Wednesday 23 June 2010


I don't know who I'd least like to be at the moment - Raymond Domenech or Tony Hayward. Domenech is on the way home with one goal and a mutiny to show for France's World Cup campaign, the reputation of French football in tatters.

Disasters happen, from losing a football match or two to serious disasters like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Any company or brand has to be continually aware that something can happen that will cause damage to human and animal life and to the planet, as well as their company's reputation.

But many seem to make the mistake of worrying about the company's reputation, their life and their job first and foremost. The Chief Executive of BP seems to be doing just that - trying to shrug it off, reacting too slowly, dodging questions, passing the buck. Surely it is better to overreact, to act in any case quickly and, importantly, to put people first when such a disaster occurs by a genuine expression of empathy and compassion.

Monday 21 June 2010

A question of loyalty

I am sure I am not alone at the moment in not having much else other than football on my mind. Four years on, it's interesting to look back and read my scrawlings on the Sommermärchen that was the World Cup 2006.

Football teams, both national and league, do have a lot in common with brands, of course. Those that build up a good reputation over the years can be excused one bad performance once in a while. And it does look to me as if the German team, despite their recent defeat, has held on to a lot of the values that they developed when the tournament was on home ground.

But I worry about England. They just seem to be lacking in cohesion - like some big conglomerate corporate brand that has bought up a collection of brands from here and there that don't seem to fit together or have many values in common. Just about the only thing that seems to be shared and consistent is the hype surrounding them.

And, although he has since apologised, this is why Wayne Rooney's sarcastic words to booing fans - "that's what loyal support is" - were so troubling. These days, whether it's to your country, your marriage partner, a political party, your team or a brand, the concept of unconditional loyalty is a dying one.

These days, people are only too prepared to vote with their feet when they are let down by poor performance or bad service. Let's hope England start doing something with their feet soon, too.

Sunday 13 June 2010

A mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world

I've heard the same theme from a number of reliable sources over the last few weeks: when it comes to young people, in Germany at least, the dream is not sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, but rather more conservative, "grown-up" values.

It does make sense: a generation that has grown up with such a high level of insecurity not just in the world outside but right close to them at home is not going to hanker after risk and adventure.

In the long-lost days of my youth, the fear was that you'd become old, boring or an accountant. And my generation is still hanging on to that dream in its mutton-dressed-as-lamb clothing and attitudes. But when the real fear is to spiral down into unemployment, poverty and failure, it's no wonder that 16-24 year olds today seek out the sensible, the secure, the stable.

And brands can play a role in this. But more by providing a real added value service or product that people can rely on over time rather than some 40-year-old's idea of a "totally awesome app" that's plugged in today and chucked out tomorrow.

Monday 7 June 2010

Useful or entertaining

I am going to use a bit of a Marmite approach to social media in this blog as well as playing by the rule of only passing stuff on that's useful and/or entertaining.

First to the useful stuff. Love social media? Then look no further than the Ethority Social Media Prism. A handy guide to all species of social media so that you can know your micromedia from your curated network, your y!gg from your Digg, your tumblr from your Flickr.

But it may be that such an abundance of social media flora and fauna soon begins to raise your hackles and you flip into full-on hate mode. In this case, I can highly recommend this comic strip: "8 websites you need to stop building". Awesome Jim, take note.

Wednesday 2 June 2010


I have blogged here and here about what a wonderful thing a paradox is in a brand. How the best brands derive their energy from solving a seeming paradox - health & taste, price & quality, belonging & individuality or innovation & trust.

Or there are those brands whose communication is cleverly built on a paradox within the brand. Marmite: love it or hate it?

But I am noticing more and more that, as the world changes, many brands are heading towards a showdown where they will have to make a stand for one thing or another. This is, more often than not, due to outside forces. A brand like Zara has built its success on quick-turnover, good value up-to-the-minute fashion. But how long will it be before the critical mass see this as "irresponsible throwaway culture"? And Apple is at a crossroads in its development - individual creativity or mass entertainment?

Tension is one thing but full-blown conflict is another.