The good, the “brand” and the ugly of 2012

feature-brand-disaster-200Welcome to the sixth annual roundup of brand good, brand ugly (and brand that should really know better).

So without any preamble, the clock on 2012 is ticking down so let’s dive right it – in no particular order.


It’s becoming an annual event. The bank marketing (“rebranding”) campaign that is meant to reshape said bank in the eyes of the consuming public and cause a stampede of new customers in the doors. Last year was NAB “breaking up with other banks” and this year it is Commonwealth Bank or should I use their hipper new moniker CommBank.

Billboards telling us we “Can’t” were magically transformed by a CommBank logo into the much more empowering and less honest “Can”. Toni Collete channelled Dr Seuss and a guy in a “Can” suit bullied prospective Olympic athletes, pushing them into the sea – all designed to convince us that “no” was a thing of the past.

My reaction was represented perfectly by a woman in the comments section of an article about the campaign, who posted: “That’s exactly what they said when I asked to refinance my home loan – can’t!”

Brand don’t – Because deliberately making a promise you have no chance of keeping for marketing purposes will always bite you in the ass.

Alan Jones

Love, dislike or despise him, Jones has had a pretty turbulent year. First the remarks he made about the Prime Minister’s father went viral and all but exploded the heads of everyone in social media and the media in general.

Then he made a non-apology apology while appearing to suck lemons (not an easy feat). Then on the back of a vocal campaign by plenty of upset non-listeners, his station had to give his advertisers a time-out to stop them totally stampeding for the exits.

When the temperature returned to something approaching normal, Jones went on being Jones. Which just goes to show that when you understand that everyone is not your audience you can get away with an awful lot and live to fight another day.

Brand ugly – Not that he will give a damn.


How the mighty have fallen. Just a couple of years ago Billabong was an investor and retail performing darling, anointed the pound for pound most valuable brand in Australia. Fast forward through a retail downturn and all those acquisitions don’t seem so smart, because while they might have delivered revenue, they also diluted what people thought Billabong stood for. And once lost, authenticity (and the customers it attracts) is very, very hard to regain.

To cap off the year from hell, mass retailer Launa Inman was installed as CEO after Derek O’Neill was fired, then potential suitor TPG walked away from a deal at the 11th hour and founder Gordon Merchant kept his board seat by the skin of his teeth in the face of stiff shareholder opposition. Let’s hope 2013 sees things improve, but my hopes aren’t high.

Brand fallen – Because forgetting what you stand for in exchange for revenues will always trip you up.

Tom’s Shoes

Social business poster child Tom’s Shoes hit a milestone this year when they gave away their millionth pair of shoes to a child in need (after selling a million pairs to people all over the world, including yours truly).

From day one, through early mistakes and barely slowed by the retail downturn that has seen others struggle to survive, founder Blake Mycoskie has stayed true to the organisation’s purpose.

Today they bring shoes to children in need and sight to people in need via their newest product line of sunglasses. Which just goes to show that while you do have to trade to be successful (after all, commerce is built on that premise) you don’t have to trade-in what you believe.

Brand walk the talk – A million smiling children can’t be wrong.

Kony 2012

As of today, Joseph Kony – poster boy for the Kony 2012 campaign – remains at large and the organisation that brought bucket loads of attention to his murdering ways is a shambles.

The idea was simple enough, make a video and rally people via social media to come together on one day and call for the capture of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Kony has already been convicted by The Hague for crimes against humanity, so the campaign was more about awareness that he continues to be at large.

The designated day of action came and went without much of a ripple and the founder of Invisible Children, and campaign mastermind, Jason Russell had a very public breakdown, running naked around town (quite literally).

A cautionary tale perhaps of how good intentions can go astray when not fully thought through (and many even question the good intentions part).

Brand hype and fizzle – If it’s just about a campaign then it is going to have a pretty short lifespan.

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