Advertising

Andrew Hill

Straight-talking Karl-Thomas Neumann, chief executive of Opel, has given the world of reputation management a useful new metaphor for brand-blight: the “red elephant”.

At the Geneva motor show, he told the FT that the General Motors-owned German marque had suffered from a perception problem:

There was a red elephant standing beside the car that nobody talked about which says: ‘You can’t buy me because I’m an Opel’ … and we are addressing this now.

Not welcome in the showroom (image: Dreamstime)

Whether or not Mr Neumann has mixed up “elephants in the room” and “red flags”, I find the image compelling enough to be worth spreading.

Plenty of companies persist in assuming that a brand’s historic reputation will sustain it, without tackling the scarlet pachyderm that may be frightening off customers. Antidotes include: 1) making such a noise about the brand that it drowns out the trumpeting of the creature standing alongside; 2) improving the quality of the product so that it is no longer dwarfed by the public (mis)perception about it. Read more

Andrew Hill

EE is the descendant of one of the most ridiculous brands in corporate history – Everything Everywhere, which turned out to mean Nothing Anywhere – so I feared the worst when I saw the UK digital communications group had signed a partnership with what it inevitably calls the “iconic” Wembley Stadium. Football fans already chant about “going to Wemb-er-lee”, so the brand gurus could so easily have renamed the ground “WemblEE”.

Wembley Stadium, as it will be, sEEn from the air (source: EE)

Happily, common sense and history prevailed. Fans will have to survive a blizzard of EE branding, including the illumination of Wembley’s arch in EE blue, but the press statement is clear that “the world-renowned name of the stadium will remain”. It usually does. When new names are applied to old stadiums, often either the name doesn’t stick – or the company doesn’t. Read more

Andrew Hill

Million-dollar endorsement: Honus Wagner teaches lessons to modern celebrities (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Bloomberg)

In the strange world of celebrity endorsements, it is usually the brand that dumps the celebrity – as happened, say, when Nike dropped cycling cheat Lance Armstrong in 2012 – rather than vice versa. So it stood out last week when Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan revealed he stopped endorsing Pepsi some years ago, after a young girl asked him why he was advertising a drink her teacher said was “poisonous”.

“The Big B’s” declaration, during a talk with Indian business school students, coincided with a controversy that took the more predictable route. Actress Scarlett Johansson maintained her endorsement of SodaStream, the Israeli fizzy drinks company, and severed ties with Oxfam, the charity for which she had been a long-standing (and, people in the NGO world tell me, interested and involved) goodwill ambassador.

But his wider comments shed light on the other side of such endorsements and how celebrities can limit the risk of cross-contamination. Read more

Adam Jones

Remember the scene in Pretty Woman when snooty assistants in a designer clothes shop refuse to serve Julia Roberts because of her – ahem – unorthodox attire, thereby depriving themselves of an enormous commission, funded by Richard Gere’s credit card? New academic research suggests that the luxury goods industry has learnt its lesson. Read more

Andrew Hill

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's chief marketing officer

Iran’s snappy tagline “Death to America” is so 1980s. It is long overdue a facelift, which is why the country’s new president appears to be pushing for a brand refresh.

The current line’s longevity is no surprise. It meets most of Inc’s “five tips for writing an effective slogan“.

Admittedly, it doesn’t rhyme (but who has ever written a successful rhyming couplet that ends “America”?) and while it definitely underscores the country’s “general mission”, it doesn’t really differentiate the product from, say, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Read more

Michael Skapinker

If ousted Danske Bank chief executive Eivind Kolding’s controversial advertising campaign persuaded any customers to take their accounts elsewhere, that is some achievement. Bank customers are reluctant to change banks regardless of what the advertising says.

I may be an extreme case – I have been with the same bank for 35 years – but international studies suggest I am not unusual. A worldwide survey last year by EY, the professional services firm, found that just a third of customers had ever changed their main bank.

Of course, Mr Kolding’s aim was to persuade customers to put their money in his bank rather than to take it out. The problem was that the Danske Bank ad (“A new normal demands news standards”), which featured, among other things, street rioters, Occupy campaigners and crumbling icebergs, was a category error. Read more

Andrew Hill

Google's Android KitKat sculpture – hard to stomach?

Something has gone slightly mad with brand management if we barely shrug at the news that Google’s next release of its Android mobile operating system will be named after a chocolate bar.

Android Key Lime Pie was the original name – continuing a trend of labelling Android versions after sweet treats. The Android KitKat idea was kept under wraps until this week, but it is now out there, complete with an Android KitKat sculpture at Google HQ in California. Read more

Andrew Hill

As Felix Baumgartner struggled to correct his spin at the start of his 128,100 ft descent to earth on Sunday, I couldn’t help thinking of the consequences of failure for Red Bull, his sponsor.

Mr Baumgartner’s feat was obviously extraordinary and compelling. It was a new frontier for him, and for YouTube (where 8m people watched the dive live), but despite strenuous efforts to identify some great scientific benefit of the stunt, it is a far greater leap for brand-marketers – and I worry where they will go next.

The Austrian’s sponsor is an introverted company with an extrovert energy drink brand and it has blasted out a niche in extreme sports, from Formula One to air races. Plenty of people pointed out on Twitter on Sunday that if Mr Baumgartner died, so would Red Bull’s slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”. Read more