Thoughts and ideas on branding and brand development in a digital world.
Sadly, we have seen it all before, commercial blunders and personal… well, shall we say, misjudgments. Usually brands are stronger than people imagine and can come out of such mire with little more than a few bruises to the ego and a little embarrassment. The public understand that the brand is not embodied in an individual – in most cases.
A brand’s culture is very much like any other culture, it is tripodal – at its heart are its core values and beliefs, around that are its actions, how it interacts with the world, and finally its products, the physical manifestations of the brand in terms of tangible artefacts and goods. Any one of these elements may be vulnerable to damage through the actions of individuals or groups. We have seen some spectacular examples over recent years. But usually the brand may survive so long as the core – the beliefs and values are not damaged.
The question for the poor old co-op bank is, are its values at risk?
I think it is a close call. One differentiator that separated the brand from other banks, and helped see it through the stormy waters of the banking crisis, was its ethical dimension. Although it may have been viewed as staid and perhaps parochial, it relied upon the heritage of the co-operative movement, distanced from the pure profit motive. It often took ethical stances in terms of investments structured its accounts and products accordingly. This a distinction which must have appealed to many customers whose values it reflected.
Are business ethics distinct from personal ethics? Does business probity stand separately from moral laxity in the bank’s officers?
I’m sure the brand has not suffered terminal damage, but it has been hit in a very sensitive spot, its valuable point of differentiation will take a good deal of reclamation.
New Report Explores Role of Branding in Global Economy & Within Innovation Ecosystem http://ow.ly/r2HlA
Deflowering the Co-op: Will the Reverend Flowers scandal kill its brand? | The Drum
Volvo is preparing to refocus branding | | The Bulletin http://ow.ly/qCfKx
HMV kicks off new brand direction with online overhaul | The Drum http://ow.ly/qg0l0
Amazon revealed as UK’s simplest brand topping Siegel+Gale annual Global Brand Simplicity Index | The Drum http://ow.ly/qa8zY
Most decisions we make about brands have deep emotional connections. In many cases they are signifiers for our own sense of identity. Our choices in clothes, food and drink, cars and transport touch us at subconscious levels to accord with our sense of self. They feel right for us as they relate to our personal values and experience.
The more directly emotional the category of the brand, the stronger the connection. There can be few more emotional connections than those we have with charities we choose to support. Our choices are based on direct tugs to our individual heart-strings. We respond to deep beliefs and reflect strongly held values.
In general, the charities’ core activities are strongly in line with their brand values. They are very visible manifestations and probably demonstrate the reasons why we chose to support them in the first place. Where there are concerns lie in their down-stream activities, particularly fundraising. This is where we are most likely to interact directly with the brand and where a mismatch of values can become apparent.
Bob Geldof’s, “Give us your ****** money”, was right on the brand message for Liveaid. It resonated with the values of the supporters. Clearly, there are many charities for which such an approach would be inappropriate.
There has been a good deal of critical press about such activities as ‘chugging’ or ‘charity mugging’ where hit squads target city centres. There are arguments for and against, and for big charities it can be argued that the end justifies the means. However, often aggressive fundraising can seem out of synch withe the values of serious charities. Fundraisers must take a hard look at the characters and values of the loyal supporters and match their efforts to the shared brand values.
Brand values must be consistent above all. Sometimes it seems as though there is a disconnect between a charity’s core brand, its purpose and actions in the field and the activities of the fundraising arm.