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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fatal mismatches that kill brands: an important lesson

The Spectator is one of the oldest, most respected journals of opinion in the world. I was a subscriber for many years, and even wrote a report on how to improve their marketing for the publisher some 20 years ago.

One thing that distinguishes The Spectator is its writing. It is not as good as when the great novelist Grahame Green called it “the best written journal in the English language” – but it’s still far better than most stuff.

I am on their email list, and notice they have started running conferences - a good move, commercially. But there is a dreadful mismatch between the dire stuff they send out to promote them and what’s in the journal itself.

Take this, for instance, to sell a conference called for some bizarre reason “base”:

Dear friend of base,

(I am not a “friend” of base. I have never heard of it.)

Then comes the usual half-baked mélange of cliché and jargon:

Whether or not you believe in climate change, businesses are facing unprecedented pressure from their customers, stakeholders and regulators to become more sustainable.

'Business as usual' simply won't be good enough for much longer. We're not talking about saving the planet here, but ensuring your business is not left behind - which it will be if it is unable to embrace change.

Already the impacts of Government regulation such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, and private governance initiatives such as the proposed Asda scorecard are set to trickle right down through the supply chain. These impacts are so far reaching, that they are almost certainly coming to a business near you sometime in the next few years.

base, the event where business meets sustainability, takes place in London on 16-17th March, and will provide practical, solutions-based information to help businesses adopt more sustainable operating models. It is an unprecedented opportunity to meet, share experiences and learn from other like-minded organisations.”

Nauseating stuff, only made more depressing by the list of speakers …

Keynote speakers include Justin King, Ed Miliband, Jonathon Porritt, Hilary Benn, Charlie Mayfield, John Gummer, Vince Cable and more.

Not to mention the “luminaries” …

Come to base and join them plus a host of luminaries from Lloyds Banking Group, BT, PwC, United Utilities, Sainsbury's, John Lewis Partnership, P&G, Coca Cola Enterprises, National Grid, KPMG, McKinsey & Company, Vodafone, Virgin Group, Legal & General, BP, Microsoft, Fiat, Qatar Airways, British Gas Business and many others.

And the utterly predictable close

We know how hard the economic climate is right now, which is why even though our delegate pricing is already fantastically competitive, we are delighted to offer Spectator Business readers a 20% discount off a delegate pass covering both days.

And so on.

Sending this ill-written tripe out does no good to the The Spectator. It does not live up to what people expect.

What you say or do in one medium or place affects how people see you elsewhere.

Thus, in a totally different sphere, British Telecom provides a very, very, bad domestic broadband service to homes, as I know to my cost.

So when they wrote an email to my business headed Super fast 40Mb BT Broadband for Drayton Bird Partnership, followed by even worse tripe than The Spectator could manage in its worst off-day, I just laughed derisively.

Such mismatches insult your customers' intelligence and are fatal to your brand.

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