Leaving The Depot

Posted by Julie Glassman on August 24th, 2011 at 11:50 am

I have nothing against brand-focused pseudonyms, abbreviations, acronyms or any other part of our consumer vernacular. I get it. Beloved companies often earn nicknames similar to the ones we ascribe to close friends, because after all, the brands we interact with most feel very much a part of our day-to-day lives.

Some brands go as far as to take official ownership of their newfound, consumer-ascribed monikers—capitalizing on the equity and permissions bestowed upon them by loving fans and loyalists: KFC, AOL, Sunny D, even Micky-D's...

Others try to create their own abbreviated personas, in the absence of consumer input, buy in, or adoration… and fail. Take Office Depot for example. Their new ad campaign, starring a miscast Al Roker, refers to itself intermittently as both Office Depot and “Depot”.  Here, excited office supply enthusiasts espouse the virtues of Depot with a fervor not usually associated with reams of paper and toner cartridges. According to Al and his vivacious cohorts, Depot is the place where happy people and families are made. Kind of stretch if you ask me. Despite the misguided strategy and weak execution, my brand-savvy sensibilities are most bothered by the frequent use of Depot. Its blatant, palpable in-authenticity and lack of consumer creation or connection, makes it an insult to anyone who’s ever needed a pencil sharpener or wall calendar.

Abbreviated brand names are only effective and meaningful when audiences create them. To me, making up your own nickname is like having 1500 Facebook friends and no one to hang out with on Saturday night. What’s more, when individual consumers frequent a brand as seldom as a ubiquitous office supply chain—it simply doesn’t deserve one. The occasional brand should never be positioned as a BFF, but rather a necessity. In other words, we simply don’t ascribe pet names to our acquaintances.

Instead, Office Depot should own its occasional-ness. There’s nothing wrong with providing a parity set of products and services and doing it well. The appeal in their case is not the familiar but rather the selection, price, convenience and know-how. Focus your messages and strategies on what customers actually want and need from you and on what you can actually deliver… and they will come. Pretend you’re friends and that your sticky notes, index cards, and rulers hold the key to familial happiness…. and they’re heading to Staples.

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