February 24, 2007

Don't Look Down Now

Denny Hatch hits the nail on the head again in his most recent Business Common Sense when he compares the contempt shown for the customer in a great deal of direct mail with that of the fictional Harry Lime character in Graham Greene's The Third Man:

"Victims?’ he asked. ‘Don’t be melodramatic, Holley. Look down there,’ he went on, pointing through the window at the people moving like black flies at the base of the Wheel. ‘Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving—forever?

If I said you can have twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stops, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money—without hesitation?"

Of course, this attitude isn't confined to direct mailers but can be found in all sorts of business-speak. It always seems to me that a smart business-owner can steal a real march on the competition simply by displaying a little respect for the customer.

February 17, 2007

Dreams & Songs To Sing Or Low Lies?

I read a report in today's paper of a talk being given by a postgraduate, Liam O'Callaghan, which sets out to debunk the various myths that have grown up around the Munster rugby team. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the Munster team has emerged as one of the best-loved sporting brands in this part of the world.

Apparently, O'Callaghan plans to reveal how, despite the team's reputation as a unique collective representing a distinctive brand of rural, rugged decency, a significant number of the team attended fee-paying, private schools rather than learned their trade under the rather more public and much less privileged shelter of a hedge-school.

Some Munster fans are apparently up in arms at the perceived slight but I think they may be missing the point. Very few brand stories stand up to the scrutiny of the historian but the Munster myth-makers have shown a particularly deft sleight of hand in weaving some loose facts and fictions into the brand we know today. In contrast, their counterparts at my home team of Leinster have struggled to match their own narrative to the demands of producing a successful brand on and off the pitch.

Perhaps the proof of the Munster myth (if any such proof is needed or possible) is to be found in the belief shown by players and supporters alike as they set about their business of making it real where it matters: through the deeds of this new generation of sporting heroes?

February 12, 2007

The Bigger The Better

In a previous post 'Ah Mr Brand, We've Been Expecting You', I wondered which of the ingredients in the traditional James Bond franchise were essential to the brand. I read an excerpt today from Simon Winder's 'The Man Who Saved Britain' (courtesy of the resourceful Delancey Place) who suggests that "In the hierarchy of reasons for Bond's endurance his villains perhaps stand the highest". He goes on to say that "this sense of tremendously clever men, caged in by the dreariness of the diurnal, planning vast and devastating schemes more for their own pleasure than for any rational gains...is enough, in my view, to justify Fleming's literary career".

I think Winder is on to something (and it's perhaps no accident that Pixar's The Incredibles, which enjoyed sensational success at the box-office, tapped into the same villain-source for its Syndrome character). Maybe there's something in there too for the everyday brand which must conjure up a compelling nemesis or run the risk of being dismissed as an irrelevant sideshow.

February 05, 2007

When Your Bowl Overfloweth

Whilst Superbowl Sunday isn't such a big deal in this part of the world, most of us are aware of how it's as much a centrepiece for Madison Avenue as it is for the ball players (for more brand-related humour, see
Skydeck Cartoons)

I haven't heard yet which ad came out on top in this year's competition but it always strikes me that this sort of scramble for attention offers a distorted take on how best to build a brand (rather like looking to celebrities for tips on happiness). Although Apple's 1984 Superbowl advertisement has become the stuff of legend, the rest of us should probably look to more local and modest successes for examples of campaigns we might reasonably emulate.