LiveStrong – The risk of not creating a “real” brand

LiveStrongFoundationby Tony Fannin, CEO/Partner, BE Branded  |

Recently, LiveStrong has announced a legal change of name and logo. It is now LiveStrong Foundation (see graphic). Executive VP, Andy Miller, noted in a speech, “The change is subtle but it is substantive. The positioning of the bars suggests forward and dynamic movement.”

This is a great case that demonstrates the benefits and risks of having your brand so closely tied to a celebrity or founder.

Benefits –
• You do get immediate credibility and that generates quick support and cash flow
• You do get quick brand recognition without having to build one
• You get inexpensive advertising and PR

Risks –
• You fail to create a strong brand that goes beyond the celebrity or founder. As a result, the brand is limited in it’s potential. When they fall or disappear, so does the brand.
• There will be a high probability any brand achievements will be overshadowed by the celebrity
• The advertising and PR asset will backfire and burn your brand to the ground

LiveStrong is not the only brand that has run the risk of being too closely tied to an individual. For example, Apple is facing a critical period since the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was credited for being THE source for any creativity and innovation at Apple. If this perception lingers, Apple stock will eventually take a beating.

If brands want to thrive long into the future, they must keep the individual brand of the celebrity/founder to a minimum. Individuals who understand this created brands that meant something far beyond themselves or any other individual. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard understood this from their garage beginnings. They set out to create brand HP, not brand Bill or brand Dave.

Brands also must resist the temptation to build a brand around the “celebrity of the moment” too. People are not perfect and it’s crazy to think that they will do nothing wrong (Tiger Woods, anyone?) To use a celebrity properly, brands must be very clear that they are leveraging specific qualities of the individual that matches up with the qualities of the brand. The person should not over take and become the default personification of the brand.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a not-for-profit organization or a for-profit enterprise, a brand must be built around a core purpose and set of ideals that is separate from the founder. Customers must fall in love with the brand, not the individual. And most importantly, the brand must exist for a purpose much higher than just the individual founder or celebrity.

As for the LiveStrong Foundation, one graphic change I would make is to reduce the emphasis on Strong and focus it on Live. It’s about living, not Lance. The foundation must make a focused effort to demonstrate what they stand for and their values and prove to the world the LiveStrong Foundation is a brand, not an individual.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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