Eddie Stobart and stealth branding

Eddie Stobart
The death of Eddie Stobart highlighted one of the UK’s most idiosyncratic brands. A medium-sized haulage company essentially offering the same product as its competitors became a much-revered British institution. But how? And why?
So, why does its name and reputation shine brighter?
What lessons are there for your word of mouth, PR, marketing and brand communications from the story of Eddie Stobart?
1. Distinctive visibility. In an age of limited budgets the need for what I call ‘Self-vertising’ is paramount. What ways can you use your own channels, your own imprint on how you connect with the outside world?
Eddie Stobart ensured there was a consistent brand image for his vehicles. Yet, lots of other haulage companies have consistent brand livery.
Eddie however, was blessed with innate great branding. The very name Eddie Stobart is distinct, memorable, unusual, without being too far difficult to comprehend or label, or be categorized and discarded as ‘foreign’
It is not that people are xenophobic, but memorable names have to be instantly filed away in our minds. The ‘Eddie Stobart’ name had the right balance to ensure it would stick out, create what we call ‘dissonance’, without being too outlandish.
This quality is what I call ‘Distinctive Visibility’. I came across a psychological test where you were asked to count the number of people in a street scene. Curiously, your brain paradoxically does not count those workmen wearing high visibility clothing. In spite of their ‘visibility’ they failed to make a distinctive impression.
What ways can your brand be both visible and distinctive?

2. Likeability - one of the most potent factors in branding success and indeed, life itself is what I call the ‘Likeability Factor’; do people like you, particularly on first impression. What if Mr Stobart had called his firm ‘Edward Stobart’ would it have been so effective.
The inherent informality of ‘Eddie’ was reinforced by giving his trucks girls’ names, a variation on the tradition of naming steam engines. By naming them, it humanised the trucks. People saw them not as ugly vehicles but more like a character in a children’s story, a toy, a bit of fun.
While you cannot fake, long-term likeability, it is possible to cultivate and nurture likeable features and characteristics for your brand.

3. Connectivity - the root core of any successful communication is creating a bridge between you and your target audience. Everyone, especially small children, can relate to a truck with a girl’s name. You can then relate back from that shared experience to how you feel about the brand as a whole.
Connectivity was extended with developments such as the Eddie Spotters Club (with its 25,000 members). The club was created in response to consumer demand rather than as a result of a marketing master plan. Initial enquiries from would-be fans were initially just sent a duplicated list of names. Again, this offers compelling evidence of the sheer innate brand quality of the ‘Eddie Stobart’ name.

4. Vibrancy - it seems there are sufficient Eddie Stobart trucks to be seen on a regular basis, but not enough to make them a boring, ubiquitous sight. A healthy brand relationship needs to have a good level of inter-action: not too much, nor too little.

5. Short Step engagement - to be an Eddie Spotter all you had to do was see a truck on the road. It did not require elaborate procedures; it was an easy-to-do. A web site with a range of merchandise catered for the more dedicated aficionados.
Eddie Spotting became a way of enlivening an otherwise dull motorway journey. Te distraction is welcomed, you are not having to distract from a rival, competing interest. What quiet or dull moments could provide opportunities for your brand to engage with your fans?

6. Conversation value - spotting an Eddie Stobart truck gives you an opportunity to impress your fellow traveller by being the first to spot as well as the cue for a conversation about your shared ‘Eddie experiences’. What talking points do you offer your fans?

7. Brand mystery. Curiously, despite being one of the best known names in the country Eddie Stobart himself was uncharismatic, shy, and kept himself out of the public spotlight.

This ‘invisibility’ actually enhanced the ‘Eddie Stobart’ brand; if you knew more about him as a person there is the danger of then being able to pigeon-hole, categorize him, his class, regional accent – and, if you liked him or not.
Keeping Mr Stobart out of the equation let people create their own sum, their image of the persona they would like ‘Eddie Stobart’ to be; invariably, this will be a positive, likeable image.
In the same way that the formula for Coca Cola is allegedly a secret, what Brand Mystery do you tantalise your world with?
GREEN Communications can you help you maximise the impact of your brand. We can provide your business with the best brand story to support its success. Get in touch now for a free informal Brand audit.