Opinion: Marketing Society - Isolation is far from splendid

Earlier this year, Golden Wonder, an iconic 70s brand, gave up the ghost. Emotions ran high. A few months on, with calm restored, we can explore the larger forces at play and lessons to be learned.

While distribution issues and the influence of the Walkers/Gary Lineker combo played the major role in killing off the brand, later attempts to take it in new directions did not help.

GoldenWonder's award-winning, but challenging, 'Golden Skins' advertising campaign, featuring partially clothed, ghostly-pale children and adults, is a perfect example. Consumers found it disturbing and the ASA received complaints about its 'offensive and irresponsible' nature. The campaign was also cited in the popular press as an example of the brand losing touch with its core market.

Let's call this 'brand disconnect'. It can be symptomatic of an obsessive, design-led and harmful culture where big creative ideas are developed in isolation, with scant regard for the target audience and brand heritage. To be fair, it's always a fine balance between bringing a loyal core audience along and building awareness for a wider market. Golden Wonder got it wrong, but brands such as Walkers do it well.

The latter's cheeky campaign featuring Lineker continues to deliver, because of the disconnect. He is a nice bloke, so if he's nicking crisps, they must be seriously tempting. And even better, in synch with current concerns, Lineker informs viewers of the reductions in salt and fat. All credit to Walkers.

Back to the bad stuff. How many times have we seen a multimillion-pound FMCG ad campaign rolled out on prime-time TV, while the company's store, website or call centre seems to be from a time the marketing department forgot? I am an O2 customer and tried getting tickets for the O2 Wireless gig a few months back. The mobile link didn't work, and O2 customer service was little better. After half an hour they gave up and sent me to Ticketmaster.

This brand disconnect, where the customer experience is removed from the ad's promises, is frighteningly common. Often the company doesn't have the vision, budget or cultural alignment to develop the new concept consistently. Occasionally, an ambitious product manager will decide to test out a new direction for the brand without thinking about the implications elsewhere in the organisation, and with a lack of regard for other consumer touchpoints.

And the lesson? Brands must think 'integrated' when executing a big idea, and never forget to root it within the context of a brand's target audience and heritage.

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