Are we too critical of brands?

My sister is an animal rights activist, the other night we went to KFC after a big night out. She didn’t eat anything she just kept me company there. Some photos of the night were put up on Facebook and some of her friends saw that she had been to KFC and got really pissed off with her about it.

Did they have a right to be pissed off with her? Were they too hard on her?

Now take the example of the backlash that Dove received over their advertisement Dove Onslaught, about the pressures on young girls from the advertising industry. Also through association they were discredited for making this ad. Their parent brand Unilever also owns Axe/Lynx, which are adding to this problem of the media putting to much pressure on young girls.

My real question is.

Are we too hard on brands?

The Gruen Transfer has got people thinking.

The story is not true, my sister is not an animal rights activist, but boy would the conversation be more lively around the dinner table if she was!


Anonymous said...

Things like this really break the authenticity of the brand message. If a brand wants to get our respect by using a campaign like this, it really needs to be authentic. Marketing, as a profession, has lost the trust it once had (and rightfully so, I say) and needs to *earn* it back. Earning trust is a difficult process, and authenticity is really at the heart of it.

If Dove wants to stand out as the one brand who isn't buying into 'fake beauty', they need to show that they're serious about it, that it's not just a gimmick. Lynx is making it look like a gimmick.

Unilever really need to work out where they stand on the whole issue.

Zac Martin said...

We are harsh on our brands. Very harsh. But are we too critical? I don't think so.

They are competing for consumers and a simple fault or even a questionable action or motive can destroy that relationship. Particularly in a time were consumers are so powerful, brands have to tread very carefully to maintain loyalty and rightfully so.

Peter Wagstaff said...

@Rick: Aren't the Dove brand and the Lynx brand, although both under the Unilever umbrella, separate brands? Why can't these two brands have different stances? Julian's attitudes towards eating meat can be different from his sister's views, even though they are both from the same family. His sister's friends don't hate her (or their parents, for that matter) just because Jules eats meat!

Customers develop relationships with brands, rather than the companies that own those brands, so who cares what the parent company does with other parts of their business?

Anonymous said...

lol at that ad!

Scotland said...

I've been thinking about this question on and off for the last year or so bizarrely :)

Is it alright for a brand like Lonely Planet to publish 600 million guidebooks encouraging country-hopping travel, and then turn around and announce that we should all travel less to preserve the environment?

I agree with Todd Sampson on this one. On the Gruen Transfer last week he said he'd "rather them [the agencies] do something good and try, than do nothing."

It's actually very easy to spot glaring hypocrisy almost everywhere you look if you're in the right frame of mind, but I'm not convinced it invalidates worthy efforts.

So the Lonely Planet has been (and still continues to be) a massive consumer of raw materials and indirect advocate of less-than-green travel practices, but at least their voice on the issue of sustainable travel is one that will be heard and will have impact.

Individuals and small groups would have to campaign for the next ten thousand years to reach the kind of audience the Lonely Planet can just by adding a few pages into their guides.

I actually think that their should be a greater sense of obligation on those with a voice to speak ethically about key issues within their credibility spectrum.

@Peter: on the subject of brands and Unilever I couldn't agree more. Sure, Unilever is the umbrella company for those brands, but we the consumer don't have a relationship with Unilever, we have many relationships with their various branded products. Most consumers would be unaware that Lynx and Dove were owned by the same parent company, and to echo another commenter on the Gruen Transfer, it's not really the job of companies like Unilever.

Of course, it would be nice if these massive companies with such powerful voices took a purely ethical line, but then that is often directly in competition with the profit motive, in much the same way ideas like sustainable tourism are still a hard sell in a world that reports company profits on a quarterly basis.

Anonymous said...

@Peter: That's a good argument, but "perception is reality", and if people perceive them to be products from the same company, then that's Unilever's problem to deal with. Ultimately Unilever *own* (unlike the relationship between Julian and his parents) Dove and Lynx, and it's their responsibility to take an active role in these brands rather than sitting on their hands.

If Dove can't even manage to convince their bosses about their new philosophy, then their campaign will just be seen as a marketing ploy, rather than anything of substance.

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