The Brand Minders

Aside from the hoopla over the Royal Wedding, one thing was pretty evident last week: big international events often bring out the worst in brand marketing.

From silly tie-ins like Royal Wedding sliding doors from (Hey, you never know when you need to see Wills and Kate’s smiling faces while walking in and out of a room!) to the utterly ridiculous £500 pizza from Papa John’s made to look like the happy couple to constant debates about whether Kate’s dress would be a boon for fashion PR, marketers were out in full force last week trying to hock just about anything that could possibly … just maybe … be connected to the Royal Wedding.

All of which left many annoyed and ready for the whole show to finally come to an end.

Thus, two recent op-eds in MarketingWeek could not have come at a better time. While neither dealt directly with the marketing/Royal Wedding mashup, each made its point plainly clear: brands need to be especially careful when trying to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of the moment or teaming up with potential partners.

MarketingWeek editor Mark Choueke put it best:

Somewhere among its values and personality, your brand has a soul. A living, breathing organism with limitless ability to grow your business. It’s up to you, as marketing director, to guard and protect that soul.

Yet all too often, we see that guardian role taking a back seat to the hot partnership idea of the moment. It’s only natural, I suppose, to want to tap into what we think could help our brands skyrocket to the top of Twitter’s trending topics list or whatever ranking now has everyone’s attention.

Let’s face it, we live and work in an attention economy. Particularly for consumer brands, it’s live or die by attention.

From a PR standpoint, I think we have an even larger and more important role to play in ensuring brand value. We’re the reputation minders; those folks in the room who should be speaking up whenever someone mentions a partnership idea that just doesn’t seem to fit squarely with our brand’s true values.

We must keep in mind the long-term reputational value of ensuring a company’s various partnerships and initiatives truly align with its core values and what it hopes its customers, stakeholders and other invested parties derive from its products and services.

In the digital age, there seems to be ever more branding opportunities presenting themselves to marketers. As we’re increasingly seeing, though, when those partnerships run afoul, or when a brand loses sight of its true ethos and values, those missteps quickly get picked up and quite often, sour a brand’s reputation.

While it’s great for us to try to tap into every opportunity that comes our way, we must hold the reins back at times and keep what is best for our brand top of mind. Not always the easiest of tasks, but I have to believe, it’s the best counsel we can provide in a stagnating economy where most companies are seeking every opportunity they can to retain and grow their value.

How do you think marketers fared with their promotions during the run-up to the Royal Wedding?