Beyond No Logo

  • This post is co-authored with Jo Allen, Creative Director with The Marketing Eye.

    Several years have passed since ‘No Logo’, Naomi Klein’s seminal backlash against multinational corporations. In her book, Klein uncovered a betrayal of the central promises of many of the world’s most revered brands: Bill Gates became a global whipping boy, Nike's swoosh was equated with sweatshop labour and McDonald's arches turned into a synonym for childhood obesity. Little wonder that these brands found themselves on the wrong end of a can of spray paint.

    Since ‘No Logo’ we have seen some seismic shifts. The world’s most valuable brand, Coca Cola, recently acquired a stake in Innocent Drinks, in part, because of the positive light Innocent would reflect back onto the corporate brand. We have also seen Coca Cola focus on healthier drinks with the launch of Diet Coke Plus and Coke Zero.

    We see a similar situation at McDonald’s, which has been addressing the healthy eating issues that have dogged it in the past. Starbucks too is looking at how it can realign its proposition with the needs of a more informed and discerning audience.

    Business direction is now being moulded by brand strategies dictated by customer values not business values. The information age means there is no place to hide any actions, policies or values that run contrary to the core values of the consumer. Audiences are sophisticated and informed. They choose the brands they want a relationship with, not the other way round.

    The important lesson in these case studies is that branding doesn’t have to mean greed and excess, nor, incidentally, does it have to have to be the exclusive domain of large corporations: it is only when we realise this that we can understand how important and positive it can be for a business.

    Think of any well-known modern day brand and you will find an organisation behind it that has:

    · A clear customer promise

    · A well defined set of values

    · An ‘all for one’ philosophy among the people who work there

    · A strong employee proposition designed to attract and retain the best employees

    · Consistent and well targeted communications that inspire

    There is nothing morally wrong in any of this, on the contrary. If the honesty exists; if the values of the business are properly aligned to those of the consumer and lived and breathed at every level within the organisation, then we create powerful businesses that can be a force for good.

    An unfortunate consequence of the global downturn is that businesses particularly smaller businesses - have become more inward looking. With the focus being on short-term cost-cutting and survival, ‘the brand’ as a concept is seen by many as too intangible and too esoteric to justify time and investment. How unfortunate and what a missed opportunity.

    The truth is that building a brand doesn’t necessarily require significant investment: it needs vision, commitment and structure. A brand strategy, fully embraced from the start and consistently nurtured throughout its life, can be the difference between average performance and stellar success.

    To achieve all this isn’t easy, but the prize for those that go for it is a significant one.

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