Monday 7 December 2020

A brand with a view

 I've always been a little queasy about the idea of brand loyalty, for reasons outlined in this post from 2013. Relationships, loyalty, Lovemarks - the whole tra-la-la. Interesting enough as an analogy, maybe, to kick off thinking, but in the end, brands ain't people. You don't get much back for your investment of faithfulness and duty.

Amazon demonstrate this again and again, despite all their claims to be the most customer-centric company in the solar system, or whatever it is. I've been writing book reviews for at least a decade and a half, and once reached the dizzy heights of being a Top 1000 reviewer, which I mistakenly took for recognition from my book-loving chums at Amazon. This year I was brought down to earth. My reviews, in English, of English language books, are no longer accepted by the UK or US sites. 

Why? It's transactional - and illogical. I spend buckets of money (yes, I know, I'm not proud) for Kindle books, but this all goes over the German site. So I can only post my reviews there. OK, not the end of the world, in the great scheme of things, but it makes me feel a touch miffed. 

Still, despite evidence to the contrary, the brand-as-human business isn't going away. In the last couple of years, it's taken on another form, which is possibly more alarming than all the brand-as-best-friend, brand-as-enabling-partner tosh.

Call it brand activism, purpose campaigning, venturing into the social and cultural space (why is everything a space these days?), taking a stance, having a point of view - brands are turning up the righteousness level on the virtual latter-day sandwich board of what should surely be re-named "political media".

This is bad enough, and of course you can ignore most of this guff, but the alternative is presented as "staying silent" or "bland corporate statements" - an implication of "if you're not with us, you're against us."

Well, I'd say this isn't the alternative. For me the alternative is to put the creative and media money and effort into creating distinctive, entertaining, useful or informative communications that sell the brand and grow the business.

Brand values are one thing, although whether these are distinctive is up for debate. Who doesn't want to have integrity and honesty? But a point of view? A human being has a point of view. A brand is not a human being, despite all the useful analogies. And as for the people who work for that brand - well, they are likely as not going to have different points of view. And this is a good thing. 

Insisting on a party line for a brand is absurd - and will only serve to make the world a dull place indeed.

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