What’s with UPS “Brown” anyway?

A friend of mine in high school spiked his hair and wanted to be known as “Spike.” But that phase passed, and eventually the haircut became exactly that: a haircut. Now, we think of him as a person, not a hairstyle.

When it comes to building a brand, it’s the person behind the hairstyle that matters. A brand stands for something. Coke stands for cola-flavored soft drinks. WalMart is low-priced superstore. Nike is about professional-quality athletic performance. Staples is trying to build a brand around making your office supply experience easy.

Along with the meaning they want to give a brand, companies choose a look and feel that stays the same and makes it easy to identify the brand. Coke’s classic bottle shape and it’s red logo, swoosh, and typeface all identify the brand. WalMart’s logo, font, and star do it. And who could forget the garish red, STAPLES logo with the L that looks like a bent staple?

UPS, however, is revolutionizing the brand world. They have a logo, and it’s brown. So they’re building their brand all around … yes, the color of their logo, trucks, and uniforms. They seem to have confused the symbol with what it stands for, and assume that the color will somehow convey something about the product benefits or what it does. I don’t know what you think, but here in my household, it just ain’t working.

To this day, I think the strongest brand in the shipping industry was Federal Express’s original slogan: When it Absolutely, Positively Has to Be There Overnight. Boy, did that etch itself into my brain. I knew who they were, and what they did: speedy delivery guaranteed. These days, if they even have a slogan any more, it’s watered down beyond belief. I think it was “The World on Time” for a while, but that was about as inspiring as beige. Maybe they’ll soon realize their greatest asset is the recognizable red-white-and-blue envelope, and rename themselves, “Flag-colored.” It could combine patriotism (sure to be a hit overseas) with a new, 21st century color-based brand. It’s a thought…

Is Brown a brand?

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