Posted: March 17, 2009
I have absolutely no doubt of two things. Firstly that “marketing” means leveraging the resources of an organisation to satisfy the needs of end users and, secondly, that as marketers it is our fundamental responsibility to go places and do things that nobody had gone to or done before. These are the two basic truths upon which I base my work. I’m happy to debate this with you, but I will win! However, I have come across a few illustrations recently of woolly, cop-out thinking by marketers around the world that makes me fear for our future.
Firstly I became involved a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn, that might become its biggest yet, which started with a member asking if anybody was interested in setting up a “consultants’ group”. The responses that followed were horrendous and I quickly came to the realisation that the relationships between a lot of consultants and their clients must be a bit like the blind leading the blind. I was simply staggered by the narrow thinking of many of those consultants who contributed.
Then came the response on SimpliFlying.com to a report on the BBC interview last week with RyanAir’s Michael O’Leary. SimpiFlying is a knowledgeable and highly respected blog that focuses on marketing within the airline sector, so you would expect that the majority visitors would be airline marketers. That being the case, many of the contributions served only to underline O’Leary’s premise that airline managers are a bunch of sad, uninspired old gits (My words, his sentiment). I’ve never been a particular supporter of O’Leary, but that might change after this interview. I have, however, always admired his business and brand development nous, and I’m delighted to hear that his inspiration was Southwest Airlines in the US who are a case study that I use in many of my seminars and workshops. O’Learly clearly understands branding far better than most of the contributors to this discussion.
The final nail in the marketer’s coffin was a recent campaign by Naked in Australia, an agency that I have always thought was quite OK, for their mens’ fashion client Witchery. Appropriately, this was drawn to my attention by Adam Broitman on iMedia.com under the heading “Interactive’s Most Offensive Campaigns”, but the offense I took wasn’t that it was rude or in bad taste, but the fact that the production of such utter dross was sure to have incurred some level of carbon footprint. Naked seem to have totally forgotten that for a viral campaign to work at all the material that’s seeded has to be interesting enough for someone to care enough to forward it. I am used to clients thinking that a viral campaign is a solution in itself and forgetting, like any other medium, that its only as good as the content, but for any marketing specialist, let alone an agency of this standing to completely miss the point like this is unforgivable. I fought to stay awake through the movie, only because I wanted to see why it was supposed to be so offensive.
As I said in my opening, we marketers are supposed to be taking our organisations or those of our clients, to places and getting them to do things that they would never dream of. That’s our primary responsibility and when times are tough, as they are now and we all really need to be brave, its our job to save them from their natural tendency to dig a pit and wait for the flak to pass. Our clients and colleagues should be beating a path to our door just to recharge at our power-point of creativity, innovation and entrepreurialism. If they aren’t its our fault not theirs. It means we are just too boring and that’s something a marketer should never be.
Thanks to Michael O’Leary for calling time on the old farts of aviation and talking up his ambition to pay us for travelling with him rather than the other way around and shame on those like the people who, whether RyanAir is their cup of tea or not as a carrier, aren’t smart enough marketers to recognise that this is how you build a brand (and the world’s biggest carrier).
Posted: March 10, 2009
I have just been reading through the comments on a LinkedIn Post, which started when someone asked whether Michael O’Leary is right to charge a quid to pee on his RyanAir flights. The comments, as usual range from the amusing to the folks who just don’t get it from any perspective, but that’s life. So too are brands and, putting aside for a moment the misassumptions and misunderstandings of what Michael O’Leary actually said and in what circumstances, there couldn’t be a better example of what branding is all about.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – brands are communities and we interact with them in a way that mirrors the relationships we have with our friends. – that’s why I call the relationships we have with brands “Brandships“
Its a fact, think about it. I bet the people who you know who have a large circle of close friends all have vivid personalities. Insipid people, though they may not upset a lot of people, equally don’t enjoy large communities of really close friends. You know, the kind of friends you really love as opposed to those that you just hang out with because there’s nothing better to do. And these are the ones that count. They are the friends who, when times are tough, rather than just sympathise with you, will rally to your assistance with practical help and support.
When I think through the close friends that I have I see a number of people who sometimes piss people off with their views or style, but could never be accused of not telling it like it is. I know where I am with them. I’ve been put in my place a few times by some of them and I genuinely value their criticism, unlike the acquaintances I have who are always very politically correct, inoffensive and full of platitudes. The latter group are motivated by the fear of rejection. They just don’t want to piss anybody off and therefore succeed in neither annoying nor endearing anybody.
Brands are EXACTLY the same. Look, around. There are insipid brands everywhere that people buy, simply because there is no alternative. They are often brand leaders, which means both that they have been able to get away with this approach and why they are vulnerable to lighthouse brands that emerge. The lighthouse brands being the strong characters in this scenario.
Right now the economic downturn has created a level playing-field and we find ourselves in the era of the lighthouse brand. Its going to be difficult to succeed just because you don’t piss anybody off (although size and resources alone will enable the biggest to weather the storm). Today friendships really count, we value the genuine help and support that comes with a close friend.
Of course, its not enough to just go shouting your mouth off, you do have to back it up with actions and those actions have to be consistent with what you are saying. That way you reinforce your message, live up to your promise, reassure people that you are genuine and transparent. Its that reassurance that you are someone who others can know and trust, derived from consistency, that makes for a really great friendship … and Brandship.
I’ve been thinking about this for a lot of years. Full Effect Marketing with Brand Discovery at its core is firstly a process of self-discovery for brands. Getting to understand the real you, not the “you” that you may have been trying to pass yourself off as for years because you felt that’s what people wanted to hear.
If it turns out that you don’t have what it takes to be popular we can set about addressing the issues, but we won’t create another veneer, instead we’ll make fundamental changes. Its rare though that there won’t be something about you that’s interesting or attractive to others and that’s the foundation upon which we will build your new community of Brandships.
Making it work will involve firstly getting all your stakeholders behind the promise (your “Brand Promise”) that is inherent in your personality, and gaining their commitment to playing their part in its delivery. Brand Discovery is the process that I use to achieve this.
So, how does this relate to Mr O’Leary and RyanAir? Well, firstly I have to clear up the usual mess that has been make by the press, by pointing out that it wasn’t quite as reported. It was a TV interviewer who asked Mr O’Leary how far he would take his stripped-down travel model and suggested that he could charge for using the loo. O’Leary took the chance to reinforce the RyanAir personality, which embodies fresh thinking, anti-establishment, not taking the press as seriously as they take themselves and a load of other stuff, by saying, in effect, “why not?”
Because you can’t be all things to all people, being true to your inner brand means that people will either take you or leave you, but at least their choice will be real and the result will be strong Brandships that’ll take you through thick and thin. You’ll succeed if a lot of or most people like you, or if a minority that take you to their bosoms are able and prepared to pay handsomely for your product or services and, as I said, over time you can make adjustments.
Michael O’Leary did a great job of reinforcing his Brandships and in the process gave everyone a choice. The facts speak for themselves. RyanAir is an outstandingly successful business, with a very clear Brand Promise and a lot of people who just love them.