Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The First Time

Back in the days when "Insights" were all the rage at Procter & Gamble, among our favourites was the one on which a long-running Head & Shoulders campaign was based. It went something like this: because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Of course, this is just as true for brands as it is for people. I don't know if it's just me being a weird marketing person, but for some brands, I can remember my first impression very clearly. Take McDonald's. The first I ever, ever heard of McDonald's was through my pen-friend (how quaint!) Amy from the US. And I'll never forget my first visit to McDonald's: it was High Street Kensington in the 1970s and we were on a school trip. I don't actually recall how the burgers tasted, but the whole experience was tied up in my mind with hip establishments like The Hard Rock Cafe and Kensington Market.

Classic advertising didn't really play a part in my first impressions and you could argue, as many brands do, especially these days, that so much about a brand is out of the marketer's control.

But is it really? Maybe, if you take an old model where "the brand" and how it is positioned is a theoretical construct, depicted in an onion, or a key, or a pyramid somewhere in the marketing department archives.

But if you take the brand and the positioning as the core meaning of what the company is all about, that is acted on, acted out, lived and breathed every second of the day, not just via the marketing department, you may not have everything strictly "under control", but you'll certainly have a huge influence over who decides to talk about your brand - and in what context.

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