Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q; My client, a technology company, wants to rebrand one of its recently acquired products to fit with the rest of the company. However, this new purchase was only rebranded a year ago. I want to advise them not to, but they seem determined. What should I do?

A: You should do your homework.

I bet you suspect that your client's enthusiasm for rebranding this acquisition is based on nothing more than an addiction to corporate tidiness, with absolutely no thought for its effect on customers and consumers. Furthermore, unquestioned commitment to the company flag is always warmly welcomed by corporate headquarters and often leads to the swift promotion of the executive in question: "Company guy, Battersby. Keep him in mind for EVPMEMEA next time around."

And you may well be right. But that in itself doesn't mean it's the wrong decision. Before you challenge it, you need to do a lot of very boring things: like finding out how much of the business is repeat business; how much is genuine consumer and how much business-to-business; how many consumers you can reach direct; what happened to sales after the last, recent, rebranding - and how long it took for them to recover. And so on.

Look out for any relevant case histories. (Don't forget the IPA Effectiveness archive.) Remember that the new acquisition will have to be rebranded eventually - when the risk may be even higher. Savings products like ISAs rebrand themselves every 18 months and barely bother to tell their customers.

I'd love to think they were punished for such crass insensitivity but they seem to get away with it.

Debates between clients and agencies, like those between parents and children, never take place on a level playing field. The client, holder of the chequebook, is fully entitled to say: "The reason we are going to rebrand this company is because I say so." The agency, on the other hand, if it is to disagree persuasively, needs more than whim and instinct. The agency needs evidence.

If you can find it, and use it to effect, you'll have done your client great service.

Finally, as I'm sure you realise, this is not a rebranding exercise.

It's just a renaming job, which is altogether different. Chances are, it's never had a very strong brand personality; in which case risk levels are low.

Q: I'm an agency creative. I received a call from a record company recently who are trying to encourage me to turn the music used in my ad into a ringtone. He tells me it's the latest vogue in sonic branding - but I'm wary that it'll annoy the hell out of thousands of ringtone haters. What do you think?

A: I'm always a little leery when creatives talk about "my" ad. I know what they mean and in one sense it's true; but they didn't pay for it, they don't own it, and if it does more harm than good, they won't suffer for it.

But you're right to put the brand first. What the record company is saying is that the ringtone could be hugely popular. And what you're saying is that it could infuriate millions. In other words, if it's a good idea for the record company, it's a bad idea for the brand; so the only way to safeguard the brand is to hope it's not a good idea.

Or, of course, not to do it at all - which I think is where you're heading.

Put this thought to the brand's owners and see what they think: the risk is theirs. If they reckon it's worth it (and they might even stand to make a bob or two), it could be interesting. Given that only one ringtone in a million hits the jackpot, this agreeable interchange of ours is almost certainly academic.

Q: I recently went for a promotion but didn't get the job. I was told that I was "too easy to get on with" and that this could lead to me having problems imposing my authority on the staff. I don't want to turn into a shit, as I like being considered a decent person, but it seems to be damaging my career prospects. Should I now leave the industry?

A: No - but it's high time you learnt the industry's language. You should know by now that "too easy to get on with" doesn't mean too easy to get on with, any more than "What your career really needs is a tour of duty in the Balkans" means what your career really needs is a tour of duty in the Balkans.

When people tell you that you're too easy to get on with, they mean that everybody thinks you're a wet. But the alternative to being a wet is not being a shit: it's being effective. Furthermore, shits are born not made; someone like you consciously attempting to turn himself into one would provoke hilarity and derision.

Look around you: there are lots of decent and effective people. Join them.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.

Telephone (020) 8267 4683

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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