There comes a time in every ski instructor’s career when they will attend a resort branding pep talk. Kate Howe, an instructor-trainer at Aspen, took this concept one step further. In a video titled Building Your Brand, she talks about branding for ski instructors. Kate argues that in order succeed as a ski instructor, you need to treat your instruction as a business. In other words, you need to become the “CEO of Ski With Me Inc.” A business, however, must have a brand. This three-article series will help you build, define and evolve your brand. The first article will pose some questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Respond as honestly as you can.
Branding Is About Belonging
Kate uses Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to describe the basic principles of branding. The physiological and safety needs apply to all ski students. They all need hydration, fuel, and a chance to use the restrooms before class. They all — even the moist adventurous students — need to know that there’s a relative level of safety. Things get interesting at the third level of the triangle: Belonging. In fact, the sense of belonging is intrinsically tied to the next level: Esteem.
Case in point: The Level 4 Student who puts himself in a Level 7 ski class. His sense of self esteem is tied into the idea of belonging to the Level 7 group.
People Identify with specific brands because they want to belong to that group.
Kate uses examples of political campaigns, along with products such as Coke and Pepsi to show how different compànies design their brand for different groups.
Check out these two car rental companies. Notice the difference in branding.
At the top of the Silvercar page, you see a bold headlines that reads: CAR RENTAL THAT DOESN’T SUCK AT DEN
Scroll down, and you’ll a picture of an Audi — the only car they rent — and a picture of an iPhone. They offer free satellite radio and free wi-fi. The Trunk Show, at the top of the page, links to the company’s blog, which features articles about the FIS World Championship at Vail and the Audi in pop culture.
The Hertz page is rather stark. Its extras include baby seats, infant seats, booster seats and “skierized” vehicles. These two companies obviously appeal to different types of people.
Two students arrive at Denver Airport. One rents from Silvercar. The other, from Hertz. Which one would choose you as their instructor?
Now let’s compare ski jacket manufacturers:
What do these jackets say about the students who wear them? Which student matches your teaching brand?
Re-branding Hillary Clinton
An article in the Washington Post asks: “Is Hillary Rodham Clinton a McDonald’s Big Mac or a Chipotle burrito bowl? A can of Bud or a bottle of Blue Moon? JCPenney or J. Crew?”
Apparently, as Hillary prepares for her 2016 presidential campaign, she has recruited a team of consumer marketing specialists. Their mission: “To help imagine Hillary 5.0 — the re-branding of a first lady turned senator turned failed presidential candidate turned secretary of state turned likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.”
Sealey, who is credited with the successful “Always Coca-Cola” campaign in the 1990s, said that Clinton, like Coke, “has incredible top-of-mind awareness, and it’s a huge asset.”
“The issue is: What is her promise?” he said. “With Mercedes, it’s quality. With Volvo, it’s safety. With Coca-Cola, it’s refreshment. If you can get her promise down to one word, that’s the key.”
“Look at Budweiser,” said a former campaign adviser to President Obama, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly. “That’s what Hillary Clinton is. She’s not a microbrew. She’s one of the biggest, most powerful brands ever in the country, and recognizing that is important.”
What’s your promise to your ski students? Describe it in one word. If you were a beer, what kind would you be? Do you have “top of mind awareness” at your resort, or are you just another red jacket?
The Evolving Brand
Throughout the video, Kate stresses the importance of a continually evolving brand. We leave you with this analogy:
Branding is like a pair of skis. They need to make you look good on the slopes. They need to make you feel good. Since brands are aspirational, they can be a little bit long. But not so long that they make you look silly.