My personal recap of the brand year that was. 10 things that caught my eye – the good, the “brand” and the ugly of 2007.
The good, the “brand” and the ugly of 2007
With apologies for returning to the scene of last week’s topic, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recap the brand year that was. Within the confines of this blog it is certainly impossible to capture the breadth of brand behaviour over the past year, so I will just keep it to 10 things – good, “brand” and ugly – that caught my eye.
In roughly chronological order…
#1 The year got off to a most inauspicious start when venerable Australian boot maker Blundstone makes a mockery of its heritage and moves manufacturing offshore. To most, the backlash was swift and well-deserved (it even moved me to write a letter to the editor at The Age to express my outrage – a first for me), and best summed up in the quote from one of the letters; “Australian since 1870… until 2007.” This one gets a big fat ugly!
#2 Jet Blue is stylish low cost airline in the US that managed to do the almost impossible and inspire loyalty from customers. But no-one is perfect and in reality it’s what you do when you screw up that matters. So when a series of events left thousands of passengers stranded, CEO Dave Needham didn’t duck the underlying issues; instead he stepped up and created a Customer Bill of Rights.
# 3 Nothing particularly special happened with Skype this year, but it deserves to be in this list for understanding that when you make it easy and cost-effective for people to connect with each other (in ways regular Telcos seem to have forgotten), they will love you and tell everyone they know. How many friends have you invited to join Skype? Check out what the Lovemarks site has to say about Skype.
#4 My brand ugly comment for Qantas is not the consideration that they gave to the foreign take-over bid, that failed – though there is plenty that could be said about that. What caught my eye was the abysmal timing of the “proud to be Australian” ad campaign that ran ad nauseam in the weeks that followed the failed bid. If it was already booked someone should have yanked it. If it wasn’t, then the blatant hypocrisy of the move is enough to put me off the flying kangaroo for years to come.
#5 Some companies still know how to do the right thing. Zappos is a beloved online retailer in the US that shows that they really do mean what they say – a rarer commodity than gold these days. Read my blog about this story or just go to the letter that got them on this list.
#6 Millions of parents worldwide started looking very differently at their children’s Mattel toys in the wake of several massive toy recalls. So, what was Mattel’s responsibility? According to them, not much – it was all the fault of Chinese manufacturers (way to pass the buck, Mattel). But this raises a really sticky brand issue. In this age of outsourcing there are a myriad of new factors that need to be considered to protect the trust and goodwill of your customers. Mattel found out the hard way that maintaining “rigorous standards” is no longer enough.
#7 It is so rare for Apple to make a misstep when it comes to their brand. It is one of the few companies that usually thinks a few steps ahead of its actions and as a result have a lunatic evangelistic customer core who LOVE their Apple products. After lining up around the block and paying a $500 premium for their new iPhones, those same customers were more than a little miffed when a few short months later Apple dropped the price by $200. The clumsy and hasty $100 rebate offer did little to tame the tempest. Bad Apple (but I still love you anyway).
#8 For the brand ugly award of the year there is really only one contender (and winner) – VISY and founder Richard Pratt. Enough said.
#9 Yahoo and Google have both had a tough year in China. In our increasingly global economy, our legal responsibilities are relatively clear, but what of our ethical and moral responsibilities? For brands the tightrope is a difficult one to walk and both these internet giants found themselves bouncing in the nets below this past year.
#10 This has to be one of the best cases of bad timing I have seen this year. Major oil companies Shell and BP squandered the opportunity of publicity around the Bali climate change conference to announce, not major new green-energy commitments, but instead their sell off of a solar energy subsidiary and the investment in the dirtiest oil operation on the planet (respectively). In the process both showed that, despite record profits these past few years, and rhetoric to the contrary, more money is still more important than a better environment.
Wishing you joy and peace for the holidays and year ahead.
Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.
To read more Michel Hogan blogs, click here.
Kirsty Dunphey writes: Michel. Love your post and have really enjoyed reading them all year.