From Brand to Bland: When Does the Fire Go Out?

I’ve had the privilege to have worked with some of the biggest brands in technology, but I’ve always preferred working with the start-ups and SMEs. Why? Because more often than not they’re bold about their marketing, because they know they have to be. They can also respond quicker to new ideas without a lengthy approvals chain that leaves you with nothing but lukewarm comment after the journalist’s deadline has long since passed. I’ve devised a theory based on my observations; let’s call it “Lee’s Law”.

I’ve received some comment this week for a piece I’m writing on the Government’s interim report into Digital Britain and I have to say the best comments – as they often do – came from the small, innovative companies. The big names – the ones you would expect to see in there – gave me the standard McQuote rubbish: “We welcome the findings…We look forward to providing innovative solutions….Working in partnership…yada yada yada.”

I’ve been there, I know how long middle-management internal marketing people probably deliberate about the wording of press statements to make sure it is politically acceptable internally. The marketing heads at many of these big corporations must be so frustrated – all that budget and so little chance to express themselves. It must really get the goat of their PR people too, who probably spend many a late hour brainstorming a proposal which they all know in their heart of hearts is going to be canned. Seen to be written, not written to be seen.

Lee’s Law

I’ve noticed that during the lifecycle of a firm that – without a strong and dynamic marketing head with a creative PR team – a typical firm risks following this trend. They start aggressively, the press love them – new, fresh and, above all, bold. As they grow the retreat into themselves a little, they’ve got customers to think about, a growing brand reputation to protect. Ahead of a pending IPO or acquisition it’s best behaviour time and during the ‘corporate years’ it’s goodbye boldness, hello blandness and it’s a shame. This isn’t true for everyone, of course. There are huge firms still innovating in their marketing and promotion but I’d be rather helping the small firm out with something and a willingness to say it than any ‘household brand’ who’ll reduce its PR to singing from the hymnbook of corporate cliché any day of the week.

1 comment:

  1. i thought 'Lee's law' was going to be something about banning lager, keeping non-kentish people out of kent and how the middle-classes should receive extra funding for supplies of balsamic vinegar, good rioja and nice cheese.

    Now i see what it really is I have to agree. but it does stand to reason...as companies grow they have more suppliers/partners/customers to potentially piss off and I guess they would want to play it safe if share prices can rise or fall depending on what they say.

    Media training plays a role too - although there is a place for it may senior execs play a nice forward defensive to most questions instead of rocking back and cutting for four. As a result, interviews are often bland and uninspiring