Building the correct brand has become incredibly important in being able to survive in an ever-growing competitive market but it’s so easy to get it oh so wrong. With quality over quantity arguably being the true decider, do we need to start considering a new approach to branding in PR, asks Laura Cunningham.
It’s always been a basic rule of thumb that repetition is key when it comes to effective advertising and marketing, but there’s a fine line between effectiveness versus burning out messaging and exhausting consumers.
Attention spans are not what they used to be (at least that’s what, as a ‘millennial’, I’m always being told) so the constant bombarding of a certain message or image quickly becomes white noise – particularly when it comes to an arguably more aware and vocal audience. Something that we can see through recent backlashes against various campaigns (*cough* McDonalds *cough* Dove *cough* Pepsi). In the run up to the episodes from the latest Star Wars series, we were greeted by a spate of unnecessary and ill-fitting brand partnerships that seemed to bash us over the head with Star Wars imagery. Not sure what mascara and nail polish had to do with ‘The Force’, but this was apparently a partnership opportunity that neither party could pass up. After several intense google searches (short attention span of a millennial remember) it’s unclear whether this partnership actually benefitted either brand in terms of make-up or cinema ticket sales.
There is absolutely no denying the power in brands and the consumer loyalty that comes with it. Clearly. Otherwise brands wouldn’t look at doing partnerships and Apple would not be the dominating MP3 player on the market. After all, that is what the iPod is, just an MP3 player. However, if branding is mismanaged or diluted, the image of the brand will inevitably suffer and so will the consumer loyalty that comes with it.
Some of the most successful marketing and PR campaigns are simple and use carefully considered branding. These campaigns are able to spark an interest without completely ramming the brand down consumer throats and are the ones we end up remembering in a year’s time.
From a purely PR perspective, the less branded the better when it comes to being able to secure media coverage and get people talking. This could be as simple as flipping the script when it comes to the release, leading with the news hook before the brand mention, or making sure any supporting creative either involves subtle nods to the brand or actually none at all. After many sell-ins and receiving some very honest feedback more than once, the best response I ever received from a journalist early on in my career was, “do you think we’re just going to advertise your brand for free?” Fair point. In providing an overly branded story and image, the news hook is lost and it simply becomes deconstructed advertising prose. Whilst the end goal is to look at how to increase awareness, sales or footfall, the PR approach needs to be mutually beneficial to both the brand and the publication, and of course their audience. No one likes a bragger, so if all the story does is solely promote how great the brand is, people are going to switch off and you might as well not have bothered. However, this does take a brave client…
This is a journey for PR and while the stunt or image might have limited branding the brand is never that far away. As long as it’s underpinned with a strong press office outreach, coverage will land and the brand will inevitably be mentioned. A good example of PR with carefully considered branding was the jackpotjoy.com giant inflatable duck that was floated down the Thames back in 2012 (an oldie but a goodie). The duck itself was unbranded and the majority of the coverage led with the pictures and their ‘FUNdation’ initiative, with the brand itself being mentioned later on. Not only will you remember this campaign, but jackpotjoy.com has now been positioned in a much more gentle way for the consumer. Other great examples are the NHS Blood and Transplant PR led campaign ‘Missing Type’ and the Sky polar bear. If you search through any of the images for these campaigns you will find little or no branding. Yet, in all these cases coverage went everywhere, the ideas were strong, unique, clever and most importantly you remember the brand behind it. Therefore they didn’t need to rely on branding and this is truly great PR.
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