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Brand self-awareness

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?

One Response to “Brand self-awareness”

  1. Craig McGill says:

    It’s a fair point but many brands act like dicks because they can get away with it: people will still drink Bud, people will fly cheap cheap airlines regardless of online presence. And yes, FIFA acted like a real dick but at the same time will it put anyone off football? I think not, therefore what is the impact?

    As for drinking a certain beer at the event, that’s standard. It’s A) a way of recouping some costs and B) a way of buying exclusivity at the event.

    The VISA one is nuts though.

    And yes, in a sensible world we would all be drinking BrewDog instead of Bud. The BD guys have been a great example of a company just getting on with it and making great products (disclaimer, worked with them in the past).

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