The Fumble That Wasn’t

[Cache #221]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

“A colossal mistake, an enormous opportunity squandered.”

That’s what I wrote two-and-a-half years ago in this space in the process of lambasting the ownership of Ottawa’s new CFL football team for naming them the RedBlacks.  Just in case readers weren’t sure how I really felt, I helpfully entitled that blogpost ”The Ottawa RedBlacks:  Dead Team Walking.”  The full diatribe is here, and in essence I said that because the RedBlacks – an expansion team whose roster would be comprised of players the other teams didn’t want – would be worse than awful on the field, they needed every marketing advantage they could get.

They needed a name that fulfilled two especially crucial jobs done by all great names:  they are meaningful, and they create a system of language and experiences that can be leveraged to build more and more brand value over time.  Like the way in which the name Winnipeg Jets created the opportunity to hold an After Burner Social, or how fans of the Arizona Coyotes howl during games.  It all builds a network effect in which every component of the brand serves to build value in every other component.

And RedBlacks, I decreed, meant nothing to Ottawans and offered no platform upon which to build such a narrative.  Among other things, I suggested that the team’s new name could have drawn from Ottawa’s colourful origins as a logging town.

This seems like a good time to mention how right I was about Volkswagen’s “noxious admissions” scandal.  Over the past 30 months, I have not endured any worry about my RedBlacks prediction, but I almost immediately doubted the accuracy of my Volkswagen statement to CBC Radio made in September just past.

Essentially I said that the scandal wasn’t that big of a deal – that if VW fired the right people and did the right investigations and were transparent and open and fast, consumer confidence would come back quickly (although the stock price would take some serious time to do so).  But in the days after that statement, it became clear that geez, some customers were really upset about putting themselves out there as environmental champions and then being exposed as the worst polluters of any drivers on the (increasingly decrepit, thanks to them) planet.  So I started to doubt myself.

But then the news three weeks ago:  October sales went up compared to that month in 2014.  As a Verge columnist put it:

“There is a world in which consumers swiftly punish Volkswagen where it counts – the coffers – for its massive, systematic deception of the Environmental Protection Agency, in which it cheated its way around diesel emissions tests for half a decade.”

“This isn’t that world.”

Back to Ottawa, there’s a chance you’ve heard the RedBlacks are playing this Sunday in the CFL championship game, the Grey Cup.  This was not supposed to happen.  Expansion teams stink, and in their first season last year, the RedBlacks won a predictable two games and lost 16.  This year, however, they won 12 and lost six, and then won their conference final with a miraculous 93-yard touchdown with one minute left in the game.

Yet the real miracle is not that Ottawa made it to the end zone with time running out, but that the RedBlacks are in the Grey Cup at all. That’s not what the story is supposed to be for expansion teams with only one full season of existence under their belt.

So the RedBlacks are hardly a dead team walking.  And their name has ended up serving them very well, because ownership has injected it with meaning that was not obvious at first, which in turn created the platform for a system of language and experiences that fans have bought-in to big time.

The RedBlack concept, as it turns out, indeed derives from Ottawa’s lumber town past.  Red and black refer to the plaid colours of the classic lumberjack shirt.  So you have the team mascot, Big Joe, a tribute to Big Joe Montferrand, the French-Canadian lumberjack of 1800s lore and of a song by Stompin’ Tom Connors.  And you have fans dressing up like lumberjacks at the games (and even at their weddings).  And you have a team of forestry students from a nearby college on the sidelines who, when the RedBlacks score a touchdown, fire up their chainsaws and saw a logoed “wood cookie” from a giant log.

All of this is a good reminder that the quality of a brand name can not be judged in isolation.  That it can only be judged by how shrewdly – or as the RedBlacks would have it, how sharply – it is used.

IN THE MEDIA THIS FALL:  In the National Post re Amazon and Etsy; oCBC Radio One re Volkswagen; in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.
NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)

Coin Branding president Andris Pone is co-author of the Globe and Mail #1-bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo and appears as a branding expert on CBC’s The National, CBC Radio One, the Globe and Mail, National Post and other media outlets.

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When People Laugh At Your Brand

[Cache #220]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

This seems a safe guess:  that most of us would rather not toil for years on defining a consistent brand in the marketplace, only to have it publicly mocked.

But sometimes – very rarely – the mockery is not mockery just for the sake of mockery.  It is in fact the highest form of respect that any individual or organizational brand can ever be paid.

We are not talking about, say, This Hour Has 22 Minutes making fun of Air Canada throwing their passengers’ luggage.  Because Air Canada has indeed been caught on video throwing their passengers’ luggage – and throwing luggage is a bad thing – that would be mockery for mockery, intended as an insult.  Rather, we are talking about someone making fun of your finest accomplishments, as The Onion, a satirical news outlet, has just done to Southwest Airlines.

Southwest is the airline that has received the fewest customer complaints of any US carrier since 1987.  In 2014, Fortune magazine named them one of America’s Most Admired Companies for the 20th consecutive year.  Also in 2014, Southwest enjoyed their 42nd straight year of profitability.  All the while, they have been recognized by top publications including Forbes and Glassdoor as one of America’s best companies to work for.

How, exactly, do you make fun of a brand with that kind of, well, brand?  You run a story entitled “Southwest Airlines Rolls Out New ‘Loyalty Goes Both Ways’ Campaign.”  As the video report explains, ”The friendly airline says that while they’re proud to have the most loyal customers in the business, it’s time to find out what their customers are willing to do for them.”

As a Southwest mechanic puts it, ”Over the years, we’ve asked for so little.”  A poised flight attendant continues:  ”Now I expect everyone who’s flown Southwest in the past five years to come to my house, and help me move this weekend.”

The most pressing appeal comes in a radio ad from the organization’s top dog.  ”Hi.  This is Southwest CEO Gary Kelly.  If my wife calls asking about me, I need you to lie and say I was with you.  Remember all those low fares I gave you.”

It’s been said that making the cover of Time or Rolling Stone is the ultimate sign that you’re a player – that your brand matters.  But maybe the ultimate recognition occurs when a publication like The Onion, which treats its targets entirely viciously with regularity – can only make fun of your strengths.

It’s not the moment to stop working, but it’s the moment you’ve truly arrived.

- See the Onion’s story here (warning: some foul language) - 

I was honoured to guest lecture at my alma mater, the Schulich School of Business, this week.  Thank you to the accomplished and inquisitive students in the fourth-year social media class of Aleem Visram.  My topic:  What A Brand Really Is, and How to Express Yours On LinkedIn.

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Bleeding Black

[Cache #219]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

The Montreal Canadiens are off to an eye-popping start – one of the best in NHL history.  Having won 13 of their first 17 games, they are on pace to win 62 matches, which would tie them with the 1996 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins ever in a single season.

It’s an almost unheard-of winning percentage of 76%.

But for one sports team in the world, these results are nothing but mediocre.  That team is the deeply legendary national rugby team of New Zealand, the All Blacks, who’ve won 75% of their games.

That’s not just for this year, or last year.  It’s for the past 100 years.

How do they do it?  James Kerr is the author of Legacy:  What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life.  Kerr spent 10 weeks inside the All Blacks organization in 2010, and his short answer is straightforward: culture.  What we call brand.

Kerr argues that the essence of the All Blacks’ culture comes down to just five elements.  What we call a brand foundation:

1. Sweep the Sheds
In the literal sense, this expression refers to the fact that the most celebrated rugby players in the world actually spend time tidying up their locker room after a match.  But the point of the exercise is not for these elite athletes to have a shiny dressing room.  Rather, it is for them to practice humility in all they do.  The All Blacks believe that to maintain their phenomenal dominance, they must remain humble.

Even more remark-ably, the All Blacks invite the opposition into their dressing room for beers and conversation after every match – win (usually), lose or draw.  This uncommon camaraderie is one way the All Blacks recognize they share a special bond with their opponents – whom, in striving for greatness, are making sacrifices similar to their own.

Exactly how deep is the humility on your team?

2. Follow the Spearhead
In Maori, the spearhead symbolizes whanau, or extended family.  In order for a spearhead to be effective, its three tips must all be going in the same direction.  So those with poor attitudes need not apply.  Either you are with program, or you are not on the team.  Kerr says that some of New Zealand’s most promising players have never had the privilege of wearing the black jersey – purely because they would be detrimental to the whanau.

How often, and for how long, have you tolerated players who aren’t the right fit?

haka - all blacks new zealand
The All Blacks perform the Maori Haka before each match

3. Champions Do Extra
This element is all about continuous improvement.  It is not about making quantum leaps, but about very long-term focus on making incremental improvements in all areas of life.  And in a game like rubgy, as Kerr points out, in all likelihood it will involve literally spilling blood for your team.

How many of your players always go the extra mile?

4. Keep a Blue Head
After a sub-optimal showing at the 2003 World Cup, the All Blacks confronted the possibility they were choking under pressure.  Through consultations with a forensic psychiatrist, they articulated a Red Head as a panicked and therefore ineffective mindset.  A Blue Head, on the other hand, is a highly focused, grounded state in which optimal effectiveness is achieved.

All Blacks players use triggers to recognize when they are in a Red state and to then switch over to Blue – something as simple as stomping one’s feet on the sidelines or staring off into the far distance.  In winning their most recent World Cup just two weeks ago, seasoned observers witnessed, in the face of an Australian comeback and with the All Blacks down a player, the remaining New Zealand players all switching their approach to Blue at the same time.

How much of your time is spent running around Red?

5. Leave the Jersey In A Better Place
The All Blacks don’t just play for themselves.  Their purpose is much larger than that.  They play for every player that’s ever worn the jersey – and for every player that will wear it in the future.  And they fully recognize and embrace their pivotal place in the national culture and in particular, their crucial position as role models for New Zealand’s children.

From the book:
“A values-based, purpose-driven culture is a foundation of the All Blacks’ approach and sustained success…In fact, in answer to the question, ‘What is the All Blacks’ competitive advantage?’, key is their ability to manage their culture and central narrative by attaching the players’ personal meanings to a higher purpose.  It is the identity of the team that matters – not so much what the All Blacks do, but who they are, what they stand for, and why they exist.”

So:  what’s your foundation?  And how well is it setting you up for victory?

***Update November 18, 2015:  RIP Jonah Lomu.

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Posted in brand character, brand culture, brand foundation, brand values, consistency, core purpose, mission/vision/values, remark-able | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fall Back (Part Two)

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Cache completes its two-week sabbatical with a look back at these popular posts from this time of year:

If You Want People To Care (September 12, 2014)
The Unacceptable Cost of Poor Vision (September 27, 2013)
Why Is Movember On Everyone’s Lips? (November 16, 2012)
Kobo Kopies Kindle (November 11, 2011)
Our Mission Is To Create Happy Customers (November 30, 2010)
Down With The Beggar Brands (October 5, 2009)

See you next Friday with a fresh fall post.

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Fall Back (Part One)

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Do you remember what I was writing about in previous years at about this time?

Me neither.  So here are some posts from October/November all the way back to the dawn of Cache in 2009, as this blog takes a two-week sabbatical.

Jian’s Gone.  What To Do About Q? (October 31, 2014)
How Rogers Makes Mean Profits (October 25, 2013)
It’s Health Care Fraud, But Not the Kind You Think (November 2, 2012)
From iMac to iSad: The Brand Names of Steve Jobs (October 6, 2011)
We Can’t All Be Waity Katy (November 26, 2010)
Starbucks’ VIA Is A Dumb Idea.  Right? (October 18, 2009)

I hope you enjoy.

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The Edible Prime Minister

[Cache #218]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Ask the Toronto Blue Jays.  Or even better, ask Justin Trudeau:  everyone loves a winner.

Even the people who didn’t vote Liberal have grudgingly acknowledged that he has great looks and dreamy hair.  And the Americans go much further.  As my Facebook friends have taken the time and care to meticulously document, the Yanks on social media have deemed Justin to be everything from “a hottie,” to “edible”, to – keeping in mind these are Americans – ”the Canadian Hottie President”.

Fortunately, however, there has been serious reaction as well.  Such as, ”How will the Canadians ever tackle climate change when their new Prime Minister is so hot?”

My point is that no one would be making any of these comments if Trudeau had lost.  No one would care.  It is not Justin’s looks that are the pivotal element in the publicity he is receiving.  It is the fact that he won a national election and is now assuming the role of elected leader of a significant nation on the world stage.

It’s the fact that he’s a winner.

What does this mean for your personal brand, or the brand of your organization as you try to share your unique gifts with the world?  The primary message is not that you should go out and get a new hairstyle, or a nose job, or lose 20 pounds (even though taking the best possible care of yourself is highly correlated with career success).

The primary message is that, as the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success.  Potential and actual clients, employees and strategic partners attach themselves strongly with people and organizations they perceive as winners.  As leaders in their field.  As people great at what they do.

So go do something great.  It doesn’t have to be curing cancer, although that would be nice.  And then find a way to deal with your likely level of natural humility – and then communicate your expertise, accomplishments and overall greatness to others.

Because we eat this stuff up.

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Justin’s Branding Jiu-Jitsu

[Cache #217]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

We know Justin Trudeau, who literally beat up the much bigger Brazeau, to be a good boxer.  As effective (and satisfying) as Trudeau’s pugilistic skills proved to be, he has elected not to metaphorically employ them in his bout with Stephen Harper.  Instead, he is in the late rounds of beating up the PM without laying a glove on him.

His method has been branding jiu-jitsu:  the communications equivalent of the ancient art of “manipulating an opponent’s force against him rather than confronting it with one’s own force.”

The campaign began with a Harper haymaker:  the assertion that Justin was “Not Ready.”

Trudeau deftly sidestepped that attack and twisted the Conservative message upon itself with this huge hit of an ad:  ”Stephen Harper says I’m not ready.  I’ll tell you what I’m not ready for.  I’m not ready to stand by as our economy slides into recession…”  Etc etc.

Now, as the campaign approaches a conclusion, and Trudeau having run a campaign (almost) free of major gaffes, he has twisted the Not Ready message again, this time much more boldly, into an explicit call for a majority government:  Ready.

When you think about it, this is a very weak claim.  Being “ready” to be Prime Minister of Canada would seem almost to be the minimum possible requirement for the job.  To the point that no politician seeking the highest elected office in the land would ever consider launching a campaign with the primary message that they are “ready.”  Leading one of the world’s most successful countries requires a helluva lot more than readiness.  Which underscores that Trudeau can only use this message 1. because he co-opted it from Harper and 2. because Trudeau can now make the claim, implicit or explicit, that Harper himself does not look ready.

The claim can and has been made that Harper is panicking; anyone who trots out Rob Ford to campaign with him cannot be anything but panicked, or perhaps not very smart, and no one ever said Stephen Harper was not very smart.  In contrast, people who are panicked can be said to be not ready.

Harper has painted himself into a panic by virtue of a style of brand positioning very different from Trudeau’s.  It has been described in other posts as deliberate alienation (See Cache #125: Is This CEO a Jerk or a Genius?).  Abercrombie and Fitch practices deliberate alienation by communicating very clearly to the market that they only want people perceived as thin and cool to wear their clothes.  Everyone else can go take a hike, and their feelings be damned.  It’s all about resonating on a deep emotional level with a relatively narrow band of people, to the calculated exclusion and upset of everyone else.  And it can most definitely work.


In the political realm, this is called wedge politics and playing to your base.  In the context of Canada’s 2015 federal election, against an opponent who’s proven himself highly nimble, it’s called fighting a lost cause.

IN THE MEDIA THIS FALL:  In the National Post re Amazon and Etsy; oCBC Radio One re Volkswagen; in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.
NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)

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You’re Different, Right? Two Ways to Act Like It.

[Cache #216]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Go Jays Go.

Also, it’s important to articulate a strong set of values for your personal brand.  Except that writing them down is not enough.  You actually have to behave in accordance with them.  That’s the difficult part.  Just ask Enron.

Not a perfect example in the personal context, because they were a corporation.  But an instructive one nonetheless. Their stated values were Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence.  A set of corporate values so commonplace, a longtime client of mine refers to it as the RICE model.  Which points to a second problem with values as stated by so many individuals (and companies):  they are the same as, or not much different than, everyone else’s.

Which leads to the irony that when I am working with personal branding clients on their three-element brand foundation (the other elements being core purpose and position, as covered in recent weeks) I actually don’t have them craft a set of values.

Instead, I help them articulate a set of three to five character traitsdefined as my voice; how I act and look.

What, pray tell, is character in this context?  Your character governs every way in which you communicate, from:

-an in-person conversation
-to an email
-to a voicemail
-to the way your email signature looks
-to your tone of voice
-to your style of dress, appearance and body language.

A set of character traits can be seen as more useful than a set of values because the former forces you to express how you will actually act out the latter, which is the point of having the latter in the first place.

But even a set of character traits can fall victim to the boringness and sameness epitomized by the RICE model.  To ensure this doesn’t happen, use one of two methods like these clients have:

1. The Colon Method.  Articulate your 3-5 traits in one word each, and then explain them.

Character –  my voice; how I act and look
Kind:  I don’t treat anyone differently because of where they’ve come from or where they’re going
Quiet:  Watching and listening is my way of learning
Dedicated:  There is nothing I would ask anyone to do that I wouldn’t do myself

Character –  my voice; how I act and look
Tenacious:  Energetic and driven
Innovative:  Creative and solution oriented
Reliable:  Caring, supportive and thoughtful

2. The “I” Method.  Skip the colon and give it to us straight. 

Character –  my voice; how I act and look
I need to sort things out
I need to be able to tell the story
I am always looking for a better way

Character –  my voice; how I act and look
I am supportive
I am optimistic
I am making noise!

Bonus points for Danielle:  with her spot-on use of an exclamation point to emphasize making noise, she has reached the highly differentiated ground of actually expressing her character in character.

You’re different too, right?  You have something one-of-a-kind to offer in this universe, correct?  Act like it.

Click here and here for the other two blogposts in this series.  With these three posts, you can build your very own personal brand foundation.

IN THE MEDIA THIS MONTH:  In the National Post re Amazon and Etsy (new yesterday); oCBC Radio One re Volkswagen; in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.
NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)

Posted in andris pone media comment, brand character, brand differentiation, brand foundation, brand values, mission/vision/values, personal branding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Are You Here? Get It In Writing.

[Cache #215]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Why are you here?  Why do you do what you do?  What is your unique purpose in this life?  And why should anyone – most of all you – care?

I have asked variations of these questions many times on this blog, but today, change is in the air.  Summer has said goodbye.  The temperature is dropping, the colours are starting to change and a chilly wind blows.  So let’s get literal.  Just as I demonstrated two weeks ago how to articulate a position for your personal brand, this week I will share some simple techniques on how to express your personal core purpose.

(Then, in the next couple of weeks, I will share my methodology for articulating the character of your personal brand, and voila – you will have the tools to build your very own three-element personal brand foundation, one that can focus and drive all aspects of your life into next year and far beyond.)

What is a core purpose?  My mentor Ted Matthews long ago defined it as Why we (or I in the personal case) exist.  I have adapted the definition with my personal branding clients to Why I do what I do.  As I have also mentioned on this blog, Simon Sinek has achieved great traction by referring to your core purpose simply as your why.

And so your core purpose or why is the reason you get out of bed in the morning, and why anyone should care that you do.  It’s about what you fundamentally believe.  Critically, it is not about what you do.  Your what may be selling cars, or being an investment advisor, or a marketing executive or a stay-at-home mom.  And while it is great and in fact imperative that you have a what (otherwise you won’t have anything to do when you get out of bed), there are two problems with it.

First, your what is, in a word, boring.  It is uninspiring.  Much of this is due to the fact that your what is also, by definition, the same as every other car salesperson, investment advisor, marketing executive and stay-at-home mom.  And thus it is – if you want people to truly “get” you, recognize you as unique and resonate with your one-of-a-kind purpose on this planet – table stakes.

For those of you fortunate enough to have distance from corporate gobbledygook, table stakes is a metaphor from card games, defined as the minimum bet you must make to stay in the game.  And it is not just the minimum, it is the same as everyone else.

Enough with the branding gobbledygook.  With reference to some powerful core purpose statements written by clients of mine in the long term care industry, structure your core purpose in one of three ways.

Core purpose – why I do what I do

1. ”To…”
To share the burden as people walk the road they cannot change. (Linda, who works in palliative care)
To help people grow from where they are, to where they want to be. (Karen)
To change the perception of long term care from “dead end” to “high end.” (Debbie)

The “To” method is the most popular.

2. “I believe…”
I believe wholesome, nourishing food and enriching meal experiences are universal human rights. (Jane)

3. “Because…”
Because good enough isn’t good enough. (Steve)

And now some observations:
1. The statement tends not to be just about you, but about your role in helping others.  And yet, your core purpose is yours alone.  If your statement happens to be all about you, that is obviously and completely your decision.  Note, though, that its power to inspire others will be weakened.

2.  The statement must be one sentence, one sentence only, and be a short sentence at that.  Anything longer will be rambling and uninspiring.  And people, including you, will find it difficult to remember, further sapping its power.

Why do I do what I do?  Because I believe that every person – most certainly including you – has the right to experience the thrill of sharing their unique gifts with others.



IN THE MEDIA LAST WEEK:  On CBC Radio One re Volkswagen, and in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.

NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)


Coin Branding president Andris Pone is co-author of the Globe and Mail #1-bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo and appears as a branding expert on CBC’s The National, CBC Radio One, the Globe and Mail, National Post and other media outlets.

Posted in brand differentiation, brand foundation, core purpose, health care, mission statements, mission/vision/values, personal branding, positioning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Time for the Blue Jays Brand to Grow Up

[Cache #214]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

“Fans of the New York Yankees were in force at Rogers Centre in Toronto Wednesday night, for a crucial game against the Blue Jays.  Many were bearing the American flag, the Stars and Stripes, and waving it proudly in the stands.”

If you’re Canadian, how does that make you feel?

In truth, it probably ticks you off.  The nerve!  Coming up here and waving their flag in our faces.  Unbelievably rude.

Except that, as far as I’m aware – and I have attended several Jays games as they’ve dominated down the stretch – this did not happen.  When was the last time you saw an American waving his or her flag on Canadian soil?  Maybe at the Vancouver Olympics or the world junior hockey championships or the Pan Am Games, those events being more about nationalism than anything else.

Or maybe Americans have more social grace than Canadians like to imagine.  In fact, they do indeed have more civility than we do on this issue, because Jays fans were – and this did happen – seen at Yankee stadium last week waving the Maple Leaf.

As a Canadian, and as a Jays fan, it was embarrassing to watch.

Yankees fans evidently don’t feel the need to come to our building and wave the Stars and Stripes, because they are in attendance to represent their legendary team and their legendary city, not their country.  But evidently, for at least some of us, baseball is still – 22 years after winning the World Series twice in succession – about proving Canada can beat the US at its own game.

Which doesn’t make much sense, considering only three of the Jays’ 40 players are Canadian.  True, the owner of the Jays (Rogers) has positioned the brand as “Canada’s Team,” and the team’s logo bears a prominent maple leaf.  It seems safe to presume that Rogers has done this not out of national pride, but to make more money from more people across the country watching on their TVs, computers and mobile phones.  And yet, there is an undeniable Canadian aspect to the Jays’ brand, because people all over Canada love them, and because they are the only major league baseball team in this country.

But Canadian-ness should not be the team’s defining feature.

It made a lot more sense in 1992, when the Jays were driving to become the first non-American-based team in the history of Major League Baseball to win the World Series.  We could feel tradition tilting against us as interlopers; of course, if you are old enough, you remember the US Marines flying our flag upside-down.

But we demolished tradition.  We’ve been there.  We’ve done that.  We have the banners in the rafters to prove it.  We have a legacy – epitomized by Alomar, Carter and a truly shocking all-time roster of legendary players and their feats – that courses through the veins of every Jays fan who’s ever watched on TV or had the pleasure of seeing them play in person.

So now, 22 years later, let us play baseball, not politics.  Is our baseball team good enough to beat its opponent, or not?  To my mind, waving the Canadian flag at a Jays game is an instant admission of inferiority.  That we are not good enough.  That we need something extra – beyond the bounds of talent, and of pride in team and city.

The Number One Rule of Branding is:  Be Consistent.  A brand is what people think of you, after all, and if you keep changing the message, people won’t know what to think.  But sometimes brands and their fans outgrow their positioning.  Sometimes they mature.  And one would hope that in these more-than two decades, we have become confident enough as Torontonians and sufficiently self-assured as Canadians – and jingoistic just as Jays fans – that we can just play ball.

On CBC Radio One re Volkswagen, and in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.

NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)

Posted in brand differentiation, confidence, consistency, logos, positioning, rebranding | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments