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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Why Office Max (or Depot) should thank me

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, June 03, 2014

There's an Office Depot right down the street. A little further down is an Office Max. No, wait... I think it's the other way around. Hmm.

So here's the problem: I can never keep Office Depot and Office Max straight. EVER. In my mind, they're so identical that my brain just mushes them together into "one of those office supply stores".  And THAT, my friends, is a branding problem for both of these companies. Or at least a branding opportunity.

For those that aren't quite sure what "branding" means, the easiest way to think about it is to answer this question: "What do you think about when you hear (insert company name here)?" Collectively, how others feel about you or what comes to mind when they think of you is what constitutes your brand. For example, if I say "Walmart", what comes to mind? Probably low prices, maybe a bouncing yellow smiley face, maybe a general feeling of nausea (oh, just me?). If I say "Apple", do you think...innovative, simple, hip, overpriced? This is all part of these companies' brand positioning in the market. A company should do all they can to control their brand, and it plays out in everything they do — customer service, product offerings, the tone and voice of their marketing, price points, etc.

One of the worst things you can do as a company is have a muddy, unforgettable, or conflicting brand. Sometimes, if this is the case, the company may go through a rebranding effort — an attempt to more clearly show who they are, what they offer, what they stand for and what makes them different. This usually includes an overhaul of their visual image as well.

So, back to the matter at hand: OfficeDepotMax. I really don't understand why they don't make the effort to differentiate themselves. I mean, I don't get them confused with Staples, just with each other. Most obviously, this is due in part to the similarity of names. Secondly, Staples has memorable advertising. I can easily recollect Staples' humorous "Easy Button" TV commercials and I have no problem conjuring in my mind their red rectangular logo. I can't remember if I've ever in my life seen a commercial for OfficeDepotMax. (Of course, that could have something to do with me not having cable anymore — thank YOU, Hulu — but the fact remains that if I ever did see an OfficeDepotMax commercial, I didn't retain it.)

Let's tackle just these two points briefly. If it were me, I'd do SOMETHING to clear up the ambiguity over the company names, which means playing up the part of the name that is different.  So, please, Office Max, focus on "Max". Take it to the max. Let us max out on savings at Office Max. Have a mascot (or maxcot) named Maximillian Officious. Or just a memorable spokesman named Max, à la Progressive's Flo. Find a gimmick, a talking point. Something, anything, work with me here. And then use it EVERYWHERE, ubiquitously. Sing it from the rooftops (literally, have Maximillian Officious the maxcot sing a catchy Office Max jingle from a rooftop and film it for a commercial). Which leads to point number two. Find a way to appeal emotionally to your audience. Let's face it...nobody gets too excited about buying paper clips and printer ink. So make them excited about something else.  A humorous or clever campaign can go a long way to engaging your audience. What exactly does that mean for OfficeDepotMax? I don't have the answer right now...I'm not being paid for this. But, hey, I am officially offering to help rebrand Office Depot or Office Max — whichever calls me first, I'll give a discount to. :-) You're welcome, OfficeDepotMax. You're welcome.

Take a lesson of "what not to do" from those guys. Make sure your company has figured out and established its desired brand positioning. It may be the difference between a potential customer choosing you or your competitor down the street.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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