Category Archives: Branding

Do less

“We’re so lucky we don’t have to create the brand out of thin air. We just tell the truth and the brand builds itself.”

The voice of Thomas Mahon quoted in one of Hugh’s latest posts. He’s talking about how his tailoring business took off through blogging.

I think that’s a radical perception of branding and creates quite a challenge to anyone who sees themselves as a brand manager.

It reminds me a precept of facilitation: get out of people’s way and they’ll organise themselves more intelligently than you can.

It’s also taps into thoughts I’ve been having lately about the circle of concern/circle of influence model. Regular readers will know I’m not a huge fan of models but this one is simple and carries some wisdom, despite some pedantic reservations of mine*

So often, I see stress caused when we try to manage conerns that are truthfully beyond our individual reach. A huge amount of brand building fails because it gets ahead of itself with grandiose ideas of when can be achieved. An awful lot of wasted effort goes into designing meetings and expecting fixed outcomes to be reached on a predetermined timetable – an approach that denies the participants the ability to organise themselves more subtly and enthusiastically.

* Circles with sharp boundaries suggest a neatness that’s missing in the real world; we might do better to think of fuzzy, irregularly shaped areas. With some animation to show that even the fuzzy boundaries are moving.

Whose brand is it anyway..

Like Nicholson emailed me a link to this interesting case study in user-led branding. The cease-and-desist part gets very postmodern I think.

Brandjacking Burger King on Twitter – Lessons Learned @theBKlounge

This is Luke’s synopsis which I can’t beat:

punter goes on twitter claims to be Burger King, follows and extends BK’s brand ethos, sells about a million burgers, sends CEASE AND DESIST to another BK impersonator, is left alone/ tacitly suppported by BK, and hailed as one of the best official corporate uses of social media by mainstream press!

Insert your name here

SpotRunner is an online agency selling prefab adverts for $500. You take your pick from a set of standard clips to stitch together your campaign.

This Slate video captures it all rather well.

I thought the generic political ads were funny – they’re almost a parody they’re that close to the “real thing”.

A few minutes browsing the ads at SpotRunner is a weird experience, I’m not sure if it’s funny or grim. Are ads now this cheap? Or were they always this empty?

Hap tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Blancmange sieving?

I’m probably labouring the metaphor but a further thought on the blancmange leveraging post.

I just did one of those online, multiple choice surveys. This one happened to be for United Airlines’ frequent flyer programme, specifically the membership pack they sent me.

It was the usual strange experience of trying to convey the reality of my feelings about an organisation through a janet-and-john filter.

So for instance, I’m asked if I’ve “received”, “received and read” or just “read” various items in a mailshot. I’m wondering how they think I’d read something I haven’t received. Also, one of the items is the frequent-flyer card. Have I read it? Err… what do you mean by “read”? I might have checked my name was spelt right, but is there something I might have missed?

Then I have to rate the “usefulness” of the items in the mailer. So how useful is the card? Well, in one sense it’s useless except as a symbol of my vaguely elite status. But am I rating the card itself or the demi-monde of privilege it signifies?

I could go on but it’s Sunday and I already lost one precious hour to the clock change, and I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about with these surveys anyway.

So if leaders are often leveraging blancmange, these surveys are trying to sieve it. I don’t know what would happen if you sieved the pictured blancmange but I’m sure it would be less pretty.

Zopa and credit crisis

Monevator left a comment interesting reflections on experience as a Zopa lender – and speculations about what will happen in a crunch.

The biggest issue for me is Zopa has not yet been tested in anger. We haven’t yet seen how individual borrowers will behave in a peer-to-peer system if money really becomes tight. With some economists predicting a 1980s-style recession in every way except the shoulder pads, that’s a very real risk.

I have a hunch, just a hunch, that peer-to-peer will turn out to be more robust in a crisis than institutuional lending – becuase I think if better cultivates a more primal human sort of trust than the purely mechanical efforts of banks. But we’ll see, I guess!

Monevator also suggests it may be time for another Zopa podcast…

Lessons from a spatula

Yesterday I was told a delightful story about the paediatrician and analyst, Donald Winnicott. Winnicott was a pioneer in thinking about how mothers and babies relate and how that affects the child’s development.

He talks about a spatula game. He noticed that if a mother placed a spatula near the child, and waited, it was very likely the child would become curious about this new object and play with it. If, however, the mother tried to get the child to play with the spatula, the child was likely either to reluctantly play along, developing a passive kind of engagement. Alternatively, the child would react against this intrusion and become healthily defensive.

There’s all sorts of implications for those into psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, but I was thinking more mundanely about marketing. Especially as I stood on my cold doorstep while some unfortunate representative of Southern Electricity tried to lead me on an elaborate dance to do with changing my phone company.

For myself, I’d like to experiment a lot more with the careful placing of spatulas than shoving them in people’s faces and expecting them to play. Oh, and noticing more of the pleasant spatulas placed in my path and spending less time grappling with those of the spatula-shoving school.


Social banking

Antony Mayfield has an interesting post on specualtion that social banking (things like peer-to-peer lending) could account for 10% of all retail lending in a couple of years.

This comes via Jason Gardner, blogging with refreshing honesty from within Lloyds TSB. I like the idea of a banker who does thought experiments like this one:

As a thought exercise, I’ve been wondering if it is possible, these days, to do without a bank at all and still have a relatively normal life. And by normal, I don’t mean keeping cash under the mattress. I’m talking about a proper banking relationship, but without the bank account.

Actually, I’ve done some work in the retail banking sector recently (sorry to be opaque but I signed a very weird NDA) and these guys are clearly paying attention to the changes all around us. Whether they can develop an effective response is a whole other question.