21 June, 2011 - 08:38 By News Desk

Brand leader - or Elvis lookalike?

A brand is more than a badge. Simply changing the name of a product does not alter its essential content or character.I could change my name to Elvis and do a tribute act down my local pub but it wouldn’t be to shouts of ‘Elvis Lives!’, nor would the rebrand do anything for my image, which would be revealed as irretrievably naff.

So, branding is nothing without carefully cultivated image, which in turn is founded on core values that have to be built assiduously and guarded jealously if the brand is to prosper and win market share.

I was reminded of this by the new ad for Greenpeace – ‘Barbie’s rainforest destruction habit revealed’ – on You Tube, (featuring her boyfriend, Ken) which skilfully undermines Barbie’s brand values – chic, smart (I don’t mean clever) if rather vapid, but above all an innocuous creature without a bloodthirsty thought in her head – except perhaps to scratch out the eyes of a female rival.

Who’d have thought she’d stoop to a ‘shoot’ in a rainforest, and the death of attendant wildlife, to keep herself wrapped in crisp pink cardboard and cellophane! Perhaps it’s a little unfair to single out Mattel for this crime, but it illustrates the vulnerability of a brand to adverse criticism, not to mention a concerted attack by a rival. It’s war out there.

Speaking of war, I’m indebted to Adam Boome’s BBC Three programme, ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ for revealing Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy during World War II, which allowed it to go on trading with Germany for the duration.

It became, for obvious reasons, difficult to export the ingredients for Coca-Cola into Germany. And in any case, to go on producing a product which built its fortune on the back of American GIs into a country with which it was at war would have been negative PR to say the least.

So did Coca-Cola Deutschland cease trading? Nein, mein freund. They carried on a roaring trade by coming up with a new product, Fanta (yes, the very same), which used the existing production facilities, and later went global itself.

Not a lot of people know that. And if I were a Coca-Cola PRO I’d be doing my best to keep the lid on it, and the ring – pull firmly in place!


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