Tag Archives: branding

Guided Tour

Yesterday while walking back from Ruschutters, I passed through the Cross. I moved to Sydney in 1989 and the Cross played quite a prominent role in my early time here. For the first little while it was clubs. Site and Soho Bar and some others whose name I can’t remember. Later when I left my job to go back to school, I worked part time in McDonalds on Darlinghurst Road. Not one of my happier periods, but none-the-less, it paid the bills and I finished my HSC thanks to money from flipping burgers.

So, walking around there again, some twenty years (FARK) later, it was very weird. Some places bought back memories of mad capped nights and laughter. Others were less happy and reminded me of a time when I was actually feeling a bit lost. Shops had changed from dry cleaners to cafes, mixed businesses to florists, and some spaces had just disappeared altogether – the whole streetscape unrecognisable. For the most part the walk was about happy memories. Out enjoying a new city with old and new friends, dancing, drinking and loving life. It’s incredible how something small can jolt something out of you that you had forgotten. I wondered if any of the cool young people sitting in cafes would care for a guided tour of the place – what it was like twenty years ago and how it had changed.

There are some brands that have that “memory-jolt” effect on me. Fanta is one. I chose Fanta as a kid, not coke. I had the Fanta yo-yo. Another  is David Jones. I associate DJs with my great-grandmother, and being a teenager and having ice-chocolates there with friends after school. I used to work on the David Jones account before I had Fin and I always thought Nandie would be pleased about that. Sportsgirl is another that I have a lot of memories for.

Now, all of us have these brand memories, and like my little walking tour, they bring back good and bad memories. Brands with a lot of history sometimes don’t appear to be very interested in what’s happened in the past. Sometimes it’s because there aren’t the resources to revisit the past and document it. Other times there’s not an interest in the past, and it’s about reinventing a brand to suit the current “owners”. Sometimes there’s a gold mine sitting there in the archives waiting to be discovered.

This stuff sits around in corporate memory and it’s either carefully managed, or left neglected. Yet it sits in our brains as real memories and can be activated at any time. This stuff can be powerful. It’s pure emotion. It can be activated by a simple walk around the block, or it can be activated by the brand itself, reminding us of what we loved, when things were sometimes good and happy.

I wonder who the brands are that are doing a good job of this? There must be someone out there using social media to their advantage here – discovering and recording memories that their customers have of them. At the end of the powerhouse museum exhibition about the 80s, there was a little spot so you could record what had been “jolted” in you through the show. It was great to be able to say “Yes! I was at that dance party. I was there!” Do any brands have the same facility to record what you remember about them?

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Mac-quiescent

Mac mini, Apple Keyboard & Mouse plus iPod by flickrich

Mac mini, Apple Keyboard & Mouse plus iPod by flickrich

I own a mac book, I have an i-pod. I have resisted in buying an i-phone (because it won’t do what I need it to do for work stuff as well as my treo does). I love the new mac store in the city. I think my mac book is a thing of beauty. I don’t know what would happen if I lost my i-pod.

But I’m a bit “whatever” about apple.

Sure, my mac book has had two battery failures and had to have its hard drive replaced. I had nothing but trouble when I first got my i-pod and tried to sync it to my dell.  But the mac book was fixed really easily, and the i-pod issues where all sorted out when I took it back in and they sorted out a new connection cable. 

This morning I was thinking why…if I quite like their products, think their retail spaces are fantastic and my experience with their customer service has been pretty spot on – why am I so “blah” about them?

And then I remembered him

Every year around Christmas time, our parent company gets us together for one big day. The morning is all about company performance, with some inspiring talks form the likes of people such as Peter Garrett and  Sam Bailey.  And then we all get back together for an evening of well…hard drinking.

So a few years ago I was interested to hear that one of the head marketing folks from apple Asia-Pacific was going to be talking.   Many years before that when the first nano had been launched, I had been at a marketing industry evening, where a local apple marketing guy had given a short (and very interesting) talk about the challenges of marketing a global brand locally (how you get creative amongst the strict guidelines laid out etc). It was great. He also told us about the process apple goes through when launching  a product. He tried to get some sensible questions out of the audience.  (mostly gasping macfreaks creaming themselves about getting their hands on a real live nano before they were on sale the next day, and breathlessly asking about rumours of an i-phone.) The guy looked genuinely fearful, and also showed a real (and justified)  concern that someone was going to pilfer his new piece of kit.  I normally am pretty quiet at these things, but I felt bad for him, so I asked if the i-pod had done what it was intended to do, and opened up the wider world of apple products to people (this was at a time when no one really owned a mac).  He looked so relieved, and said “finally, a proper question…”

So I was pretty hopeful about the apple guy at our company conference and some of the things he may be telling us. Maybe he’d give us his version of marketing a brand across multi-countries, regions, languages, and cultures.  That would be good, given a lot of the companies there were just starting out globally.  I had worked on projects in Singapore, Russia, USA and the UK that year for some pretty big global brands and had seen some of the challenges that they face. I was keen to hear his views.  Maybe he’d talk about what it was like as a brand owner of an iconic brand and how that is protected and nurtured. Or maybe he’d do somehting quite unexpected – I mean this was a guy from apple afterall.

Well, what he did was pretty much unexpected. A sort of twenty minute twisted sales pitch. He humiliated people in the group and told us how cool he was. His opening line was about how “someone in this audience” had called him and asked if they could come in and have a chat. He even named the agency she worked at. “Nice try” he said…but she’d have to come back with something better than that.

Then he did this thing where he made everyone stand up and said “if you are a planner sit down, if you are a creative sit down…” etc (he forgot a researcher, but we had sat down by this stage), until all the people left standing up where IT guys. Then he said something like “These are the guys who are stopping you doing what you really want to do, they are stopping your creativity.”  Gee – that’s a  great way to stop you getting your products into about 70 companies – by embarrassing the guys who probably would make those decisions.

He then showed some slick but crap corporate video about how “cool” they are at apple in Sydney. I mean, the guy was wearing high waist jeans, a tucked in polo shirt, white Reeboks and a FUCKING PHONE CLIP ON HIS BELT. He was about as cool as Jerry Seinfield.  He looked like Bill Gates was his style inspiration. And he was telling us “We are cool, you will never understand, unless you use a mac.” 

So, now I see why I am “whatever” about mac. I’ve seen the lifted veil of their cool white exterior – and it’s not all happy and shiny. It’s a daggy, sneering and VERY uncool!  The sad thing is, that there’s probably some pretty nice people there. This guy was the wrong person to be talking about that brand.

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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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Fare thee well, Pilgrims…

It doesn’t seem right not to post something about the leaving pilgrims.  Apart from a few annoyances (like being stuck at central yesterday afternoon with half a million people leaving the Pope’s mass…bad timing), it seemed like the whole thing went pretty well. 

Their singing annoyed us, their enthusiasm worried us, and their constant happiness confused us. But with slightly drunken reflection on Friday afternoon heading home on a train full of them, I was pretty proud we coped with it all quite well. And for the whole WYD period the city looked amazing.  I mean – REALLY amazing. 

I was even quite taken by Pope B.  I was actually quite struck by his question that could you could knowingly stand in front of someone who was a victim of violence or sexual degradation and say you consume that stuff for entertainment.  Made me think of various discussions of late around cognitive surplus and how we do spend our time…(she says after watching two crappy episodes of lipstick jungle last night…what was I thinking??? Over an hour of my life…GONE) 

But still my burning question is around his shoes and if they are prada.  And I did a bit of snooping and it seems like Pope B is on a bit of a branding bonanza! Natuzzi, i-pod, serengetti sunnies…everyone wants a piece of him.  But the Vatican has come out and stated “The pope, in summary, does not wear Prada, but Christ.” And when you bring him into it I guess that’s pretty final.

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Ready for Relaunch

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going to Cafe Sydney for the relaunch of Hardys.  It was a fantastic afternoon overlooking the Harbour – with some fab food and some great wine.  It was also a chance for the Hardys team to stand up and say how proud they are of the brand and its history and that it’s past and future was worth celebrating.  For each course we were treated to one from the new HRB range, and one from Eileen Hardy.  I’m not very good at wine tasting (I can’t separate all the flavours unless I am stepped through it by someone who can) but all of what we sampled was very good indeed.  I also got my first taste of Thomas Hardy which was lovely.  And was really excited to try out “The Sage” – part of a new range we’ve done a bit of work on.  That was very nice too and I’m sure it will be a regular home quaffing purchase when it’s released.

Hardys has got enormous potential as a brand (lots of rich history to draw from, a great winemaker Paul Lapsley, and a geared up marketing team who want to kick some arse) and I’m really excited that they are beginning their “rejuvenation” phase. And they are also really nice people.   When Bill Hardy spoke yesterday you could hear the emotion tremor through his voice as he talked about a brand that was in his blood. 

I’d love to be able to put in a link to the new branding and brand device but it doesn’t seem to be up on there website yet…hmmmm.

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