrance to being innovative and find that their once beloved Google is now just a corporate cog in ABC company.

NYSE United glitches?

Boy, am I glad I wasn’t traveling yesterday. Thankfully, I’m in Switzerland this week on business and some vacation time, enjoying the sight of the Alps and eating European cuisine.

From my vantage point across the ocean, however, I have to admit I was alarmed when the New York Stock Exchange went down because of computer failures at the same time United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal website powered down.

What if the stock market was still down?
What if the stock market was still down?

For many of us, I’m sure, the NYSE United glitches made us immediately think of cyber terrorism. It couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?

That’s where we are today and I’m still not entirely convinced that it wasn’t some sort of hacking. I’m not the conspiracy type (I believe Oswald worked alone) but it says something about the world that, despite proclamations from NYSE, United and Homeland Security, I’m not totally bought in.

Where does this fear come from?

As a student of human behavior, I’ve been asking myself where does that belief come from? Is it still the aftershocks of 9/11? For my generation, that tragedy demonstrated that we as a nation are vulnerable, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was for my parents’ generation.

I think that’s part of it, but I think it goes a little deeper. We are now so intertwined with our technology that the thought that it might harm us is frightening.

Black MirrorThe fear is like something out of Black Mirror, a UK anthology series (streaming on Netflix) that feeds on the fear that we’re too dependent on technology.

Now, I say this knowing I am a technology freak. I love technology. It has made my life easier, happier and more fulfilling. Really. I do hold a belief that technology can make the world a better place.

Naïve, I know, because, after yesterday, I know how dangerous that belief can be. If it was cyber terrorism, what if the NYSE was still down? Worldwide economies would be destroyed.

What if United was still down? Well, I’d have to stay in Switzerland longer. That just means more fondue for me.