Prof. Lee Daniels on Remaking a Brand

Here’s a challenge marketing professor Lee Daniels poses his students:

It’s the mid-1990s. The Net is the hottest new thing, and you just stepped to the helm of a pioneering venture that offers for the first time futuristic technology to deliver cable, Internet, and telephone service in one package—but for some reason the customers aren’t biting.

That’s where Daniels found himself when he left his role as CEO of AT&T Japan to take the reins of struggling broadband fiber-optic company TITUS in Japan.  “It seemed like a good opportunity to come in and be at the forefront of technology,” he says.

What would you do with this opportunity?

That’s the assignment Daniels gives his students, asking them to rebrand TITUS with a new logo and slogan, with proposals of how to market and promote it in the Japanese market. Logos, symbols, and brands are the face of a company—often the first chance it has to make a lasting positive impression on the consumer. As Daniels found, and as he hopes to teach his students, a great logo can go a long way.

At TITUS the products were new and the technology great, so Daniels wanted a fresh start with a new logo and branding strategy. The original logo “didn’t mean anything to anyone,” he says. The name of the company was in stern black caps, with the U in candy-pink script. “It was a little bit uncomfortable,” admits Daniels—and it needed to change.

TITUS went with an elongated and titled oval representing the fiber optic cable, with yellow sunbursts to show “it’s new, it’s powerful.” The word “communications” was added to clarify the company’s purpose.

The redesigned TITUS logo and product-line branding featured an oval representing a fiber-optic cable.

The redesigned TITUS logo and product-line branding featured an elongated oval to represent a fiber-optic cable.

Logo colors are important, Daniels adds: the TITUS logo nodded to its largest shareholder by matching its colors, and the rebranding gave each service—cable, phone, and Internet—individual colors to mark them as distinct product lines with a unifying hue and design.

“That was a fun experience,” Daniels says. “Not many people have opportunities during their career to reposition a company and come up with a product branding strategy that will allow them to bundle.”

And it was successful: subscribers increased, and the rebranding brought a lot of new interest and media coverage of TITUS. By 1999 it was purchased by a larger Japanese telecommunications company.

Want more examples of how even the smallest logo tweak can make the biggest difference? Check out “Hitting the Mark” in the Winter 2015 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine.