The National Speakers Association, or NSA (not that NSA) recently announced a rebrand of their organization, dubbing it “Platform.” The problem? It looks eerily similar to another brand called “Platform” … that of speaker and author Michael Hyatt. (Seriously, did they have to use red?)
From a marketing and branding standpoint, here are five reasons the NSA missed it on this one:
1. Violation of the third law of marketing.
In their book 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout outline “the law of the mind” … it’s better to be first in the mind than it is to be first in the marketplace.
I’m sure Michael Hyatt isn’t the first to use the word “platform” in a product. But what comes to mind first when you hear the word platform? … Michael Hyatt.
Even if you’ve never heard of him, the internet has … Google “platform” and you’ll see Hyatt’s stuff on the first page right under two Wikipedia articles and the Miriam Webster dictionary. Not too shabby on those search results. It’s real shabby work if the National Speakers Association didn’t check this out.
2. The industries aren’t just similar … they’re the same!
Michael Hyatt is a public speaker, and a fairly well known one at that. Heck, he teaches speakers how to build their reach, runs a membership site called Platform University, hosts conferences on public speaking, and wrote a New York Times best-selling book called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Essentially, he’s in the same sector as the very people that either speak at or attend the National Speakers Association functions.
Legally speaking, there may not be any infringement issues. I’m not sure who has trademarked what, if anything. But the NSA is already up against breaking the law of the mind and now watering down it’s own re-branding efforts. Talk about brand confusion.
3. Stirring up Hyatt’s bigger (and more engaged) community.
Part of the reason Hyatt’s “Platform” brand has been so successful is because of it’s community, or what Seth Godin calls a “tribe.” Moreover, his community is comprised of a ton of bloggers and social media users that won’t hesitate to voice their opinion. It’s an engaged community, and one that’s been established for quite some time.
Here’s the thing: brands that have active and engaged communities seldom have to do much to stir up their own defense … their followers and fans speak for them. Just one look at the Michael Hyatt Facebook page (and the NSA Instagram) and you’ll see it’s already happening. And speaking of followers, Hyatt outnumbers the NSA on Twitter 223,000 to 11,000. That leads me to the next point:
4. Losing face in the court of public opinion.
Hyatt doesn’t look bad here. This paints him in an even more sympathetic light. Sure, there might be a few that tell him to lighten up, but “Platform” is a brand he personally launched, built, and invested in. Why wouldn’t he defend it?
For the NSA, there is very little silver lining. People will either think they’re idiots for not doing a simple Google search, pulled an epic fail in greenlighting the efforts of some marketing agency, or just blatantly ripped off Hyatt’s brand. They’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s unfortunate, because the National Speakers Association puts out killer content. Their book Paid to Speak is one of my favorites.
5. If it’s a publicity stunt, they really botched it.
Think it’s crazy that this might be a stunt to garner the attention of people in Hyatt’s audience, or piggy back on his brand? Think again. These kind of marketing tactics are well-documented and (unfortunately) industry standards.
I’m not accusing the NSA of doing this, I’m just saying that if they did, they didn’t do it very well … these kind of moves are done with the intent of deceiving the public in a stealthy way. If you don’t believe this stuff happens, recall Miley Cyrus and all the flak she got for her raunchy performances (or maybe you don’t want to). Have you noticed how people are relatively ok with her now, and she’s back in the public eye? Publicity Stunt 101.
If you’re still not convinced marketers and publicists do this sort of thing, read Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator … and forever lose your marketing innocence.
The bottom line … the National Speakers Association can do better.
The NSA’s products and events are a huge value add to many, many people … including me. Still, I can’t help but think they could have done better on this. This could turn into “PlatformGate.”
In a podcast episode titled 5 Must-Know Laws of Marketing, I casually mentioned Michael Hyatt “owns” the word Platform thinking no one would be crazy enough to market a product with that name. Oh well. The National Speakers Association is a juggernaut … maybe they figured they could just power through this. But as a marketer and brand consultant, this is one move that just doesn’t make sense.
Question: What are your thoughts on the NSA’s choice of rebranding? Is it ok? Dumb? Leave a comment below!
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