Unexpected side effects on powerful brands

No one would have predicted these events after a police officer held down his knee for nearly nine minutes on a man’s neck.

  • Johnson and Johnson announced the company will stop producing skin-lightening products sold overseas. The products promise fairer, beautiful skin.
  • The Quaker Oats company said it would rename its Aunt Jemima line of syrups and pancake mixes given the name’s association with racial stereotypes. The name originated in 1889. Quaker is a subsidiary of PepsiCo.
  • Statues of Fr. Junipero Serra a Catholic missionary, Francis Scott Key who wrote the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner would be toppled in San Francisco by protesters.
  • Spotify earned the wrath of listeners when it inserted an “eight-minute and 46-second track of silence” across selected playlists and podcasts to show empathy with the length of George Floyd.
  • Teens on TikTok organized to make sure President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was poorly attended.

How medium size ‘decoys’ mess with your head – ‘Absolute Value’ explained

As I mentioned, I am reading ‘Absolute Value, a book that will certainly rock the world of marketers who have sat on their bottoms with the idea of branding. The idea that the ‘brand’ equity they create, can determine people’s choices.

This explanation by Itamar Simonson on NBC, explains the concept of why manufacturers ‘frame’ the price to provide an imperfect set of choices.

Simonson is a really good interviewee –he firmly, and politely disagrees with the host of the show and others at the table) to make his point and clarify the thesis of the book.

Two things, he says, worth noting:

  • Marketing as we know it is no ‘trick’ – just an outdated way of providing consumer choices, so they make an irrational compromise.
  • Brands are not the same ‘filters’ as say Facebook is. They were proxies for value that do no work as well now. The best filters live outside of the control of brands.

http://www.viddler.com/v/bceefb4a

Brand Voices vs Brand Conversations

It’s easy to confuse the power of voice, when discussing ‘brand voice.’

(Don’t bother Gogling it, as there are some 441 million results, some of it with the predictable talk about signage etc.)

The Voice of the Brand belongs to two groups, depending on whom you speak to:

(a) The people who define the brand, and “know” what it stands for, and articulate it in their channels. This is really what I would call Brand Talk. Sometimes I cynically call it Bland Talk.

(b) The folks to buy it or use it, and talk it up in their own communities, and sometimes on the brand-owned channels. These are, arguably, more authentic Brand Voices. They tell you why people are using the product or paying attention.

But let’s cut through all this and look at brand conversations, to figure out what are the most valuable conversations? These are what social media helps us unearth: those incomplete, poorly phrased sentences, the angst-ridden, or cult-like exchanges in a forum, or comments section. Those self-appointed ambassadors and know-it-alls…

Sadly, brand managers are not always up to snuff on handling the latter; this sort of anarchy; of data-mining conversations; of engaging with those the bosses instinctively want to block or ban those outside voices from the website.

ONE OF THE FEW AD-MEN who bucks the trend and critiques one-way Brand Talk, calls for true brand conversations.

Nimal Gunewardena, CEO of Bates Strategic Alliance, happens to be moderating a round table discussion I will be part of, when I launch my book, Chat Republic, in Sri Lanka in a few weeks.

His screed about Brand Conversations, called for an abandonment of ‘sales talk’ and the 30-second-commercial mindset. It seemed akin to 1st century monks arguing against using calligraphy.

“It’s time to start thinking beyond that 30 second commercial. It’s time to combine the power of TV with the connectivity and engagement power of digital and social media. It’s time to explore new formats. Two-way conversations, rather than one-way broadcasts. It’s time to talk to communities who have common interests.

To which one person commented:

“oh how our vocabularies have changed recently! We are all part of a social media revolution and it’s simply not possible to have our heads deep in the sand any more.”

It’s so easy to provide knee-jerk responses to the role of conversations: To engage, to discuss, to share etc. I try to pry these apart in Chat Republic, and encourage readers to think of conversations as the ‘operating system’ for their community (OK, maybe the brand) they manage.

We cannot bury our brand-saturated heads in the bland.

Are employees partly-owned brands?

Chris Brogan, whom I regard as a lead evangelist of social media, raises a great question: Are employees quietly becoming a “half-owned brands” of the company they work for?

Indeed, he’s referring to people like Robert (Fast Company) Scoble, and Charlene (Forrester) Li etc, who are known not for the company they work for (or leave) but for the ideas they represent.

His point needs to be looked at in the context of how organizations ought to hire, empower and work. They need not be looking for super novas but for those with star potential. Why? Because ultimately an organization’s ‘about us’ pages will be irrelevant. What matters will be not its ‘core competencies,’ ‘heritage’ or strategic business units, but its DNA made up of strands of these partly-owned brands.

I found some interesting examples.

  • Rahul Sood, is a brand that happens to work for HP. He is the Chief Technology Officer of HP’s gaming business, and his blog is linked from HP but exists outside of the enterprise. He doesn’t write mainly about his employer, but about his passion in the IT world of gaming and business, about Nintendo’s Wii and batteries.
  • Sun Microsystem’s bloggers may write about the products they represent, but three of them have more hits than the CEO Jonathan Schwatz’s well-known, well written blog.
  • Rohit Bhargava may ‘belong’ to WPP, being senior VP of Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, but as a marketer, speaker and author he is a brand in his own right, a satellite that casts a nice glow on the mothership without needing to hype the WPP or Ogilvy brand.

I don’t know about you, but these partly-owned brands come across as a lot more authentic. I would rather do business with a Raul Sood, than some anonymous corporate voice at the other end of a toll free number.