WHEN GOING GETS TOUGH, STAND BY YOUR BRAND
|Breandan O'Broin explains why you should stand by your brand|
It’s tough at times being a brand guardian. Like, let’s say you work for Ulster Bank or Findus or our very own Bank of Ireland to name but three. You get a call at four in the morning, the darkest hour. “Our ATMs are on the blink,” a techno voice grumbles. “Broke again,” you croak back. “Our beef lasagne is not what is should be,” admits a non-quality controller. “Horse,” you whisper “The boss has given himself another rise,” confesses an embarrassed company secretary.
‘We’re bouchered, I mean buggered,” you moan.
The ensuing communications problems are dumped right in your lap. You get out a statement to your friends in the media if you’ve got anyone left who’ll listen; you advise the CEO about what he’s got to say and what not to say, you shout at the ad agency demanding they go get some of those brand values they’re always banging on about, you Facebook your customers, Twitter your suppliers, appease the journos, placate the politicians. And just when you’ve done all that, your partner-in-life turns to you and asks why you are always so downright grumpy these days?
Brands; don’t you just love ‘em? The harsh reality is brand building is almost as perilous as apartment block building. When things go right, you’re quids in and everyone wants to shake your hand and press a bonus into your bank account. But when foul stuff hits the fans, you’re rightly Tango’ed or Nama’ed; take your choice.
Regardless of how strong you’ve built the foundations, brands remain fragile affairs. They are constantly open to attack from forces outside your control but often (and infuriatingly) from sources within. You can probably withstand the challenge of a rival’s two-for-one offer, but it’s hard to convince loyal customers of the high esteem in which your brand holds them when you’ve just fed their kids donkey for dinner.
In the circumstances, it’s far from surprising to learn that consumers are demanding more from their brands than publicity-driven platitudes about passion, ambition, vision and customer commitment to quality and fair play. Amid all the rancour and ranting, it seems that the Irish green card remains a valuable part of the brand armoury. Empathy Research (great name guys, really meaningful) carried out a survey for Kevin Kelly’s Checkout magazine which, bless its printer’s ink, seems to have been around since supermarket superman Feargal Quinn first started selling penny apples (getting your metaphors/personalities mixed-up? – Ed)
First and foremost, this research suggests that what Irish consumers really, really want is truth in labelling. If it’s Irish, then by all means say so – but only if it genuinely Irish – not a Barack Obama or Tom Cruise ten-steps-removed sort of Irish. There’s a lot of that about on the supermarket shelves. We’ve mentioned Old Time Irish Marmalade before which should now rightly be renamed Once-Upon-A-Time Time Irish. More women than men share this pro-Celtic opinion and more older people than younger. But the percentages are not miles apart in any case.
Not surprisingly, “the horse meat fiasco has put provenance at the forefront of the consumer mindset” says Stephen Wynne-Jones, Checkout editor. “Brands with Irish provenance should invest more in communicating this to the consumer.”
Yet more Love Irish advertising in other words – not 100 per cent sure about the efficacy of that strategy. But before anyone gets too carried away, the findings come with an inbuilt price warning. Producers of all nations have to deliver great value to make the registers ring, whether they’re Irish or Polish or whatever. Consumers pay in hard currency and form hard opinions about brands that try to squeeze extra money they don’t have from their slimmed-down purses.
STATING THE OBVIOUS
Emmet Kirwan is a young Irish actor of note who starred in Just Saying, a short movie that became something of an online sensation. As a result, Kirwan was hired by Boys and Girls to do the voiceover for Three mobile’s ‘Ode to Fans’. He’s also a man with an innate understanding of the contemporary media village we now inhabit.
In a talk at the annual Dare2bdrinkaware awards, Kirwan told the prize-winners that there are no longer a few select gatekeepers who decide what can or should be made and who should access the world of film. He may well have had ad agencies and big-time production companies in mind; certainly both parties have colluded in maintaining the role of gate-keeper for their own convenient self-interests.
Kirwan is also of the view that an offshoot of the new internet free-for-all is that the old, traditional structures are trying to cash in. While Amazon, Netflix and many in the US have figured this out,” he says, “many established production companies – especially in Ireland – have had some success, but are still struggling to understand the net and are scrambling to make content that’s both popular and profitable.”
Here’s where the perceptive Kirwan becomes simultaneously interesting and obvious as he concludes that you can’t set out to make a viral video; that it has to happen organically.It’s common now for production companies to make a short or an ad with the intent of ‘going viral’.But to state that “we’re making a viral” is a nonsense claim. A video can only be deemed a viral when it actually goes viral.
Try explaining that to the client.
Epsum factorial non deposit quid pro quo hic escorol. Olypian quarrels et gorilla congolium sic ad nauseum. Souvlaki ignitus carborundum e pluribus unum. Defacto lingo est igpay atinlay. Marquee selectus non provisio incongruous feline nolo contendre. Gratuitous octopus niacin, sodium glutimate.
CONTRADICTION IN TERMS
As global companies grow ever larger and more diverse, it is inevitable that significant contradictions become apparent in the social purpose and customer targeting of the many brands they produce and bring to market. On RTE, a medical practitioner was heard to complain (with a degree of justification) that a major soft drinks producer was also developing medications designed to counteract the onset of type 2 diabetes brought about by the excessive promotion of so-called isotonic or energy drinks, particularly to younger consumers. (Is Brian O’ Driscoll still giving post-match TV interviews while eagerly swigging from a bottle of an isotonic drink).
Equally, there appears to be the potential for some crisis-of-conscience among the directors of GlaxoSmithKline, which also markets some of the world’s leading nicotine patches. GSK appears to be excited about their latest marketing initiative; a drug designed to treat lung conditions such as smoker’s cough. It’s almost like saying well if we can’t stop them smoking, we’ll help them carry on.
The new drug is called Breo, which if memory serves was also the brand-name of a not-very-successful Diageo brand of lager; a kind of posh pint of Harp with a citrus tang. Breo sounds quite like beo, the Irish for ‘alive’, which is precisely what smoking won’t make you. Contradictions; don’t you just love ‘em?
(GSK is looking for a buyer for Lucozade and Ribena and there should be no shortage of interest. Britain’s biggest drug company wants €1.2bn for the two brands. Japanese drinks group Suntory, which bought Orangina in 2009, is said to be interested)
A refusal to give up on smoking brings us to the unsurprising news that the world of big tobacco is trying its utmost to offer smokers a safer cigarette. There’s nothing new in this of course; any trawl through cigarette publicity from the Mad Men years will throw up numerous examples of ads making claim and counter-claim about their respective health-enhancing attributes. The introduction of filter cigarettes and the arrival of low-tar brands were initially heralded as quasi-scientific breakthroughs, with even a rogue doctor or two lending his name to the promotional initiatives.
Nowadays, the search for the Holy Grail of risk-free smoking continues apace as big tobacco companies eagerly suck up younger start-ups focused on alternative ways of delivering a safer stogie. E-cigarettes are the forerunner of this phase of the safer-smoking game, although not every country is convinced of their efficacy and they remained banned in countries as far apart as Austria, Thailand and Brazil.
On behalf of its owners, British American Tobacco (BAT), an optimistically-named entity called Kind Consumer (love the name guys, so much empathy) has created a cigarette-shaped aerosol that delivers a burst of nicotine via a breath-operated valve. Clearly, it’s a must-have accessory to go along with your designer asthma inhaler. Meanwhile Phillip Morris, father of the Marlboro Cowboy, is working on a new gizmo that will see actual tobacco heated but not burned by a special holder. The new cooler way to smoke is just around the corner or, at the worst, lurking behind the school bike shed. In some ways it’s hard to be harsh (and easy to be hypocritical) on a new generation of ad men and women who will sell their souls to sell such devices. The writer of ST penned many a Benson & Hedges award-winning colour ad back in the days when all that came between you and your customer was a discreetly positioned Government Health Warning. To recall Mary Hopkin’s lyrics: were those the days my friends, as those days we thought would never end? End, they did.
The ever-alert Noel Storey of Beacon Studios gently advises that the voice of Fleetwood is not Bill Golding as suggested in April’s ST, but rather that of the equally mellifluous Jonathan Ryan. Our sincere apologies go to Bill, Jonathan and our readers – and our thanks to Noel. Homer has nodded, not for the last time.