I’m mostly wearing my consumer hat today, having just returned from a youth baseball tournament in Phoenix this past weekend, where we stayed at the six month new Drury Inn & Suites shown above. As you may recall, and if so, you will have noticed the irony because, last September I riffed about the Drury name and asked whether a name change might be in order, to avoid the inevitably negative dreary name associations.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t set out to test my previously stated opinions about the name and whether it actually represented the brand well, but as it clearly was meant to be, and as it clearly was meant outside of my control, the team we traveled with selected this hotel, so I anxiously awaited the trip and then paid close attention to whether my perceptions about the name would match the actual brand experience.
I’ll have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by all three Ps: The property, the people, and the price. It was almost as though someone had read my previous post, from about six months ago, and purposefully set out to distance the name from the actual brand experience (after all, you can’t even read the brand name in the website photo can you?), building a beautiful and non-dreary hotel property with real curb-appeal and attractive interior ammenities, staffing it with amazingly cheery, caring and genuine employees, all at a very reasonable price point. More likely, my prior post simply was based on incomplete information. Oh, and this is not a paid endorsement, and I did pay full price for the room, or I’d have to tell you, as we learned from Steven Weinberg’s analysis of the new FTC guidelines applicable to bloggers. Anyway, this got me thinking about judging books, and even brands, by their covers.
We’re all taught at an early age, not to judge a book by its cover, but we do. I suspect that most of us also judge a brand by its cover too. Cover of a brand?
Depending on the product or service being sold under the brand, the "cover," could be embodied in stunningly minimalist product packaging. The exterior of a hotel. It could be seen in a distinctive color trademark (perhaps your least favorite color). It could be reflected in a unique federally-registered touchmark. A famous non-verbal logo. Most commonly, it could be the brand name itself. Basically, anything that Mark Gallagher, Brand Expressionist® at Blackcoffee®, considers a Brand Signal, also might be considered part of the cover of a brand. No doubt, we can form judgments about one or more of these signals or covers that cause us to engage or decline any –or at least a — complete brand experience.
I’ve been known to judge a brand by its name and even call for rebranding when needed. It doesn’t matter who the owner or coach is, or who the players are on the field, I simply can’t be a fan of the NFL team in our Nation’s capital; I can’t get past the brand name, since the dictionary confirms it embodies a racial slur. Nor can I get past the non-verbal equivalent in the Chief Wahoo logo. No doubt, some brand names can alienate segments of the consuming public, and yet remain commercially successful and profitable.
The Drury hotel chain seems to be doing just fine, despite any weakness in the name, having four years in a row the "Highest Guest Satisfaction Among Mid-Scale Limited Service Hotel Chains."
So, how important is a name to the success of a branded product or service? A while back, Dan asked "how much is the success of the Frisbee due to the name, and how much is due to everything else. . . . " He guessed ten percent is due to the name. Seth Godin has observed this about book covers, and I suspect the same observations may be applied to brand names:
Sometimes a great cover can help a lousy book (for a little while).
And sometimes a lousy cover can kill a great book (like Turn of the Century by Kurt Andersen).
But for books, like most things, the stuff inside matters.
I’ll continue to wonder whether a rebranding effort would increase sales for Drury, but in the end, perhaps in spite of the name, our Drury Inn & Suites brand experience fully lived up to my previously suggested tagline, specifically designed by an admittedly amateur namer — in lieu of a name change — to at least acknowledge and directly counter the pink elephant in the room: "Drury Inn, Everything But Dreary."