Of all the communication tools that a marketer can invest in, public relations is probably the most underrated.
PR is relatively cheap and is a wonderful method of providing information on a brand, while avoiding the clutter that so often reduces advertising impact. Yet it is a relatively minor ingredient in many integrated marketing plans.
The problem with PR is its invisibility. Unlike advertising or the internet there are no glossy prints, 30-second spots or 3-D graphics to point to as justification for the investment. Unlike sales promotions and direct marketing, there is no way of linking the amount invested in communications with that received in the form of increased sales. As a result, PR is often overlooked as an important and economic method of building a brand over time.
The PR industry itself has to accept responsibility for this situation because of the rather fluffy and unaccountable way in which it has promoted itself. In many instances PR agencies have been comfortable accepting a retainer from clients without ever offering any form of evaluation of their activities on behalf of that client.
First came Nike iD, a customization concept that enabled consumers to design their own pair of Nike shoes. Then Jones Soda offered a customization platform: bottles became vehicles for consumers’ customized labels, Jones Soda even guaranteeing brand fans that their bottles would be distributed in stores. Shortly thereafter, Build-A-Bear broke new ground in the teddy bear game inviting kids to use their imaginations and construct their own bears. Imagine the LEGO factory enabling kids to design their own LEGO sets. Consider Mercedes-Benz’s design-your-own-car option and, of course, the hundreds of clothing web sites that offer consumers the chance to design their ideal streetwear. These consumer lures have all been exercised in parallel with the online world to which the very concept of customization is fundamental and in which the potential for customization has yet to be fully exploited.
Once we’ve had the chance to pick and choose, to become kings and queens of our own brand universes, product functions and designs, there’s no turning back. In the future we will be able to customize every consumer item we use. The days of Henry Ford’s manufacturing mantra — “You can have it in any color you want as long as it’s black” — are, even now, long gone. The question thus arises, what’s the role of the brand? Is it at all possible to build a brand if its products can be customized by its consumers?
The answer is simple: the role of the brand is to remain instantly recognizable, even without its logo.
“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”
-David Packard, Hewlett-Packard
Sponsored By: Brand Aid
Imagine your company brochure was so popular that people could sell it online for $38.95. Or your carry bags went for $9.90, and stickers featuring your company logo fetched $15.50 each. Impossible, right?
Maybe. But think again. Consider Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and Playboy. A never-ending range of merchandise attached to these brands gets sold on eBay all the time, demonstrating the true value of those brands. And, perhaps, the value of their prime driver: sex.
But, is it really that simple. Does sex sell? Provocative behavior, seasoned with sex, seems to be an ever-effective formula. Seventy years after the first lightly clad woman was featured in advertising, for an automobile, sexual suggestiveness still seems to do the trick. As trivial and superficial as it sounds, the magic still seems to work in the old formula.
If you passed by an Abercrombie and Fitch store during the summer months you might have noticed something unusual about the U.S. clothing retailer. The staff who greet you at the entrance are wearing an unusually small amount of clothing. A pair of undies for the boys and, for the girls, a micro-sized bra which you can hardly see. Then there’s the store itself. It exudes a distinctive exotic aroma that you can detect from the other side of the street. Meanwhile, high-decibel chart-topping music maintains momentum. The windows are covered with posters of lightly dressed teens, preventing people on the outside from seeing in, and people on the inside from seeing out. All this, combined with the fact that the staff act more like models than sales staff, seduces you into feeling you’ve entered a nightclub rather than a fashion store.
Of course, this is all quite on purpose. And, it’s all about sex.
In my current role, I am often asked why I believe place branding is a right strategy for accelerating the economic growth of a location.