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An Assortment of Brand-Related Treats

September 18th, 2011

The news for any substantial brand story seems weak in recent weeks. Is this a clear indicator of a continuing weak economy? According to a recent article in the NY Times, agencies and their major holding companies such as Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic Group, Publicis, etc., have actually endured the protracted downturn reasonably well, unlike other industries. But my perspective is a bit different. Most independents and agency owners that I know are plodding along. As a firm we are clearly seeing the fits of client-budgetary stops and starts, and we are working hard to compete in the more robust agency review and procurement processes. It may be the lesser of my concerns, but it does leave one with little fodder for an entertaining Blog post on topical brand stories.

So from the ongoing swirl of marketing and media communications, I have composed this digestible potpourri of bits, bytes, and brand news lights. Enjoy.

A Pharma Earning Bad Karma
Roche has announced that it has stopped delivering its cancer drugs to state hospitals in Greece that have not paid their bills.

The company also announced that it would do the same with hospitals in Spain, Portugal and Italy that are also in arrears. While the CEO tried to spin the development in a more positive way, it is what it is. Hospital patients will still be able to go to pharmacies to acquire the necessary drugs, and the pharmacies can also administer the injected cancer drugs.

Can an international human rights organization act on such a decision? Money may talk, but what is the cost of damage to brand image, ultimately? This should be a nice sales opportunity for 24/7 crisis management units at all relevant brand consulting and PR agencies. If the U.S. Government could intervene in the global financial crisis, what happens when corporations limit the accessibility of critical drugs? Aren’t there greater ethical responsibilities? Can’t these types of actions by a private corporation be regulated?

Mr. World Peace Has Left the Building
Ron Artest’s request to change his name to Metta World Peace has been accepted by a Los Angeles court after the NBA star agreed to settle his unpaid parking fines.

As someone who has worked in my career for Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Sporting News, and the National Basketball Association, I have a bit of insight: One of the great risks in professional sports is the concern by managing professionals in league offices that an athlete will do something crazy, thereby tarnishing the entire sport. As one unnamed source at the NBA once declared — and I paraphrase here, “There are roughly 400-500 executives here in Secaucus who depend on the exemplary behavior of a few hundred elite athletes across the league. One poorly managed scandal, and our jobs are in jeopardy.”

As Artest embraces “Dancing With the Stars,” Mother Teresa, Ghandi and all that is pure, holy and sacred, I’d have to think that there were no protests by David Stern and company. His action is bold and an inspiration to fans, league management, but most importantly to the aggressive culture that the NBA players can sometimes cultivate.

J.C. Penney Pulls Product Off Shelves After Consumers Protest Online
According to an article in The Washington Post, the retailer removed shirts from its stores that expressed the comment, “I’m too pretty to do my homework, so my brother has to do it for me.” Lauren Todd, a New York-based community activist, spotted the image of a girl on Facebook wearing the shirt and was outraged. She posted a comment on, a venue for users to post complaints and acquire signatures in protests. Within 13 hours, J.C. Penney responded by taking the shirt off shelves.

This is a developing story that I’d like to further research and follow up on in future Blogs. What is the true value of social media for companies? Obviously, the cost-to-benefit is desirable. There are many rewards to the media exposure, creating a more intimate relationship with customers and clearly, the advantages extend to gathering as much data as possible. But the most important value may be distilled for the R&D departments in large companies. Customer feedback that drives product development might far outweigh the benefits realized in brand building. This would give product development managers a far better forum for research than has ever been afforded as they snack on the crudités in traditional focus group sessions.

It’s example # 819 demonstrating how technology has empowered the masses. . .  a secret window and channel into future customer needs.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2011 at 9:37 pm and is filed under Advertising, Brand Identity, Business, Marketing, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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