donderdag 20 november 2008

thoughts on brands

Parts of an exchange about brands. Was very helpfull in clarifying some of my thoughts, so it is being reprinted for those who like this sort of stuff with kind permission of Rob Campbell

Why would a brand want to live forever? especially with the life span of 18 months when it comes to brand managers why doesn't anybody retire brands like they do rockbands (and releasing a single to pay for your ex wife does not count as keeping the beatles alive, they died the day ringo stopped replying to fanmail!).

Killing it prematurly is surely a strategy. Hendrix, Che, JFK, The Wire will live on more powerfully with the great "what if..? question" sparking the imagination then say the brand of Law & Order or Bill Clinton...

I would really like to hear your opinion on heritage in brands, does this burden or enhance? and should you sometimes kill them off? The product life cycly is just another midless act people refer to. Brand euthanasia is surely in order. who needs 2000 jeans brands?

I think it’s an interesting strat however there’s a few points that will probably stop it from ever happening …
1/ No company will kill a brand that is making them tons of cash. Apart from the fact they crave profit, if they are listed, it is a legal duty to do whatever is in the best interests of the company and as much as you could argue it will give the brand ‘emotional longevity’, it’d be a hard sell to shareholders.

2/ There are lots of brands that meant a lot to people that got pulled [because of poor sales for example] and whilst they still live in the minds of the fans, their commercial value [unlike Hendrix/Elvis etc] is minimal.

3/ The fact is that in the main, ‘brands that are manufactured’ just don’t have that much importance in people’s lives. Sure they like them, but they don’t love for them – mainly because their communication is primarily blatantly commercially based as opposed to musicians that often represent a more emotional value, even if in reality they are designed to get money out of your wallets.

As I said, I do think it’s an interesting idea, but killing the goose that laid the golden egg – especially from a corporate standpoint – is sadly, quite unlikely.

like i said, I believe that legal issues (such as obligations to shareholders) are preventing growth of brands.

So I believe that first of lifting the copyright protection on a brand will free up a brand and simultaniously scare them into delivering tangible value. If you look at the stock market crisis it's alot down to intangible fears. A lot of companies are very liquid but lose value.

If it's free market you want, well let the market decide. basically it's Rome. You got two brands (copyright free) and the consumer get's to decide if they live or dy. They can vote (think the brandtags thing of Noah Brier but with thums up or thumds down vote, not asking abbout associations).

And secondly by making brands creative comm licence esque, the public will indirectly decide what happens to a brand. If a brand is good and acts proper, you will most likely see small charities and other projects hop on their name. If it's shite you will see most likely some cynical and satirical stuff on youtube and in other media that will kill it. self regualation, much like wikipedia.

If 'i've learned anything it's that brands only exist in the minds of those who buy/believe in them. So either you deliver uplifting meaning and raise spirits (such as Nike) or you flog a good enough product at cheap prices so it meet needs.

I see a future where there are two type of tangible product brands: autonomous brands that deserve to live and the Unicef brands. by Unicef brands I mean that the major (multi religious and otherwise) charities start adding their label to products. so you get the typhoid south africa pants, the fresh water shirts.

This way not only do we rid the world of bad brands (and the hacks that support them in their comms) but we make sure that either you get someting great or you do something good. Web based brands will be a different story, because of the low cost of scaling.

Might never happen, but that's what they said about communisme in the usa!

Quick question, if we follow your idea to its natural conclusion, what role does marketing then have given it used to be about ‘influence’ whereas you seem to almost be saying it should be totally upto the people’s choice or am I missing something?

It's about filling in the akward silences that occur when conversation is turning from interesting to not [PR is gaining in importance]. it's about becoming the one people can turn to in time of crisis.

So instead of toning down their presence to inlfuence, marketing has to ramp it up, when it matters and with different content!

1) internal company development (structuraly, legaly, productwise, making JFK "we will put a man on the moon in 10 years"goals)

2) relevant culture converstation starter/matchmaking problems with solutions (enabling journalist to do work, filmmakers to talk, taking the real beauty strat to a more abstract level)

3) community outreach (perhaps like a state that takes care of it's citizens [yeah it's going back to industrial age practice of job for life, but now it's about quality for life]; how many brand consumers can't afford their healthcare? why are not all the brands pooling resources to come up with something. loyalty = 2way street)

I believe that brands should put their faith in the hands of consumers. it's like that exercise where you fall backwards and hope somebody catches you. now brands expect to be caught, but don't catch.

Nothing wrong with making money, nothing wrong with making mistakes.

We talk about brands behaving more human or treating consumers more humane. So why not than see how we can make brands as vulnerable as possible so that a) they are seen as one of "us", b) they can change people's minds and actions because they will do like brands/companies.

So perhaps I was a bit black and white about the rome analogy, but I stick by my Uplifting vs Valuable categorization. either you make me feel good, or help me be better/do good while offering me good enough product I don't have to think to much about.

By putting yourselve out there you will see if you are good enough. The goose /currency = people. Pete was right. And like oil, we are abusing it untill there will be no more.

How many people will say with pride: I work at....? That is another the role of marketing. Making sure that the consumers, who happen to work for them, feel proud. kingdom for meaning!

Hope it makes sense

dinsdag 18 november 2008

branding at the speed of law

You've probably read, seen or heard about this. It's the reality of business today. Shit can hit the fan. But what peakes my interest is the fact that it's a losing reality for most brands. Why?

The legal department.
The aim of the game back in the day was to protect image. And when it comes to that game, most major companies are well equiped. cease and desist, halting actions.
Only nobody told them the citizens are playing a different game. A bit like cops and robbers, Batman and the Joker.

It's about being able to talk the fluid fast paced, truth based talk. How may companies are structured in such a way that they know the exact margins of communication, so that they can act without concern and stay in conversation?
So riddle me this agencies:

When it comes to briefing or presenting strat + concepts, how many are concerned with the facilitation of an ongoing dialogue from a legal structure p.o.v.?

For so many intergrated agencies it seems that ad/marketing and p.r. are still seen as silo's and not letters that, read out loud, form the word experience.
Yet if you do not set yourselves up to learn real time, you are just setting yourselve up to fail. And just thinking about the initial setup whereby courting controversy (which in turn can ignite passionate followers and fierce detractors; the bedrock of branding against beige) is in some cases a viable way to go, is not enough. It's always about the next move.
Asking yourselve questions like: what if we don't create followers, but just piss people of ? What is our Time to Reponse ?

As a client I would very much appreciate the fact that my ad team has legal experts on board who played a role in the overal strategy and have paved the way for advertising and pr to flow into one another. Creativity is reading and knowing the fineprint. And this is not a plea for further focus group testing, this is simply asking companies and agencies to level the playingfield for themselves so that they are not hijacked.
For as long as a brand does not truly belong to it's consumers (in every sense of the way) companies have to think about how to become as agile as citizens. Or at least know what game they are in and the rules that apply.