Posts Tagged ‘brand equity’

PR Blunder in the Making: Who Will “Face” the Yahoo-AOL Merger?

October 14th, 2010

Tech Leaders: Jobs, Gates... Yahoo Smiley?

The tech sector is abuzz today with rumors of a Yahoo-AOL merger.  As this blog is all about media aesthetic, we offer commentary on popular branding perceptions of big players in the news.

AOL’s brand has been scaled down to accumulating content and being more behind-the-scenes than in your face.  After all, just reminiscing about the gameshow voice exclaiming “you’ve got mail” is enough to make you smirk and recall the heyday of the 90s tech boom.  And the Yahoo brand, once the darling of offering free services, has taken serious lumps in the past few years.  Maybe a merger is what’s best to leverage what remaining brand equity the two companies have left, in a hail-mary that ups the ante against their formidable competition.

Still, even if Yahoo and AOL merge, how will they dominate the industry?  More importantly, who will lead this new brand behemoth forward?  Let’s face it – every major tech company is defined by a face.  Apple = Steve Jobs, Microsoft = Bill Gates, Dell = Michael Dell, Facebook = Mark Zuckerberg, and so forth.  These company heads are all celebrities in their own right, and thus give an added dimension to their company brands.

So what about AOL?  Current CEO Tim Armstrong is credited with maintaining morale at the beleaguered company, and … well, maintaining morale at the beleaguered company.  And Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz – well, let’s just say that she’s not exactly the most cool and level-headed public personality.

The lesson here is that pre-merger hype offers a good chance to enhance present brand value, but should always be coupled with a smart PR strategy.  In this case, the merger’s interested parties should start teasing media as to who the new leader might be, and promote that person’s presence aggressively.  If not, it’s a missed opportunity to give the post-merger entity a strong media push out the gates.

$61 Million Branding Disaster, Made in the USA

May 13th, 2010

(Note: this post is a follow-up to the last post on the branding of the Bund Bull).

The World Expo probably isn’t the first event you think of for international branding opportunities.  Compare the Olympics, World Cup and Davos, for example.  Still, that didn’t stop China from pulling out all stops with this year’s World Expo in Shanghai – the country spent more on the event than it did hosting the Beijing Olympics.

Why did the Chinese want to make such a big splash with the World Expo?  Simple – they realized this is a major branding platform, with journalists and influentials from all over the world in attendance.  More importantly, it offered a chance to dwarf previous Expos and show how China does international events.

Of course, we must remember that it’s not the “China Expo” but rather the “World Expo” – which means each country gets to participate by building a pavilion that represents cultural contribution.  Think of it as “international day” at your kid’s elementary school, on steroids.  Companies from each country usually sponsor the pavilion and the multi-media presentations.  There are some stunning entries this year with regard to design.  We think England wins for most, ah, angular.  The Dutch pavilion looks like something out of a Tim Burton film.

And then there’s the USA, which assembled a $61 million corrugated tin monstrosity meant to represent … America’s tool sheds?  More depressing than the woeful design outside are the overpriced and underwhelming productions taking place inside.  Contracted to BRC Imagination Arts, reports show $23 million spent on the inside presentation and on three five-minute movies that have questionable production quality and messaging.  The Hurt Locker was cheaper to make per minute and won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Sadly, this pavilion is meant to “showcase the best America has to offer.”

The lesson: even for a nation, branding is important.  While outsourcing your national brand to a conglomeration is fiscally prudent, it also inhibits the element of oversight and accountability for the final product.  Allowing unsupervised vendors to run the show and present what they perceive as “the USA” to the world can have disastrous results.

Similarly, companies and organizations must always make sure to work with marketing and PR teams when managing their own brands.  If you skimp on either the time or expense associated with amassing brand equity, you’ll end up with scraps … maybe of discarded tin that you too can use to build an unattractive pavilion.  Just sayin’…

Next Expo, the US should hire PR specialists with brand experience to oversee the project.  When you have the chance to present yourself on the global stage, there’s no room for error – shine, and the whole world shines with you!