This is a cautionary tale — about reputation, story and social media.
The world loves a story. United Airlines’ misadventure in passenger ‘re-accommodation’ on a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday is a reminder of what can go wrong when companies fail to remember that.
If the world loves a story, the internet loves outrage. And nothing helps outrage go viral better than Facebook, where a fellow passenger first posted the video of the man – a doctor – being bodily dragged from the plane by security agents. Later images of his bleeding head only served to fan the flames.
It seemed that once the story was out, it was like a train speeding out of control – impossible to derail before the train wreck.
But it was only once the damage hit the company where it hurt – in its share price – that the CEO finally issued an apology. A real one, not the the wooden excuse first issued by United on its website. Timing is everything, and had this statement been issued immediately, it may have helped avert the worst disaster. read more
Few things in the world of corporate brands evoke more passionate debate than a new logo. And few meetings are as painful for the creative team.
“It’s hard to read. What font is that?” asks an executive, squinting at the screen upon which the agency have projected their latest iteration of the new company logo. “It’s type! Not font!” something inside me screams, while I work on keeping an appropriately neutral professional face.
The name is too small, the graphic too big. The colours are too dull, or perhaps too bright. And just what does that swoosh represent anyway?
Brand meetings are tough. Everybody has an opinion and emotions tend to run high. At times like these I’ve seen even conservative financial officers and deep-thinking strategists lose their cool. All over a few letters, graphic symbols and colours. Perhaps because the logo is the most visual representation of a brand, it evokes more gut reactions and personal turf wars than any other aspect of a company’s identity. Other brand elements like name and positioning, arguably at least as important, are less subject to debate.
Logo, an abbreviation of logotype, from the Greek word logos, is a graphic mark, emblem or symbol commonly used by commercial enterprises and organizations to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic symbols or icons, or include the name of the organization in a logotype or wordmark.
The problem is that the logo is not the brand, although most people think of it that way. The logo is the visible tip of the massive iceberg that is the brand, 80% of which is hidden below the surface. Who are you, where have you come from, how do you work, and more importantly, think? What are your values? How do your customers see you? All of these combine to create brand. A new logo does not a brand make, although it can go a fair way towards helping you build one. read more
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the fact that storytelling is making headlines:
Harness the power of storytelling!
How to use story to improve customer buy-in!
Top storytelling techniques to build your business!
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered: why is it suddenly okay to tell stories?
As a child, storytelling was frowned upon – unless it happened in the library, where you sat in strict silence, listening to an adult read a book. Or when you wrote a story as an assignment for English class. Telling stories was quite another matter.
“Somebody’s been telling tales out of school!” I remember being told when I ratted out one of my siblings. Being a tell-tale was not cool. Also heard: “That’s a tall tale if I ever heard one.” “Somebody has an active imagination!” (Not necessarily a good thing, judging by the looks exchanged between adults). The message? It was a short step from telling stories to perjury, prison and life as a hardened criminal.
So when did storytelling become acceptable? As an advertising copywriter back in the 1980s, any attempt to bring story to copy was tough. Long copy had gone out with David Ogilvy. Splashy art direction with short headlines ruled the day. As far as the marketers were concerned, the product was the hero of any ad; in retail it was often the price point itself. The consumer was the target market, the audience, and if he got involved at all he was often portrayed as the chump.
After a two-week strike by pilots that left both passengers and crew on the tarmac, Air France KLM is fighting hard to regain lost ground. But in the long haul, it will take more than a letter of apology to win back customers
I’ve been flying between France and Canada for over twenty years. We usually travel back to Toronto at least once a year to visit family and friends. Several years ago we decided not to fly Air France anymore – it’s just too risky.
I’m not talking about safety – although the article in the October 2014 edition of Vanity Fair on the ill-fated flight from Rio to Paris isn’t exactly reassuring. The fact is Air France is just as safe as any of the world’s major airlines. And statistically, air travel is still the safest form of transportation.
It’s the risk of a strike that holds us back. Especially as we often travel around Christmas or during the summer holidays: prime strike season in France. And we are not alone in avoiding the national airline, especially since the latest round of cancellations.
It’s one thing to lose your luggage, even keep you waiting. Passengers are fairly understanding of delays caused by technical problems. It’s all in how it’s handled. And that almost always comes down to communication. read more
In my former job working in communications for Merck’s biopharma division, I struggled daily with the company name.
Here’s the thing: I did not work for Merck & Co. — aka the American Merck, the bigger of the two and the one that 99% of people assume you mean when they hear the name.
My employer was Merck KGaA. Ah, the German Merck, people would say. Yes, the original Merck, its family owners would have you know. The world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. They didn’t really care that they were dwarfed in size by their bigger American cousin. They had the legal rights to the name everywhere in the world but in North America, and they used it with pride. And if people didn’t understand, well…that was their problem.
While I understood their position from a historic point of view, as a communicator it was counter-intuitive. We PR folk want a solid base upon which to build our brand’s reputation, a clearly differentiated identity and strengths compared to competitors. The confusion around ‘Which Merck?’ only served to water down anything we had to say about the company. read more
You often hear the expression in French, “Le cordonnier est toujours le plus mal chaussé.” The English translation, while not often used, is “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Meaning that those who do something for a living often neglect their own needs.
I decided not to be an example of this when starting my own business. Creating and building a brand was top priority. How else would I be able to sell myself as a copywriter who believes that identity – and thus brand – is the driving force behind all communication?
It’s still early days and my brand development is a work-in-progress but I’ve managed to lay the foundations of a solid professional identity.
Here is my approach to building a brand, summarized in 5 key questions: read more