Written By – Joseph Scaglione

Take A Trip To The Liquor Store…

One of my favourite places to visit is the liquor store (Don’t start a job interview with that sentence). Liquor stores are today’s Roman Coliseums. Hundreds of brands line the shelves battling for your attention. Bacardi, Heineken, Stella Artois, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, Captain Morgan, all giant brands armed with barrels of booze gunning for your wallet. Why so much competition? Because every one of them offers the exact same opportunity to their customers: escape. Escape in the form of dinner with friends. Escape in the form of downing a couple after a rough workday. Escape in the form of heading to a party. Escape in the form of going to town on a 2–4, alone. Every liquor company knows this, and that’s why the alcohol sector is a marketing Mecca.

The names and logos of these alcohol Barrons are signifiers of what each company values, and what their customers value. Since they all do the same job, and taste similar to the layman drinker, something needs to pull these alcohol brands apart, and that something is values. The customer wants an escape that aligns with their values, or the values of their social circle.

“Any bottle on this shelf can get the job done, but which one can do it while aligning with what I value?”

Stella vs Pabst

If you observe a battle between Stella Artois and Pabst Blue Ribbon, it's a battle of values.

It’s on par with comparing Starbucks to Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Visit Stella’s site and you’ll see words like: purification, sacrifice, and savouring every sip. What the hell does that have to do with getting hammered? A lot if you value an elite experience while doing so. Stella harps on the ritual behind their beer. What goes into the chalice, not the peasant glasses Pabst Blue Ribbon customers use. Want to impress a date? Skip the Pabst, and go with Stella, it will show off your high-status, upper-echelon palette, unless your date values frugality, then order Pabst. Visit Pabst’s site and you’ll find a focus on having a good time with simple, original beer in a can. Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing luxurious about it. You’ll also find what Stella would consider a crime: flavoured beer.

Each company stands for something. They have values, and they express these values through their name and logo. A customer venturing through liquor aisles will know the difference because they’ve either seen enough advertising from both companies, or they know the kinds of people each brand attracts. All these factors impact their decision.

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A Clash of Values

There is no guarantee that a customer will choose Stella if they value high quality beer. They might have a problem with big brands, and choose a small brewer instead. And yes, Pabst offers low prices, but maybe it reminds the customer of that uncle they hate, so they opt for another bargain. Stella and Pabst reached their status honing into particular values and expressing those values throughout their marketing, public relations campaigns, and communications. Stella doesn’t want Pabst Customers, and Pabst doesn’t want Stella customers, but that doesn’t mean customers don’t jump ship and buy from competing brands depending on what they value at a given time. Brand values are stable, while consumer values change depending on factors such as setting and social circle.

I Want A Logo That Rivals The “Swoosh”

It's not the swoosh, it's the values behind the swoosh

And you can absolutely have that, no matter how well your logo is designed. Carolyn Davidson designed the Nike swoosh as a side job. The “Swoosh” symbolizes action and the wings of the Greek goddess Nike. Phil Knight paid Carolyn $35 for her design. Davidson eventually received stock in the company, making her a millionaire, but her original design, the globally recognized Nike Swoosh, only cost the company $35, and Phil Knight didn’t even like it! Nike turned their swoosh into a priceless symbol by adding value.

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It’s what the athletes did while dawning the Nike swoosh. It’s the “Just Do It” narrative Nike wrote. That’s the inspiration millions draw from the brand. Nike values performance at the highest level, and so do their customers. That is what makes the Nike logo successful, not the design. People buy Nike to fit into a narrative, especially if their friends are buying into the same narrative. They don’t buy the “Swoosh” they buy what the swoosh stands for. As a company you can spend thousands on logo design, but your investment will flop if you don’t infuse that design with values that move people. Values that stand for someone.

When customers buy your product, they adopt your values and put them on display to show others that they believe in what your company believes in, so you need to have a thoughtful set of values in place before designing your logo or conducting business.

Your Values Shouldn’t Speak To Everyone

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Nike’s values only spoke to a small group of athletes. Those who wanted to perform at the highest level. From there, Nike’s popularity skyrocketed. It’s important as marketers and public relations specialists that we remind our clients of this and help them craft a specific set of core values that speak to the “smallest viable market,” as Seth Godin would say. It’s ok if your client’s values aren’t for everyone, as long as they are for someone. The more focused values are, the better they will be. Marketing and PR campaigns thrive on clear core values. As mentioned, you’ll never see a Stella Artois ad appealing to the average beer drinker, it would go against their values.

The Toyota logo communicates the values of craftsmanship and quality

The Toyota Legacy

When you see a Toyota or Honda logo one of the first values that comes to mind is reliability. This reputation is built into the logo, not through marketing or public relations, but through operations. Toyota and Honda build reliable long lasting cars, which carries through word of mouth. This is what they value, and customers who purchase Toyotas and Hondas do so because they value reliability for their dollar. Toyota and Honda meet their values through their operations; they build cars with their values in mind. A business needs to conduct all its activity with values in mind in order to create a clear link for the consumer that when they buy a product, they also buy a set of distinct values.

What Toyota and Honda do not value is status, and neither do their customers. Those who value status over reliability visit a Porsche dealership. However, one day that Prius driver will want to impress his friends and family, and to do that, he’ll head over to the Porsche dealer to satisfy his new set of values. Again, business values do not deviate, but consumer values do.

This does not mean cut the creativity behind logo design. It just means that before a designer, marketer, or PR team puts pen to paper, values should be solidified, specific, and targeted. And this rule does not just apply to communications, it applies to every aspect of a business. The entire company must operate under a set of clear values that speak to a small set of customers to maximize success.

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