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Branding: The Real Deal or Fancy Packaging?

My kids received Kindle tablets for Christmas. Santa thought the devices might lead to more reading but so far, the kids have been trying
SPLogosout game after game (thankfully, only free ones so far). One game they like has you guess the name of a company from a partial image of its logo. That got me thinking about what makes a brand strong and recognizable even if a consumer never buys the product or service behind the logo.

I got my first lesson in effective parking branding in Portland, Ore., in the early ‘90s, when the Smart Park brand was created for the city’s public parking system. The brand was clean, bold, and simple, and accompanied by spokesperson Les Park, who was at your service. Most importantly, the brand conveyed friendliness, safety, and economy–exactly the attributes to overcome negative perceptions about downtown parking as being impersonal, unsafe, and expensive.

More recently, my company, Standard Parking, began the process of rebranding itself following its merger with Central Parking. Please forgive the unintended company plug, but it’s rare to be in a position to describe what goes into developing a company brand. I’m sharing some details in the hope that readers find the information useful.

Standard Parking Corporation changed its corporate name to SP Plus Corporation (though for the time being the company will continue to conduct its parking operations under its legacy brands). The visual centerpiece of the rebranding effort is a new SP+ logo that is fresh, colorful, and bold. Its elements preserve a connection with the legacy brands (SP in recognition of Standard Parking and a “+” symbol in Central Parking’s legacy gold color). The “+” highlights that the company is about more than just parking, having evolved into a team of operations specialists who link innovation with market-based expertise in parking, transportation, facility maintenance, event logistics, and security services. The company’s new commitment statement, “Innovation In Operation,” signifies a promise to apply innovative thinking in everything the company does.

There’s much more to an effective brand than a fancy logo. In order for a brand to stick, it must convey and deliver on its value proposition. Otherwise, it’s just slick packaging and empty promises.


About Casey Jones, CAPP

Casey Jones, CAPP is vice president for university services at SP Plus Corporation. He is IPI past chair and services on the IPI Parking Matters Committee and Accredited Parking Organization board of directors.


  1. Anne Guest says:

    Well said Casey!
    Makes total sense and it looks good too!
    Happy New Year!

  2. Wanda Brown says:

    This is so true what you are stating and it is not just true for vendor companies but for service deliverables. In a hospital setting, it is critical to patient satisfaction that what we we claim (in our branding) is the reality of the patient when accessing services. I guess what I am saying is that not only can a product have a brand but service can also be a brand as you’ve stated. For instance your blog made me think of my favorite past time of visiting Starbucks. it is my expectation that every time I get my signature drink at Starbucks that my drink taste the same no matter which location I visit. And guess what – it does! So, I really don’t pay attention as much to the Starbucks’ logo, but more to looking forward to the same familiar taste. I guess in conclusion it is both – product and service. I guess this is why we look forward to our vendor products at the conferences – familiar logo, familiar service.

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