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Jul 2011 14

how ruthless should you be with brands?

Posted in blog

Hmmm…..I wonder what we will be commenting about today?

Perhaps British Gas’s frankly bare faced cheek at trying to market their outrageous price hikes as ‘to fund necessary investment in our future energy supplies’ (nice timing by the way)?

Or maybe the continuing skepticism surrounding the  Olympic Ticket marketing strategy which everyone now realises was a way of disguising the fact that the vast majority are simply overpriced (£75 to see a hockey 11th place decider anyone?  Anyone???)?

No, of course not.

What else but last weeks dramatic wipe out of The News of The World in one of the swiftest brand culls in history.

Talk about summary justice.  It was like the bond villain dispatching one of his most trusted evil aides who had nevertheless “failed me for the last time”.

Rather than trawl over the same points that everyone is making, I thought I would relate this example to a practical subject – that of just how one should deal with a brand that is not selling you as it should.

In extremely damaging cases, treating it like a leper as the rest of your brands stand aside and point at it is one way, a la James/Rupert Murdoch.

Clearly this damage limitation tactic is an attempt to throw all the blame onto NOTW and disassociate News International and its other brands from it – in a way trying to garner some sort of moral high ground by sharing the collective disgust. Which is a little bit like Dracula complaining about the treatment of veal.

Really though, in cases where your brand is not actively destroying your companies reputation of course, you should follow it through its natural decline stage and take full advantage of the equity it has built up.  Whilst it still creates revenue over and above the time & resources spent on it, it will continue to promote positive brand values in your customers minds and re-enforce their loyalty ties to your company (assuming you continue to support it properly of course).

Conversely, if your brand is still in it’s early stages but is not promoting it’s key USPs effectively, then it may be worth considering a change.

It’s a common pitfall of new organisations to rush headlong into a venture without really thinking about the brand from the start.  I meet many young companies who have gone quite far down a route, maybe even years, before properly engaging with a marketing professional. Often when you ask them why they are called what they are called you get the most bizarre answers (I once met a company named after its founder’s pet – I kid you not).

Yet when you suggest that a different name could be used to better sell the companies/products value, they become very defensive and sometimes even emotional.  True, they will have built up equity in their current client base – which is exactly why you should get the brand values established from the start – but it really makes no sense to not choose a brand name that absolutely fits with your messaging and will give you the best chance to attract and retain new customers. Continuing with a name that isn’t articulating the proper value as well as it could be may well be losing you opportunities.

Ideally therefore, so long as you have established a brand name early that best fits your offering you should stick with it. Style and presentation, even straplines, may alter – but unless the fundamental benefits of the product or service dramatically change then it should be left alone to run its course until lack of market demand gives it a natural death.

Therefore, you have to say that the action by Murdoch to completely kill off the NOTW  is quite bold from a business sense. Yes, the revelations are inexcusable, but there is after all a great deal of positive brand equity, let alone skillsets, that has been lost due to the actions of  (what we are led to believe is) a few rogue reporters and editors.

Unfortunately for the Murdooch’s, as the rest of this week has shown, even cutting the head off a chicken will sometimes not stop it from running around causing mayhem for while.  The continuing fall out each day looks more and more likely to engulf the whole of News Corporation and all of its media brands.

Cynics of course are already surmising a new brand will emerge from the ashes of The News of The World, and in a few months it will be business as usual.

Given the unpredictable peculiarities of The Great British Public™ however, I think we’ll just have to wait and see if they can get away with that one.


Posted by: Rob Paton, Director, The Marketing Box