Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Burning your brand at the stake?

I read an interesting piece from Trendwatching recently entitled Heritage Heresy, about the increasing acceptance of brands that play with, subvert or even explode their own heritage. I'm not sure that it's a new trend or a necessity: something that brands over a certain age may simply have to do as a matter of course as parts of their heritage become irrelevant. Probably the most extreme example I can remember was Butlin's in the UK literally blowing up their dated Hi-de-Hi style holiday camp in a spectacular TV commercial to make way for the more contemporary Holiday Worlds.

The practice is alive and well today, whether it's Moet Hennessy launching sparkling wine from India or Versace bringing out a collection based on cheap street copies of their designs - or even Edeka and Supergeil.

A confident brand can always do this, especially if being playful, a little bit anarchic or subversive is tucked away in its character somewhere. It's about knowing when you can break the rules. The kind of brand that can't - or won't - do this is the sort that has to have a huge manual full of "our brand must always..." and "our brand must never...", because the brand is so bloody complex that no-one can understand it intuitively.

In a lot of this, it's not what you do, but how you do it. So, when IKEA launches a rather more pricey collection, it's called Stockholm, and done in a Scandinavian Design way.

Maybe people worry that messing with your heritage will destroy your brand. They worry about "eroding brand values," "alienating the loyal consumer" and "speaking with one voice". But these are exactly the things that could lead to a long, lingering death for the brand, because it has simply become dull and predictable.

And these days, if you don't play around with and subvert your brand yourself, there are enough other people out there who will.

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