Archive for June, 2010

Is your brand acting like a dick?

It’s not a nice thought is it?

Being told by your mates that you’re acting like a dick is like a punch to the solar plexus. It’s an expression that’s used more in disappointment than anger.

As in “You’re letting us down. And you’re letting yourself down.”

Can a brand act like a dick?

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve taken part in brainstorm exercises along the lines of “If this brand were a person, who would it be?”

But I struggle to count a single instance of such sessions generating anything useful. Ten people generate a list of ten actors/musicians/tv celebrities/sportspeople that have little or nothing in common with each other, let alone with the brand that they’re meant to represent.

I used to question the validity of those brands-as-people exercises. They were designed to help define the brand’s personality. But people have three dimensional personalities. They have moods. A human being’s “tone of voice” can vary considerably depending on the role they’re playing (friend, boss, parent, partner). Whereas traditional brand management flattens personalities out and doesn’t allow for branded mood swings.

But these days brands really are getting more like people. Because in social spaces brands ARE people.

And sometimes those people act like dicks.

The more we see of brands in social spaces, the more aware we become that brands are people.

‘Twas ever the way for service brands, but it is increasingly true for packaged goods, financial services and corporates.

And, more and more, we view the actions of brands as the actions of the people behind them. And we react to those decisions on a more personal level.

What were FIFA thinking when they prosecuted the Bavaria girls?

Notice, what “were” FIFA (the people) thinking, not what “was” FIFA (the organisation) thinking?

Every human’s reaction to this story is to cast an emotional vote for Bavaria Beer and against FIFA.

Because FIFA acted like a dick.

What were VISA and London 2012 thinking when they decided that you’ll only be able to buy Olympics tickets using VISA cards?

Every human’s instinct is to react against this kind of choice restriction.

And do VISA really need that kind of immediate commercial return from the sponsorship?

Or are they (“they” not “it”) being greedy?

Are they acting like a dick?

Clients like the idea of sponsorship deals that are self-liquidating, or which at least have the potential to part fund themselves.

But you can take this thinking too far.

Imagine having saved up to watch the World Cup in South Africa, only to be forced to drink Budweiser at the games. Does that breed respect or resentment towards the brand?

Does Budweiser need that local revenue to justify its global sponsorship?

Or is it (they) just doing what brands do when it comes to negotiating and managing these deals?

(Acting like a dick.)

Brands that act like dicks shouldn’t be surprised that people revel in the idea of taking them down a peg or two.

Budweiser’s approach to the World Cup makes the idea of Budweiser golf even funnier than it otherwise would be.

We all laugh with Brewdog and at Budweiser.

No sympathy, no respect.

Sponsorship deals are primarily designed to build brand awareness.

But exercising a little more brand self-awareness when constructing and imposing these deals would go a long way towards underpinning that brand awareness with some humanity.

The same brand humanity that many of these global brands are looking to foster through their social activities.

Brands increasingly are the people behind them.

That is a good thing.

But the judgement against you is likely to be harsher when you get things wrong.

So, is your brand acting like a dick?

It’s not a nice thought is it?


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The weight of expectation is generally perceived to be a bad thing.

It implies a negative form of pressure to succeed that acts to impair performance rather than improve it.

The weight of expectation is something you suffer rather than benefit from – just ask successive England managers.

But when it comes to the seeding of content, and to the in vogue concept of earned media, the weight of expectation can be a powerful positive force.

Weight can be a load, a burden, something you carry.

But weight is also a measure of force, it gives you momentum.

As in “so and so’s opinion carries a lot of weight”.

Weight can work for you rather than against you.

Witness Uniqlo.

I see dozens, hundreds of links rolling down the columns of my Tweetdeck dashboard every day. By definition they’re from trusted sources. Unfortunately work dictates that I don’t have time to view most of them.

But there are some tweets/links that you drop everything for.

At the mere mention of Uniqlo, I’ll find time that I don’t really have to take a closer look.

Just about every piece of content that Uniqlo creates is awesome/innovative/fresh/quirky/original/cool/effortless/stylish.

(I’d have included more links but Uniqlo have a habit of taking old content down, which I choose to interpret as a sign of confidence that what they’re going to do next will be even better. The brand doesn’t rest on its laurels.)

Uniqlo is the first name I mention when people challenge me for examples of brands that have been built through digital means.

Uniqlo has built up a positive weight of expectation.

A weight of anticipation even.

Its brand stands for style and a whole load of other fashion-related things.

But it also stands for great content.

And that aspect of its reputation is a powerful seeding asset.

I’m not the only one who drops everything to have a closer look at new stuff from Uniqlo.

Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world do the same.

And then they pass the link on.

To hundreds of thousands of other people.

Uniqlo case study result figures tend to be of the seven figure variety.

Seeding strategy conversations can be awkward.

The same kind of wishful thinking that has clients and agencies describing content as “viral” before it has been published feeds a desire, in fact an expectation, of maximum reach at minimum (ideally zero) cost.

Seeding conversations can be awkward when you point out that you can’t suddenly “use Twitter” or “use Facebook” if you haven’t previously put in the hard yards and man hours to “earn” a “medium”.

(The “earned” bit of “earned media” is quite important).

Seeding conversations can be awkward when it becomes apparent that a few thousand poorly engaged email records resulting from a couple of promotion mechanics are the full extent of a client’s owned media seeding assets.

A reputation for producing great content can go a long way to making those conversations less awkward.

If you continually publish at the far right of the bell curve, you’ll be less reliant on those dodgy email records.

When you have the weight of expectation on your side you have more right than most brands to use words like “viral” in planning meetings.

The weight of expectation acts to turbo-charge every other aspect of your seeding activity.

The weight of expectation can be a good thing.

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A couple of things that I’ve posted on the Blonde blog over the last few days.


A post that draws an analogy between being exposed in a glass bubble at the back of a Second World War bomber and being the public face of an organisation in 21st Century social media.


Details of a survey of Blonde clients that I conducted in preparation for a speaking engagement at Mobile Monday.

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