In the 1980's, a darker shadow fell over the use of branding (more visual wallpaper) during the Thatcher era, when her Conservative Party started to sell off the country’s many national industries, among them British Petroleum, British Aerospace, Cable & Wireless, Britoil, Associated British Ports Jaguar, British Telecommunications, British Shipbuilders, British Gas, British Airways, Rolls-Royce, BAA, British Steel, water, electricity and many more.
The government used advertising and design on an industrial scale to convince the public that they would make money by purchasing shares in these, soon to be former, publicly owned businesses. But, in the event, the controlling interest went to the big institutes and hedge funds, and today most of those sell-offs are now owned by foreign organisations. The result has been endless price hikes, particularly in the utilities, along with lamentable customer service over the years. These free-market companies pay astronomical sums to their CEOs and substantial dividends to keep shareholders happy, and the customer pays the price. The identities and advertising created for these famous British companies did their job, and the public flocked to buy their little clutches of shares.
Very few of the real culprits serve time for their crimes.
Following the economic crash in 2008 and the subsequent revelation that global banks were systematically and knowingly involved in criminal activity, they became the most loathed industry in the minds of the public. Ever since that catastrophic crash, more revelations of wrongdoing have continued to be uncovered. The banks, in turn, have tried to counter these negative stories buy producing multi-million-pound advertising campaigns, extolling their newfound ‘care’ for their customers and communities, in the hope that they will be seen as warm and fluffy organisations.
One of many posters extolling the new found virtues of the caring, sharing Lloyds Bank.
Sadly, a large part of the public seems to have very short-term memories of the foreclosing on mortgages and loans. And there was the aggressive interference with business clients in financial trouble. The banks would send in their business support teams and charge excessive management fees, and many of those companies folded because of it. Most of the high street banks have 'refreshed' their visual identities in the hope that we will forget all that and allow the sentimental stories in their commercials of good deeds and care for their customers and communities to seduce us into thinking that they really love us. I personally find it sickening and am amazed that the agencies involved in peddling this PR balm can sleep at night.
The Co-operative and idea based of noble values.
In 1844 the Co-operative was formed by the Rochdale pioneers. They believed in a different way of doing business. An inspiring socialist idea in business that would be owned by its members and work for the common good. They had a series of values. Honesty, Openness, Social responsibility, Caring for others, and endorsed by its members. They were placed at the heart of their brand. Over the years they expanded into many areas. This is true story telling based on a set of noble beliefs that would keep the brand alive for generations. But a couple of years back their popular and much trusted ‘ethical’ Co-op Bank came crashing down when its chairman, Reverend Paul Flowers, lost grip of what he was doing at the bank in favour of corporate perks, along with sex and crystal meth. It was a shock for customers and the long-held perceived view of a trust was devastated.
The Co-operative now back to the simple 1960's short hand Co-op updated by design consultancies North as part of companies rebuilding programme.
The whole group has suffered and they are on a long hard road trying to regain that customer trust and loyalty. Brans are very fragile things.
An Apple cathedral of worship.
A shining example of a 'global brand' has to be Apple under Steve Jobs, with his obsessive oversight and guidance in every aspect: design quality, technology, commercials, copywriting, staff training, stores and rigorously managed interactions with customers.
Disciples extolling the virtues of Apple.
Their brand values seemed untouchable, having managed to create a quasi-religion worshipped in cathedral-like stores by their eager Apple disciples. But since the death of Jobs, rather more-negative stories have been surfacing about tax avoidance, the disregard of widespread abuse of the workers that build its products. The increasing short shelf life of iPad and iPhone products, the most expensive in the mass-market technology area, set to self-destruct, leaving many feeling ripped off, leaving a sour taste for Apple customers. The worship is beginning to tarnish.
Part 4 next week looks at brands like the Co-operative based on a central idea with values to match.