Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brand Botch – (first in a series)

Sometimes brand consultants botch things badly. They recommend something silly, and the client cheerily goes along with it.

For example, take the slogan for CSX. Know what they do? Here’s the company's description. Our "principal operating company, CSX Transportation Inc., operates the largest railroad in the eastern United States with a 21,000-mile rail network linking commercial markets in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces." Very solid company. Operates railroads. Blunt, no-nonsense guys with chiseled chins and crinkly grins.

So, know what their brand slogan is? “How tomorrow moves.” That's right.

I can’t tell you how many times I nearly drove off the road when I heard that slogan. “CSX… We're how tomorrow moves.” Really? First, tomorrow doesn’t, can’t and won’t ever “move.” It can't run, jump, dance, do sit-ups or bake cookies. Tomorrow just happens.

Second, if CSX is implying that railroads are vehicles of the future, they might be reminded that railroadin' has been around since the early 19th century and is pretty well associated with the past.

Saying that your company is about the future doesn’t mean that we'll dismiss history. They don’t have to say, “CSX… The ol’ faithful iron horse your grandpa relied on to move fence posts.” But they might try to think of something that doesn’t evoke Star Trek.

It's possible the guys in the coal tender thought up the slogan. But I suspect the mind of a coffeed-out brand consultant.

By the way: This is first in our series called Brand Botch. I can confidently predict it will be a long-runner. Don’t miss it. And feel free to add your own contenders.

brandsinger... "How tomorrow moves" (Why not? it's just as relevant for me to say it.)


Todd Merriman said...

To paraphrase a former colleague, "It's not a railroad company, it's what you've been waiting for."

brandsinger said...

Exactly. Nicely put. The funny thing is that being the largest, best railroad company is itself a tremendous and distinctive brand identity.

Shelby said...

It makes your heart break for those execs who really do want to be about the future... via rail. With cleaner coal and airlines slashing flights, I guess it's possible.

brandsinger said...

Thanks. I didn't think of that, Shelby. Perhaps trains will be the transportation mode of the future. One never knows...