Volume 84 | Issue 4
July/August 2016

From the Chief Executive Officer: Brand Value

John Taylor, Ed.D.

ACUI CEO John TaylorWhat is it that makes any of us gravitate to a certain product or service, which eventually gains our loyalty? Is our interest initially peaked because of the slogan or tagline, the bright packaging, or maybe an attractive logo? Do we stick with a brand because of the messaging of advertisers? I must admit that I have a tendency to buy brand-named products; so much so that my wife, Michelle, occasionally calls me “Johnny Brand-Name.”

According to entrepreneur.com, a slogan or tagline is a “catchphrase or small group of words that are combined in a special way to identify a product or company.” While logos visually represent a brand, the tagline provides the audible. They are often simple to understand and remember. As a child of the 1960s, I grew up watching Mr. Whipple scolding, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin,” and Madge saying, “You’re soaking in it.” I don’t remember if my family purchased more Charmin toilet paper or Palmolive dishwashing soap, but Mr. Whipple and Madge were certainly top of mind when seeing those products in the grocery aisle.

Listed at No. 18 on the list of the world’s most valuable brands, Nike’s brand value is $27.5 billion. You may know the story of the swoosh logo being designed by a Portland State University student for $35. However, the slogan “Just Do It” was eerily inspired by serial killer Gary Gilmore, who said “let’s do it” just before he was executed in 1977. While the “Just Do It” phrase has always positively resonated with me, I would have never guessed its conception. I also like the slogans of other top brands, including GE (No. 10, $36.7 billion) “We bring good things to life” and Coca-Cola (No. 4, $58.5 billion) “Have a Coke and a smile.” I’ll let you guess at the world’s top ranked brand worth $154.1 billion, named after a fruit and technological in nature.

Some brand slogans are less impressive to me. “We try harder” always communicated to me that Avis runs in second place. “Can you hear me now?” made me wonder why Verizon needed to ask the question. Camera World’s tagline “For Negative People” is creative, but not what I would have chosen. And then there is Budweiser, “The king of beers” changing its name to America for the summer, which ‘tastes’ a little desperate to me.

In the end, messaging matters for a brand, but what really builds loyalty is a quality product and trust in the brand. Our family’s car brand of choice was Toyota, having over the years owned a Camry, Previa, and Tacoma. When we relocated to Michigan in 2005 we decided to switch to one of Detroit’s “Big Three” car manufacturers. Unfortunately the quality was not the same, which was disappointing, especially considering the cost of purchasing a car. Today I drive a Toyota Prius, which I love, and I have a hard time believing I will switch again. Maybe that is my Johnny Brand-Name tendency surfacing, but I think more likely it is confidence in a brand that I trust.

ACUI is a brand built on quality programs and services, and strengthened by the high engagement of members. We’ve been in the college union business for more than 100 years, continually adjusting to meet the needs of our members. Our current process to do so is an anticipated brand realignment. Read the ACUI Future of the Brand Task Force work and recommendations published in this edition of the Bulletin. Their recommendations make sense to me, and I would suggest they signify an organization that members value and trust but needs to more clearly articulate its brand. We need to take pride in the organization we’ve become over the past century and can’t be afraid to adjust our look and messaging to better communicate who we are to the audiences we serve.

I look forward to seeing how the recommendations shape new design and communication pieces, including a possible slogan or tagline. Stealing the familiar “Got Milk?” catchphrase, I might suggest something like “Got ACUI?” but somehow I don’t think the task force will be interested in my playful counsel. Your feedback, however, will be both of interest and important. The task force will be sharing new brand concepts and soliciting feedback at our upcoming programs, including regional conferences. Please make sure to share your opinion as we look to transition to a brand that best conveys the work of our profession. In the end, at least to me, the ACUI brand is priceless.