Brands Behaving Badly

Brands_behaving_badly I am working on a way to draw together the pieces of this blog.  Here are the posts that fall under the theme Brands Behaving Badly.  This post is an overview, a meta-post, as it were.

The Sony post:  brands being vertically consistent.  This post shows Stringer saying one thing and Sony doing another.  In the old days, this was fine.  CEOs and PR machines would pump out message that didn’t always square with what was happening on the shelf.  In a new brand era, consumers expect a consistency.  If you are going to talk it, you have to walk it.  Plus, there is a strong sense that CEOs craft the company, not just the vision statement.  Especially in an era of Steven Jobs, Jeffrey Immelt, Richard Branson, and A.G. Lafley.  (See the post here.)

The HP post: brands being horizontally consistent.  This post shows that an HP ad promises a brand new approach, with no evidence that there is hardware or software.  This is a return to the old days in which the product was one thing and advertising something completely different.  I like the idea of making new brand meanings to crawl out of the commodity basement that now threatens personal computers, but the meanings can’t just sit on the surface of the brand.  They have to be "built inside."  (See the post here.) 

The Yahoo post:  brands telling their story.  Yahoo has bags of talent.  In their time, people like Stewart Butterfield, Caterina Fake, Joshua Schacter, Jeff Weiner, Usama Fayyad, Jeremy Zawodny, JR Conlin, Bradley Horowitz, and Marc Davis.  It has many great products: Delicious, Flickr and Fire Eagle. But these vital parts of the brand proposition never seem to get branded with Yahoo.  Naming is a complicated business, but when we are busting with talent and ideas, we want the brand to get its share of the credit.  We want the parts of the brand to create value for the whole of the brand.  (See the post here.)

The Wal-Mart post: climbing the value hierarchy.  In the early days, Wal-Mart could win by beating everyone at the price game.  Pile em high, sell em cheap.  And it worked.  But now Wal-Mart dominates retail so thoroughly that growth is possible only if it begins to climb upwards into more premium markets.  And now it really has its work cut out for it.  Now it is playing a real branding game.  Not a moment too soon, Target has been playing this game for some time.  Now Wal-Mart must actually know something about consumer preference, and now it must be able to track sudden changes in this preference. (See the post here.)

The Coca-Cola post: speaking of consumer preference, this post is about the consumer sending Coke a message, and the way Coke responded.  It’s not often that consumers get to say what they want this clearly.  The old Coke would have treated this as an aberration.  But the new Coke is learning what it is to live in a market with lots of competitors and lots more choice.  We might think they would take this "message in a bottle" a little more seriously.  This is the new name of the game. (See the post here.)

The New York Times post: One of the ways to connect with consumers is to help them create content.  This has been the big revolution driven by the emergence of social media and social networks.  Every consumer is now building a bigger network.  And to sustain this network, they need to create and x content.  Smart brands are making themselves useful.  They know that helping the consumer make content for himself helps him make value for the brand.  In this post, I look at an odd case in which the New York Times actually decided to destroy consumer content.  Proving once more perhaps that you cannot teach the grey lady new tricks.  (See the post here.)

The Microsoft post1: I used to be a Microsoft loyalist.  And then I got whammed by spam.  For some reason, Microsoft thought this spam was my problem.  Enter Google who found a way to fix the problem.  This is not just about a better value proposition.  This is about finding a way to get rid of "value tax."  Spam was a value tax on email.  Features that I couldn’t find or couldn’t work were a value tax on my cell phone, my software, my hardware.  One of the ways of creating value is by getting certain product features and deficits out of the way.  The iPhone is everyone’s favorite case in point here.  And so it should be.  It creates all the features I want in exactly the configuration that makes them most useful and most accessible to me.  Oh, well, this is turning into a post of its own.  In this present post, I was merely noting that eBay could go the way of Microsoft if it didn’t devote itself to a value tax reduction strategy. (see the post here.)

The Microsoft post2: And this brings us full circle on the Brands Behaving Badly.  After all no brand has behaved quite as badly in our time as Microsoft.  And in the case of this post, we look at the behavior of the new head of Microsoft now that Bill Gates has returned.  In the place of this slightly nerdy guy with the big glasses, we have a first class bully.  A man who apparently said of Eric Schmidt, head of Google, "I am going to f*cking bury that guy."  (see the post here.)

In sum, brands should reflect

1) what CEOs say and do (Sony),

2) the real product and service offering (HP),

3) the whole story of the brand (Yahoo),

4) a passage up out of the commodity basement into the value rich heavens (Wal-Mart),

5) a respect the consumers’ wishes when they find a way of signalling these wishes (Coca-Cola),

6) a respect the consumers’ content when they find a way of creating this content (The New York Times),

7.1) a way of getting rid of value taxes that stand between the consumer and the value created by the product and the consumer (Microsoft).

7.2) a regard for the marketplace as something that creates value for everyone, not just the corporation in a narrowly defined game of zero sum bullying (Microsoft). 


Thanks to for the image.