When Roosters Crow: A Brand Story

I’m not a country girl. That knowledge was reinforced several months ago, when I spent time at a friend’s home in a rural town near West Virginia. The area was beautiful and picturesque. A dairy farm stood in the distance with cows and goats scattered like chess pieces across the landscape. A spectacular view of the hillside could be seen through every window. However, all that splendor diminished from my view because I couldn’t see past the bugs and the snakes.

Then there was Harry.
The neighboring rooster interrupted my plans for unhurried mornings. The first Sunday of my visit, Harry began crowing seconds before the sun peeked over the horizon, letting this city girl know that folks don’t sleep late here. Not even on the weekends. He crowed for a good ten minutes that seemed like an hour. I thought he’d never quit. The next morning, the rooster crowed twice: at 7:00 and again at 11:00. By Wednesday, Harry changed his rhythm. He crowed at 2:00 p.m. and he didn’t crow again until Thursday night. Shouldn’t roosters crow early in the morning as a rule?

Friday came and not a peep from Harry the entire day, nor the next. I wondered if someone decided he’d make a fine meal. I woke up that Sunday morning feeling a little sad for the poor fellow when the sun rose, noon passed, and still no word from Harry. Then at 3 p.m. a rooster crowed. Harry? I sat straight up from my hunched position over the keyboard and listened intently. Maybe another rooster replaced Harry, but as I listened to the characteristics of that familiar snarly crow, I was convinced—and oddly relieved—that Harry had returned.

How reliable is your story?
Harry’s inconsistent crowing made me think about the irregularities in some of our brand storytelling. It is commonly thought that roosters crow at the first light of day, at sunrise. The truth is roosters may crow at any time of day or night and often crow to warn off a threat or to claim their territory. Many of us grew up believing the rooster’s story as a barnyard guardian and egg-making Casanova that calls the world to attention at first morning light.

Harry is an extension of the stories about his ancestors—truth and folklore. He hasn’t strayed too far from the “rooster brand”, but his inconsistent behavior challenges the brand’s reliability.

Your organization has a history. Leaders come and go, and each person crows their own take on the brand story. Some leaders may stay close to the original story while others offer an embellished tale to achieve a particular goal. Along the way, inconsistencies developed in the storytelling and in how the company’s attributes are crowed, both verbally and visually. When is the last time you reviewed your brand and its assets and realigned your messaging?

It may be time to try harder.
Remember the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign? Avis refreshed its business with those three simple words, setting a new standard for the car rental industry and increasing their market shares from 11% to 34% in four years.1 Avis stood by this original campaign, which served them well for 50 years. In 2012, however, an evolving clientele required a new brand strategy. The old story had lost some of its relevance. So, Avis created a new story—“It’s Your Space”—that continued to support the company’s key brand objective: “to drive profitable growth.”2
What story are you telling? Take a closer look at your current marketing campaigns and consider the following:

  • Who are you today compared to who you were when your nonprofit organization was founded?
  • How has your story changed in the last five years, or are you telling the same old story?
  • Do your communications consistently align with where your business is today or support where it’s headed?
  • Have your members and donors changed their perceptions of who you are or what you represent? In what way? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
  • Are your conversations making your story clearer or are they confusing the issues?
  • Does your current messaging support your company’s core brand objectives?

Clarify your truth.
We all know that change is eminent and can be good; however, as Victor Hugo advised, “Change your opinions, keep your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.”

Harry’s inconsistent crowing may have changed this city girl’s understanding of when roosters crow, but not the fact that they crow. The image of a rooster as barnyard guardian, Casanova, and the announcer of daylight still rings true. My cocky feathered friend just made the message clearer while at the same time giving me a fresh perspective of roosters—albeit a truth overlooked.

Share Your Thoughts:
What brands have changed your perception of their products with a renewed message?



1 Avis | Project Re: Brief by Google, http://www.projectrebrief.com/avis/_br (accessed May 14, 2014).

2 “Avis Scraps ‘We Try Harder’ Slogan; Now, Dear Customer, ‘It’s Your Space’.” http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2012/09/03/Avis-New-Tagline-090312.aspx

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