Dave Murray

Focus: A Brand Strategy Assignment

Focus IS Brand Strategy!

Hello, class! I’m Professor Dave. For anyone who wants to do any brown-nosing, I enjoy Hershey’s bars, Dragon’s Milk, and the occasional Granny Smith Apple – the non-poisonous variety, of course. And when you’re done giving me any of those, leave. I abhor ass-kissers.

Today, I’ll be teaching you all about focus, which is one of the key aspects of brand strategy. And at the end, I’ll even give you some homework! If this were real school, you’d be ticked – but, since this assignment will make you a whole lotta cash, you’ll dig it.

Now, on to Focus

Mayniax Branding - Focus on those googly eyes!

I write a lot about focus. The reason being I believe it’s the billion-dollar idea that almost no corporation, let alone entrepreneur, wants to deal with.

Consider, however, the fact Apple – the second most valuable company in the world – nearly went bankrupt in the mid-’90s. So how did it survive? For one thing, Steve Jobs asked Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, for $150,000,000 to help keep Apple afloat. Gates obliged. The second thing Jobs did was eliminate a whole lotta product lines. In short, he focused.

Consider the fact Chipotle, a company that’s kept its product focused, started life on the stock market at $42.20 per share in 2006, and as of this writing, is at $621.69 per share.

And finally, consider the fact LEGO, a company that nearly went belly-up in 2004, is now the number one toy company in the world. And all they do is make building blocks.

So Who Doesn’t Focus?

mayniax branding - It makes me incredibly sad when entrepreneurs don't focus

For one, Google. Google puts its name on everything! In the old days, Google pretty much meant “search.” Now, it’s put its name on so many different products, people aren’t sure what it means. And, while I’m sure most still think of it as search, the fact is Google’s losing market share. A lot of people who are paid a lot of money are, I’m sure, running reports trying to figure out what’s up. Brand strategists, however, know the answer: its name’s on too much stuff! Google’s not focused.

Now, since they came up with a parent company called Alphabet, we’re actually excited about Google. They have the opportunity to right the ship, and go back to making Google mean search, while their other brand names can stand for everything else they’re doing. Now, let’s see if they do it.

Another one’s McDonald’s. Poor, poor McDonald’s. I actually feel bad for McDonald’s. I, however, wrote about McDonald’s in the same post I linked to in the Google paragraph, so you can read my thought’s there. That typed, Al Ries – who’s pretty much the father of brand strategy / positioning – agreed with me in a piece he wrote for Ad Age.

And Now for the Brand Focus Assignment

One of our rules is: One Brand. One Product. One Target Market.

Mayniax Branding Rule - One Brand. One Product. One Target Market.

I’m sure, even after all my explaining above, that still seems insane to you. Don’t worry, though – I’m going to set it up so you can see the results for yourself. And then, you too can join the gutsy ones.

Step One: Identify all the different products / services you offer.
Step Two: Identify the one that makes the most money.
Step Three: Create a new brand that only sells the product / service that makes the most money.

What you’ll end up with are two brands. The first brand is the one that sells everything – including the product / service identified in Step Two. That’s what you’ve been doing, so I know that’s the comfort zone. The second brand is focused solely on that one product / service that makes you the most money.

Once you’ve created both brands, advertise the hell out of them. Remember that branding takes a while, but what you’ll eventually see is that the second brand will make more money than the same product in the first brand.

Or, you could stop wasting your time, and create separate brands for all the products / services you offer. It’s unconventional. It’s a lot more front-end work. It even takes longer to see results. But if you want a better life that eventually leads to a lot less struggle, it’s the smart, and gutsy, thing to do.

If you’re not sure how to brand, and you’re in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, feel free to fire an email to If you’re not in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area, then read past and future articles from this very blog. You should get a pretty good understanding of how branding and brand strategy works.

And with that, I’m out!

Now, where the crap did I put that Dragon’s Milk?

Stay gutsy, gang!

Dave Murray

Google, Chucks, and Mickey D’s. BOOM!!!

Google, Chucks, and Mickey D’s. BOOM!!!

Being sick is no joke.

I’ve been wanting to write this one ever since I read Converse changed the ever-awesome, dare I say “iconic,” Chuck Taylors. And then Google went all Alphabet on us. And, of course, McDonald’s is always good for a few laughs.

But I’m just now able to write about all that. Because being sick is no joke.

With that typed, let’s get to it!

Is the Chuck Taylor All Star II a Good Branding Move?

Yes and no. Converse / Nike came really close to nailing it. They just didn’t quite pull it off.

In The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding*, Al and Laura Ries write about why expanding a brand is a bad idea for long-term growth, citing Chevrolet, American Express, and Levi Strauss as examples. Spoiler alert: all of them lost market share as they expanded their brands to include more products.

Some of my all-time favorite ads are the Volkswagen print ads from the ’60s. And I was instantly reminded of one of them when I read about the Chuck IIs

Mayniax Branding - Don't ever change, 1960s Volkswagen Beetle

To me, that ad is the epitome of perfect branding through advertising. The body remains the same, while the interior is altered as needed. The Beetle is widely regarded as one of the best branded cars in history, and that kind of approach is why. And it’s really close to what Converse, after 98 years, did with the Chuck Taylor All Star II.

Mayniax Branding digs our Chuck Taylors

Like the Beetle pic, all they really did, aside from slight color differences, is keep the body the same and altered the interior for more comfort. That was a great move! That typed, here’s what I think they did wrong, along with what they could’ve done right:

Wrong: the name is classic line extension. Right: call it Chuck Taylor All Star – hear me out.
Wrong: They kept the original Chuck Taylor All Star. Right: Retire it. Make it a collectible.
Wrong: the “body” isn’t consistent, color-wise. Right: Color it the same as the original.

Line extension adds confusion, dilutes the brand, and ends up costing market share. So my approach would be to either retire the original Chucks and make the new one’s body look just like them, or keep the original Chucks, and get rid of the new ones.

It was really close, though, and much better than a lot of companies do. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one!

Seriously, McDonald’s. What the Crap?

I actually feel bad for Mickey D’s. I’ve never seen a huge corporation work so hard to get everything right, just to get everything so terribly wrong, especially from a brand strategy point-of-view.

“Hey guys, let’s expand the menu to a mammoth size and then wonder why things get made incorrectly!”
“Let’s kill the exclusivity with breakfast by selling it all day, and cut into sales of the higher margin hamburgers!”
“Seriously, guys, I’ve got it! Let’s give Ronald McDonald a red coat. That’ll solve everything!”

Those were fun to type.

If I, or any other brand strategist worth a damn, were able to talk to the clowns – see what I did there? – in charge of McDonald’s, I’d suggest the following:

Take it back to its original menu, while also keeping the Big Mac and Happy Meal. And the Filet-O-Fish during Lent.


This would drastically cut down on costs since they wouldn’t have to source chicken, salad stuff, yogurt, and whatever else McDonald’s sells that isn’t burgers and fries – because burgers and fries is what McDonald’s is. It would also mostly solve the problem of incorrectly prepared food because the menu would be so much easier to learn.

Al Ries, a hugely respected man in the marketing world, thinks In-N-Out Burger, with it’s insanely limited menu – like I’m suggesting McDonald’s go back to – could out-do McDonald’s, saying, “If In-N-Out Burger were a national chain with a national reputation, its average unit would probably outsell McDonald’s average unit.”

Use some of the saved money to buy higher-quality ingredients. Let’s face it, people are trying to be healthier. And they’re wise to the “nutritional facts” of the fast food industry. McDonald’s is still the leader in the fast food category, so they can get better ingredients for less money. Advertise those better ingredients, and the more health-conscious among us may give Mickey D’s another shot. And even better, they may not get so ticked when Ronald McDonald shows up during Nicktoons commercial breaks.

The basic idea I’m pushing is for McDonald’s to re-focus their brand. On the verge of bankruptcy, LEGO decided to re-focus their brand, and are now the number one toy company in the world.

McDonald’s has so many employees, and I’d hate to see it go under and have all those people lose their jobs because of poor brand strategy.

Especially Ronald McDonald! Because clowns aren’t creepy at all, right? Right!?!

Mayniax Branding Ronald McDonald


A lot of you don’t know this, because Google affects everything I do on the interwebz, so I try not to bust them too badly. But man, off-line, I let ’em have it, saying things like, “Google’s gonna be over in the next 10 years,” and “If they don’t detach Google+ from YouTube, I’m gonna kick a puppy!”

Sidenote: Whenever I say things like “I’m gonna kick a puppy,” I feel I should clarify and let you know I’m not actually gonna kick a puppy. Nor have I ever kicked a puppy. A hamster on the other hand…KIDDING!!!

Anyway, back to Google.

A few days ago, Google announced it was forming an umbrella company called Alphabet. And there was much rejoicing from yours truly. I was honestly excited for Google! Here’s why: Google means search. When’s the last time you said you were gonna “surf the web”? None of us have had to say that in years! Do you know why? Because now we just “Google it.” Again, Google is search. When your brand becomes a verb, you’ve done well.

Since then, however – just like we talked about earlier with brand expansion – Google has put its name on everything: Google+, Google Glass, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google X, and even a Google car! And all that does is water down the brand, making it stand less and less for search, and more and more for – well – everything under the sun. And that’s never a good branding strategy.

With Alphabet, they can fix that. Google, as a stand-alone brand, could go back to being just search. YouTube could operate autonomously under Alphabet, as could Droid. Everything Google previously had to have under its own umbrella, can now fit snugly under Alphabet, without watering down the Google name. Now, that’s not how the current structure is set up. The fact they made this move, however, tells me they’re finally thinking about it strategically, and I’m honestly geeked about that.


Oh, and they did end up separating Google+ from YouTube.

I hope you guys had as much fun reading that as I did writing it! I enjoyed writing it so much, I may need to check into a funny farm, tomorrow, just for a check-up.

If you want to know more about us, visit our – well – About page! And if you have any branding questions, whether you’re in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area or not, feel free to click contact and ask. We don’t bite. Especially over the internet! Because that would be impossible.

I’ll talk atcha next time, and as always…

Stay gutsy, gang!

*I’m not selling, nor being paid to sell this book. I just really dig it!


Chuck Taylors
The Today Show – Converse Unveils Chuck Taylor II
Huffington Post – Chuck Taylor Redesign

Volkswagen Beetle
Edmunds – The 100 Greatest Cars of All-time
Investopedia – Best-selling Cars
Wikipedia – List of Best-selling Automobiles

Ad Age – In the Marketing World, One Plus One Equals Three-Fourths
CNN Money – McDonalds Earnings Sales Down

CNN Money – Meet Google Alphabet – Google’s new parent company
YouTube Blog – Google+ No Longer Has to be Linked to YouTube