Building your Brand Through Cereal


Nine times out of 10 when a company asks us for “a new brand,” what they mean is a new logo, visual identity, and/or a new name.

While a logo and name are important, they are just a tiny part of what forms your overall brand.

At Port City we define a brand as the psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of your product, organization or movement. Brand management manages those psychological associations. In other words, a brand is not what you say you are. A brand is what everyone else says you are.

When we say that a brand is more than a name, I often ask people to tell me the first thing that comes to their minds when I say the words “Kaiser” and “Permanente.” Without fail, they mention something associated with health care.

In reality the words “Kaiser Permanente” could be the name of a law firm or an association of CPAs. They’re just two words pushed together. People are often surprised when I tell them that the health organization is named after a business man with no medical training, Henry J. Kaiser, and Permanente Creek in Cupertino. Why is the brand name so strongly associated to health care? It has a lot to do with a solid brand strategy, a $50 million annual marketing budget, and 9 million members who experience the brand on a regular basis.

Since the majority of our clients don’t have $50 million annual budgets, we have to stress avenues outside of advertisements to manage their brand. One extremely important brand avenue is the customer experience.

Take for instance Southwest Airlines. Southwest is well aware that it isn’t a luxury airline, so it emphasizes personable customer service in order to build brand loyalty. There’s no arguing that its approach to managing brand perceptions has worked. Among domestic airlines, Southwest has both the largest market share and highest Net Promoter Score (a customer’s likelihood to recommend a company to others).

In addition, the first thing that people recall about the airline isn’t a logo or a tagline, it’s a personal experience: the flight crew singing a quirky song upon landing or comedic one-liners sprinkled throughout an in-flight safety presentation.

When a marketing staff is charged with creating or invigorating a brand for a client, they often first try to understand the gap between consumers’ gut feelings about an organization (brand perception), and the organization’s promise to the customer (brand promise).

To help clients understand brand perceptions, marketers often conduct an array of research on customers, vendors, and key stakeholders. To define brand promise, they outline an organization’s key differentiators, value proposition, what they stand for and what they can deliver. To achieve this, they lead clients through several exercises. One such exercise is the Brand Box exercise.

The purpose of the Brand Box exercise is to get clients thinking about their key differentiators, the overall value that they bring to a customer and eventually their brand promise. During the exercise participants are asked to envision their brand as if it were a box of cereal competing in a supermarket aisle against similar organizations. It’s a fairly simple exercise that you can try with your own team. The only supplies you’ll need are cereal boxes (blank shirt boxes or actual cereal boxes wrapped in butcher paper) and art supplies (colored markers, magazines, scissors, etc). It’s also best to conduct this exercise with 15 to 20 people formed into groups of five or six.

After you distribute the boxes and art supplies to your participants, specify what should be included on their brand box. The front of the box should include a short description of your offering and one or two exciting features/benefits of your brand.

The back of the box should include more in depth text on your offering; your target audience; details that connect your brand with real customer needs/problems; and any other relevant information that helps describe the value created for the customer.

Participants then have 30 minutes to design and create their brand box. After 30 minutes, each team must present and sell its brand box to the rest of the group. To get the most of the exercise you, as facilitator, should aim to draw out key brand messages and differentiators.

By implementing the Brand Box exercise, you’ll learn more about what your team thinks of your own brand while forcing members to look at the concept of brand from a different context.

This post originally appeared in the Central Valley Business Journal:

Go Central Valley Business Journal!!!