Branding Lesson: There’s a Right Way to Boil a Frog
Mr. Phinney was a genuinely nice science teacher in my high school. He liked to relax and chat casually with students while not in class. Like many science enthusiasts, Mr. Phinney (or occasionally Phinn-dog) knew a lot of strange things about the world.
One is how to boil a frog. If you drop a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in lukewarm water and gradually increase the heat, the frog will calmly boil to death.
Believe it or not, knowing how to boil a frog is valuable. For instance, when you’re at the airport, waiting like a happy little frog, you might notice that you’re plane has been delayed 15 minutes. Ten minutes later the delay is a half hour. That’s annoying, but manageable. Another 10 minutes pass and you’re on a 45-minute delay. Eventually the plane shows up two hours late, and you’re frog soup.
Had the airport immediately posted a two-hour delay, you might have jumped out of your seat and screamed “what the heck!” Maybe you would have berated a counter person and demanded justice. You would have jumped right out of the boiling water.
The same logic can be applied to marketing and product changes. A product that has to undergo quality cuts to cope with the tanking economy should do so gradually. Change one element at a time, or gradually scale down quality. Fewer people will notice.
If your brand needs an image overhaul, don’t rush it to the public. Slowly change your website, commercials and direct mail. Don’t completely change a medium all at once — or you’ll likely have some customers jump out of the pot.