January 10, 2010

When The Bottom Line Isn't The Bottom Line

Can a brand really be too honest?

In a recent Brandchannel article on Domino's reinvention of their pizza "from the crust up", Abe Sauer wonders whether the brand's openness in owning up to the weaknesses in its original recipe is stupid or not.

Apparently, Domino's has produced advertising that shows its employees "lamenting consumer criticism of its product and promising to do better." However, reaction to the new recipe has been mixed, prompting Sauer to ask: "If the Domino's makeover is a flop, can it be construed as a sign that honest re-branding campaigns are doomed to fail?"

Now, I don't know about you but I don't believe a brand can ever be too honest. If its purpose is to influence customer choice by building a relationship that works for both, then honesty is the only policy. Whilst Domino's honesty might hasten its demise if its new recipe doesn't cut the mustard, any flop will surely be down to its poor product rather than its admirable honesty.

As a customer, I want to know that the brand is always working for me, not despite me or at my expense. In that sense, Domino's bottom line honesty is certainly not stupid where I'm concerned.

Similar confusion about the role of the brand is evident in a recent post by Denny Hatch, Direct Marketing guru, who says that "I cannot judge good advertising, it judges me". He cites advertising that makes no effort to be pleasing but produces results and suggests that the only judge of good advertising is bottom line results: "Never forget the legendary Anacin commercial that was offensive to millions, ran for years, sold tons of product and cured a zillion headaches".

I don't agree. When I turn to the volume control on my radio to blank out the latest offensive Harvey Norman ad, I judge the advertising as bad. I'm sure it produces results in the form of store visits and sales, which apparently justifies its awfulness in the minds of its producers, but I don't believe businesses should be bad neighbours. Apart from anything else, ugly and offensive advertising pollutes the marketplace and eats away at the trust that makes for good trading.

I do agree with Denny Hatch that advertising (or any marketing effort) that fails to convince customers to buy is a failure but that's not the bottom line for me. Sales is not the gold standard of success. It's the role of the business, through its advertising, to make the lives of prospective customers easier and their choices simpler. It's not its job to make a nuisance of itself to any unfortunate who happens to be within earshot.

It's only when we direct our brands (and those who help us craft and deliver messages) to behave honestly and responsibly that we can expect our customers and the wider world to welcome us in when we have something that we wish to say to them.

Over To You: Do you think a brand can be too honest?

No comments: