Brand Vanity

(**This post will be a work in progress – somewhere to help me get down my thoughts about this idea and I’d appreciate anyone reading this who has examples to pass them on.)

Brand Vanity: (def) a brand created in the image of the brand guardian, not in the image of the end user.   

Tends to be found in FMCG brands.  Brand considered not “dynamic” enough by brand owner (ie: they don’t like to reveal the brand they manage to their friends or “other” prospects).  This state often then taken advantage of by suppliers who see an opportunity for refresh, overhaul, repackage etc to reflect obvious “sexyness” and “dynamism” of brand owner.  Strategy presented to brand owner that strokes brand owners ego. Brand owner then slowly reworks brand to reflect their own values and leaves for new role on even sexier brand.

I can put my hand on my heart that there has only been ONE full-blown example of this in my career, and it was over ten years ago working in another company. Young cool brand manager working in a category used by Mum’s – they wanted something hearty, comforting and familiar. He wanted to give them exotic, challenging and spicy (kind of like how he saw himself). 

I am trying to find an example I read about for a wine company about five years ago.  The agency thought the brand should be named after the daughter of the wine maker (who was also the marketing manager).  The promotional idea was for girls to wear a wig like the marketing managers own “signature” hair style and the brand would be “vivacious” and “cheeky” (or words like that) in reflection of the marketing managers own spunky style.  I read this and thought “oh…my…GOD!” It was a text book case of Brand Vanity.  I can imagine the pitch. It made me cringe.

Anyone else come across this phenomena?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Brand Vanity

  1. I think the latest Commonwealth Bank ads have been a lot of brand vanity.

    Basically CBA employed a big American agency to come and do their new campaign. The campaign, called “Determined to be different”, was about CBA hiring a big American agency, who didn’t have a clue about Australia.

    The ad is here – http://youtube.com/watch?v=pTG0_jEvOnA. Look out for the “marketing team” at the end

    When I saw it, my first thought (after “oh my god, they spend $2million on this?”) was that it probably got approval after the agency pitched saying to the marketing director “We’ll get this famous actor to play you”.

    It’s one of the worst campaigns I’ve seen in a long time and so off the mark – people were worried about home loan interest rates rising, petrol prices etc and really don’t give 2 shits about whether CBA hires an american agency, the whole thing just stunk of a bad in-joke.

    148 commenters have said it better than me here:
    http://www.campaignbrief.com/2008/01/goodby-presents-anthem-to-comm.html#comments

  2. kelpenhagen

    Cheryl – great example.

    the cba ads are strangely post-modern…but not in a good way.

    Ads that reference agencies and the advertising process are a wank. They do nothing for a brand in the long term as they only generate an ad response from consumers, not a brand response. Not only is the client sufferring a big dose of brand vanity but so is their agency…I can’t believe they fell for the pitch!

  3. I couldn’t agree more Cheryl, though sadly I’ve read somewhere (B&T maybe?) that CBA consider the campaign a success and they’re progressing to the next phase instead of kicking to the curb. I’ve been looking for the article but I think it’s now locked behind B&T’s subscription login… I’ll update if I find it.

  4. kelpenhagen

    D – maybe in the same way Tourism Oz defended the “where the bloody hell are you?” campaign as a success a while back?

  5. brendan

    Plenty of examples in the wine industry of egocentric winemakers naming the wine after their children. Most have been less than successful I have (so far) resisted the temptation myself.
    But sometimes, it sort of works.
    Winemaker Gary Farr has a brand called By Farr, his son Nick is called Farr Rising. To many egos in that family.
    http://www.byfarr.com.au/

  6. I guess we’re talking naming, there’s that awful awful name of Nads for that hair removal cream, apparently named after her daughter.

    This is even more creepy – I just went to the Nads site to get the story behind the name and found this. “She was 8 when her mother created Nad’s Natural Hair Removal Gel for her.”

    How hairy can an 8 year old be????

  7. Hmmm…..well when I first started out, I worked for a very well known European electronics company who had us sponsor drag car racing…as that’s what the UK CEO was into.

    Oh, and his daughters were used as models for magazine shoots. They were 17 and wanted to further their careers

    More recently we did work for biscuit company in the North of England who hired a trendy London ad agency (before their budgets were cut). The brand managers clearly wanted to imagine they were really working for Coke and Pepsi, and the ad strategy reflected that.

    (Sorry about the lack of names – the 1st might get me sued, and the ad agency in question may not be too happy about the 2nd as we still want to do work with them!)

  8. kelpenhagen

    thnaks Derek – nice examples…exepcially the ones about the modelling daughters…(hang on, JESUS)I actually sadly did this for my step-father in a TVC about 30 years ago…but the local TV company who did the ad I think managed to get him to pay more money for production by convincing him to be in the ad. So the ad featured him driving into a driveway and we were playing in the front yard…the thrills of regional television commercials. Although I was only about 6 I am actually complicit in a form of brand vanity myself!

    And Cheryl – awww, I have to admit that I actually have a bit of a soft spot for Nads. After all, any one who…
    a) has a mother who announces to the world that you were so hairly aged 8 that she had to invent a special hair removal product for you…and
    b) then has the product named not Nadia, but your nickname NADS…

    …deserves a bit of sympathy. But not too much, as I think I saw an ad for their product in the states – a sort of “dial now and get two for the price of one ad” so they must be doing OK. I’m not sure if they are sufferring from Brand Vanity per se…more like brand madness…

  9. Such a wonderful post I really can’t comment, except to say this seems to be a temptation for *every* client-side leader. I’ve seen CEOs who love golf demand sports-flavored branding (for products chosen by working moms); oil companies that believe they provide service demand service branding (despite consumers screaming over commodity prices); web-savvy managers focus on internet-flavored branding (for products where customers typically call in by phone). Wendy’s recent failed “red wig” campaign is a perfect example of someone trying to be something “new/hip” when what customers want is just a juicy burger.

    It takes rare intelligence and rigor to step out of one’s own desires, especially if you are the decision-maker guiding a business. The common trap is to forget: Hey, what do our customers want?

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