Lessons from the Summer’s Biggest Brand Stories

Tips to learn from some of these big name companies.

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Warm days, blue sky and a little vacation (hopefully) lead to reflection.  So here we take a look back at lessons learned from three of the biggest brand stories of the 2010 summer.

The BP Spill

There’s nothing like a strong dose of crisis to test a brand positioning.  After a decade-long run as an exemplar of how to develop a re-positioning strategy, BP (nee “Beyond Petroleum”) faced a tragic oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that grounded our mental flights of “beyond” and left us with just “petroleum.”

There were some quick and highly visible reactions: a fake twitter account (with 10 times as followers as BP’s official account); not one but two BP logo redesign contests; and calls for boycotts, direct protests, and defacements of BP gas stations.

BP’s stock price has wavered between about half and 2/3rds of what it was before the spill, and there have already been a few estimates of the sinking brand value of BP. Some people, including several BP gas station owners, have even suggested changing the BP name entirely in the US.

Where will this all fall out for the future of the BP brand?  Payments by the company to those affected by the catastrophe, and an eventual “crisis fatigue” in the press will almost certainly have some positive brand impact. So it is not surprising that a recent AdAge poll came out perfectly split when asking readers whether BP could salvage its brand.

If you are looking for tips on how to survive a brand crisis, we recommend a recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review that applies relevant research on persuasion from Prof. Gita V. Johar (Columbia Business School), Matthias M. Birk and Sabine A. Einwiller.

The World Cup

It’s the biggest sporting event in the world and despite some frustrations with the drone of the vuvuzelas and bad referee calls, the 2010 World Cup achieved record TV ratings in the US and many other countries. And that, of course, doesn’t include numerous additional viewers (e.g. us) watching in pubs, online and even on their phones.

One “big vuvuzela” story demonstrates the need to work with all stakeholders (not just customers) when planning your marketing activities. Hyundai, a 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsor, was banned by the Cape Town City Council from blowing the 35 meter long vuvuzela (video) it constructed over an unfinished highway overpass. It was supposed to mark the opening of all the games in the stadium, but it was so loud the Council was concerned it might cause traffic accidents. We find this a bit ironic, considering FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s culturally-sensitive decision not to ban the African plastic horns inside the stadiums.

Event sponsorship is another key brand building tool at the World Cup. But Nielsen noted that some “ambushes” from ad campaigns launched by non-sponsor brands wound up creating more online buzz than the Cups’ official sponsors. The combination of sporting fever and great creative content is very powerful, and Nike hit it big by hiring acclaimed director Alejandro Inarritu to craft a three minute commercial video. While the ad was trimmed for TV, it has now gathered over 20 million views in its full length version on YouTube.

Old Spice Guy

If you read any ad-related US press in mid-July, you already heard how Wieden+Kennedy and Proctor & Gamble created an online hit by adding social media interaction to its Old Spice TV ad campaign. Within one week of its launch, there were over 35 millions views of the 186 personalized web response videos from the Old Spice Guy himself, actor Isaiah Mustafa.

Even before the sales impact of the web videos could be fully assessed, both BrandWeek and AdAge had articles looking at how the overall “Old Spice Guy” campaign might be affecting sales. The AdAge article brings up a particularly salient point by noting that multiple promotional efforts were taking place simultaneously with the campaign, thus “muddying” clear attributions to sales figures. If you have the budget to afford it, there is good reason to consider a marketing mix model for analysis.

David Rogers has penned an excellent piece on the lessons mass consumer brands can learn from the campaign’s interactive success, and how it excelled at connecting and engaging its audience.

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