Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Be Authentic in Branding

Just months after October's logo-gate, the Gap brand has been exposed again. However, this isn't exactly the swift justice of transparency served up by WikiLeaks. It was just a guy with a camera who caught the retailer acting dishonestly.

The goal of feeding hungry children in America is a noble one to support; however, this obvious oversight is a strong indictment that Gap was acting disingenuously. If the work of ending hunger in America is something that the company truly cares about, do you think this would have happened? I don't. So it ends up looking like what it probably was: a marketer contrived shortcut designed to generate publicity, goodwill, and store traffic during the holiday season.

The entire campaign is sadly reminiscent of a tactic KFC used last spring, which involved pink buckets filled with fried chicken in exchange for a donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Contrast this kind of strategy with a brand like Tom's Shoes. For every pair of shoes sold, they donate a pair of shoes to a child who doesn't have them. One for one—no exceptions. Tom's is clearly passionate about its cause and lives out that mission every day. The program is not a marketing gimmick with a core purpose of generating sales.

Of course, there are few for-profit brands that operate like Tom's. Nevertheless, the lesson to take from both examples is simple: be who you say you are. Consumers don't need Julian Assange to reveal that a brand is faking a commitment and not living out their own marketing message. Dishonesty exposed in public can be especially embarrassing if charity is an element of the marketing strategy, and far more mortifying than getting confused over a logo.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath the Brand.

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