Lessons 2014: Put a Brand On It

Last year, having an identifier that distinguished you from the crowd was more important than ever. A look at some of 2014's biggest branding news and what you can learn from it.

Written by Canadian Business Staff

As you gear up to take on the challenges and opportunities of the new year, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what happened in the last one. With attention spans dropping and the importance of name recognition growing to compensate, having a brand that stands out from your competitors was more important than ever in 2014.

Branding is about more than just your name and logo, and the opposite of Nike’s famous slogan applies—it’s not something that you can “just do.” It takes a lot of time and effort to build a relationship and association with your customers, and one false move can send you back to the starting line. Here are a few lessons from the world of branding and marketing in 2014.

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Branding works

The year’s biggest data breach wasn’t a compromised retail database (as at Target and Home Depot) or the work of errant employees (as at Toronto’s Rouge Valley Health System). The Heartbleed bug that let hackers steal passwords for some of the world’s most-visited websites was caused by a much more banal error: an existing weakness in the security protocol that underpins much of the Internet. The Canada Revenue Agency was one of the many organizations afflicted; it was forced to extend the income-tax filing deadline by six days after 900 social insurance numbers were filched. We can thank security company Codenomicon for reminding web surfers and businesses that nothing is completely secure online. Many previous bugs have gone unnoticed by the general public, but by giving Heartbleed a name and a logo, Codenomicon spread awareness and forced action from affected websites. Branding an issue is a good way to get it fixed.

MORE DATA BREACHES: Cyber Risk Now No. 3 Concern of CEOS »

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You can and should mess with your DNA

Photo: Mario Beauregard/CP

For the first time ever, Tim Hortons customers were able to sound mildly suave when ordering at the chain: “Double-double. [Long pause. Put on sunglasses.] Make it dark.” In August, Tims introduced its first alternative blend in 50 years. The company conducted research and found that even though it serves nearly eight out of every 10 cups of coffee in this country, Canadians still occasionally enjoy other brews. The success of the new dark blend is crucial for Tim Hortons, to drive sales and fight off competition. It’s part of a wider menu shakeup that the chain hopes will appeal to the Starbucks crowd. Plus, Tim Hortons fans now have the opportunity to experiencing what actual coffee tastes like.

MORE TIMMIES: Branding Secrets from Tim Hortons »

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Buy the right ad, not the biggest

Photo: Designmilk/Flickr

It doesn’t sound like a promising venue for an advertiser: a weekly public radio podcast digging into the evidence surrounding a 15-year-old murder case. And yet, Serial has become a runaway success for its producers—and its sponsor, MailChimp. Each addictive new episode of the No. 1 ranked podcast begins with a 20-second ad for the email marketing service. The appeal of podcasts for marketers has to do with the format’s intimacy: Like old-timey radio, sponsors’ messages are often delivered directly by the hosts. And since the format requires people to actively choose to subscribe, podcasts tend to have dedicated fan bases of young, digitally savvy listeners. With the right audience and the right topic, marketers might find a podcast to be on their wavelength.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST: The BusinessCast with Robert Gold »

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This article is from the January 2015 issue of Canadian BusinessSubscribe now!

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