The world’s best branding – a thought piece with video evidence

What does ‘best’ mean in a branding context? And is ‘best’ a defensible position or one you should even think about using as a claim?

Is it plausible, does it differentiate and is is it sustainable?

These would be three questions we would ask when we were looking at any strapline to work with, or support a brand and for us, in most cases. Best is just not good enough.

Case 1 – Seattle’s Best Coffee

As already discussed here, I think this is impossible to prove and almost completely implausible when they are faced with the might of Starbucks on their doorstep. I can see why they are making that claim, but don’t really believe they are Seattle’s best. You would hope however that if they are making such a ludicrously bold claim then it should at least be better than average and prepared with some care, skill and dexterity.

Seattle's best coffee and now in Japan?
Seattle's best coffee and now in Japan?

Case 2 Gillette – The best a man can get?

When Gillette came to the UK, they briefed their agency BDO to look at, and work with, this strapline. BDO rightly pointed out that this was unprovable and as such, couldn’t be used in UK advertising. Gillette challenged this in court and the decision was that they were not claiming they were better than anyone else so therefore, anyone else could also be best too.

It was in effect, top parity. By being at the top themselves, they didn’t have exclusive ownership of that top slot and could share it with others. They have used it ever since in ads that I find continually irritating and tired. I also make a point of not using their products.

This ad from 1989 shows their thinking when they came to the UK with the first use of this strapline. For me, it shows how far we have moved in terms of advertising techniques and what worked then. It is awful, patronising and again, completely implausible. When did you last see an ad this cheesy?

Their brand tags show how effective its been for them however as you can see here

Case 3 – Elf (2003)

When Buddy (Will Ferrell) is wandering around New York, he sees a sign outside a crappy coffee shop and runs in to congratulate them. Later on in the film he takes his new girlfriend Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) for a treat at the home of the world’s best coffee. She is slightly unimpressed – again because it is so implausible.

Case 4 – BB Muffins Nottingham

I saw this today and laughed. If claiming to offer the best coffee in Seattle is a big claim, this one is plain stupid.

BB Muffins the home of the world's best coffee - and by law, their coffee is only actually as good as anyone elses!
BB Muffins the home of the world's best coffee - and by law, their coffee is only actually as good as anyone elses!

It’s a bun shop that sells coffee on the side. For them to make a claim as the ‘world’s best’ is 100% ludicrous. I’ve never eaten or drank there, so I can’t vouch for their work, but it’s about as plausible a ‘world’s best’ as the one in Elf.

Case 5. Tina Turner – Simply the best

Hmm, not for me, but as we were talking about this in the office, they dared me to add this to the list, so I did. Enjoy it as it’s from her live tour in 1990 and she’s put on some years since then. Does the word ‘simply’ at the start help with her differentiation?

Summary.

Anyone can claim they offer the ‘world’s best’ as it isn’t a point of difference, it’s just a point of top parity.

To make this claim and deliver a product that is less than world class, will (hopefully) kill your brand forever.

Any brand has to have a clear and demonstrable point of difference, or people will not understand what they are about and what they should feel by having a ‘brand’ relationship with them.

‘Best’ isn’t good enough and ‘better’ normally isn’t provable, so where does that leave all these?

Who else can we add to the list of fame/shame as making brilliant/ridiculous claims to be the best?

Show me the videos or stills and I’ll happily link them off here. Have fun.

Thanks for the Seattle’s best shot to Cloganese. You can see more of his fine work here

The future of branding is unbranded – ask Starbucks

CJ as a young corporate customer on his laptop in Starbucks
CJ as a young corporate customer on his laptop in Starbucks

In an article I wrote recently about place branding, I proposed that the future of branding is unbranded. You can read that here.

What I was arguing against was homogenisation. Standardisation being used as a byword for branding, that decreases rather than increases consumer choice.

And it would appear that Starbucks, in the US at least would agree with this sentiment. In a great article by Tim Haywards in the UK’s Guardian newspaper he savages them for drifting from Happy hippiedom to the same tired old corporate suit as everyone else on the homogenised high street.

For any brand to be able to survive, it has to evolve or it will die. Like dinosaurs did when they failed to build protection against meteorite strikes. Today’s meteorite strikes are coming from the upstart brands and from locally differentiated, welcoming outlets.

In Seattle, there is already a company calling themselves Seattle’s Best and who’s to say it isn’t? (my cup I had in a plane on the way to Seattle was absolutely horrid – see here) But that doesn’t mean its the most loved, by any stretch of the imagination.

With any brand the product is critical, but so is the tribe in which consuming it puts you. You have to feel good about it. You have to bask in its reflected glorious ‘brandness’ and you have to want to tell your cool friends about it.

I think this is a great move for Starbucks.

I hope they have the nerve to debrand their estate, to give their customers the chance to fall in love with them all over again.

I hope they have the nerve to allow their local people to interpret their offer locally and create cool places for their customers to hang out. If that means they want to appeal to corporate wannabe’s then that’s fine, but design your offer accordingly. If that means they want their hippies back, then that’s just as fine – again, design accordingly.

The future of branding maybe isn’t unbranded, but it has to listen to its customers needs and be flexible as hell in delivering what they want or it will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Thanks to Jayne Wilson for the use of the picture of CJ on a Laptop in Starbucks. You can see more of her fine work here.