joy magnetism: It was the best of branding, it was the worst of branding

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Monday, October 25, 2010

It was the best of branding, it was the worst of branding

Magnet #976 - Concentric Circles

If you'll allow me a quick rant to explain my earlier Tweets today, and why I've picked this magnet, which looks a lot like this logo for today.

After a @TCM Tweet this afternoon about their traveling roadshow, I fairly quickly ran down to Grand Central Terminal to see it. (No. Seriously. The Tweet popped up on my TweetDeck at like 2:42 and I was there by 3:30.)

TCM partnered with Verizon with a really great exhibit supporting their Movies & Moguls 7-part original series about the history of Hollywood. Must watch, cannot wait!

Because it was TCM, of course their exhibit was well designed, and very much in keeping with their overall brand identity - I love seeing off-air marketing emulate the on-air marketing, it does a branding heart good.

These pictures don't really do it justice, I know. The exhibit itself was a little small for Vanderbilt Hall, it was slick and nicely produced, and the people manning the area were friendly and engaging.

They had a few costumes on display, but I particularly loved the interactive kiosks. They taught me how bad I am at old Hollywood trivia, and showed me Jack Warner's address book with Bette Davis, Walt Disney and other luminaries. I've seen it a dozen places in the books, but I got to spin the little nickelodeon thing with the horse - that was cool. And, they described the leading ladies and men of the time.

Loved it. And, by the looks of all the press visits (or they could have been fellow bloggers, who knows), they enjoyed it, too.

Most of all, it totally whetted my appetite for the series debut on November 1. That's called great audience outreach. Go. See it now. No, I mean it. Now. It's only there til tomorrow!!!!

By an incredible and garish contrast, Thomson Reuters installed a giant display on the other side of the hall. Where TCM's installation was dwarfed by the giant Vanderbilt Hall at GCT, Thomson Reuters was a massive behemoth, with dual-LED displays lighting up the whole hall and beyond. It was a huge white hole, plushly carpeted, with computers and displays set up inside, from what I could tell. Nicely branded (as one would expect for TR to be, of course) and even if it was bright as hell, the display show graphics with the messaging and images were great.

When I first walked into the hall, after my eyes had been visually assaulted by the giant LED displays, I noticed they had at least 3 or 4 people manning the outside of the monstrosity, all in business outfits, shifting from one foot to the other. Not talking to anyone, watching traffic walk by.

I felt bad for them, because the TCM space was moderately trafficked, while no one was at the TR end. It really did seem rude to look at what TCM had to offer, and not wander over to the snazzy TR display, too.

But, any goodwill I'd built up walking across the way was dashed by the woman (who had earlier been chatting up a TCM rep in his space) manning the TR entrance. In fact, I went specifically to her, because I had seen her with the TCM dude.

Mind you, I was hardly the height of fashion in jeans and tennies, and an old Izod golf shirt, with my fleece tied around my waist and hair in a ponytail. Clearly, I wasn't a financial person. Or even a business person. Or even the demographic for whatever TR was hawking.

But here's how the conversation went:

Me, smiling broadly: "I feel like I should visit you guys because you built this giant display!"
Her, smiling: "I know, it's really big! Though, really, it's for a financial product."
Me, peering into the room, and then checking my watch that said 3:45: "Hmmm, really? Which means you have to wait for all the financial guys [commuter traffic] to get here at 5, huh?"
Her, hesitating: "Well, you could go in, if you wanted to, there's people inside. But, it's really more of a financial thing."
Me, smiling broadly, unable to believe she would try to not actively drive traffic into their space, given that there was one or two people inside the cavernous display: "No, thanks."

I was completely floored. I get that the ROI on that giant box that Thomson Reuters built is pretty high. Meaning - sell even one of their fancy-schmancy Eikon product and make back the money on spent to build the box. They can certainly afford to be discerning about who they let into the room. But, traffic is traffic. And moreover? Traffic begets traffic - particularly when you're at Grand Central Station.

Don't get me wrong here, folks. Fair play to Thomson Reuters - I love the branding machine behind their identity - the logo design, the huge launch campaign, the messaging, and almost everything from a graphic standpoint. Dudes, I smile when I see the TR logo on the building along I-95 in Stamford! I have a lot of heart for that brand.

But, honestly, for me, this is one of those times when brand management should extend down to the masses of employees, even the chick manning the door.

On a side note. Thomson Reuters chick could take a page from the superdupernice Teavana salesgirl at Paramus Park Mall. My 14-year-old hipster cousin just wanted to try a sample, and even though the two of us didn't look like we were on the market for the $40 1/2-pound tea? The sales girl was doing her damndest to educate us on the product, and was blind to the audience she was selling to.
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