When you hear brand strategy you probably think of the calculated steps that a company takes to build a strong emotional connection between its brand and customers. After all, one of the definitions of the word strategy is “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.”
Yet some companies bypass traditional brand methodology altogether and take an “anything goes” approach, throwing a variety of tactics against the wall to see what sticks.
Creative Branding vs. Desperate Measures
Take ‘tatvertising,’ for example. Tatvertising takes branding literally, i.e., it involves the act of permanently tattooing a company’s brand name and logo onto the human body. Earlier this year, the Australian publisher of the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s series of novels (which began with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) put out a casting call. It sought a female volunteer willing to have a dragon tattoo permanently etched on her back to promote the book and the brand.
What can a desperate book publisher possibly do to keep a loyalist like this happy for a lifetime? That’s how long a tattoo will last. It is also longer than the traditional book publishing industry is expected to survive.
Fortunately, the question remains unanswered because Hachette Australia abandoned its plan after attracting negative worldwide attention. It didn’t help that the publisher’s PR team promised the lucky lady nothing more by way of compensation than a free tattoo and the privilege of being the ‘back of the campaign.’
Stretching the Limits of a Brand
Rarely is brand love eternal. Winning someone’s affection is not the same as holding on to it. Some businesses have the strategic vision to cultivate long term relationships—but many don’t. Among them are the companies that take an “anything goes” approach to branding and marketing without giving thought to the long-term consequences for the brand.
To be fair, no respectable brand manager wants to be at the other end of the spectrum. The “same old, same old” approach to branding (print ads, banner ads, billboards, self-promotional blog posts) doesn’t work anymore. Millennials in particular are quick to reject anything that resembles an advertisement or a plug; 73% of 18- to 34-year olds say it is important that a brand is not just trying to sell them something. (Read “Brands Woo Millennials With a Wink, an Emoji or Whatever It Takes” in the 9/27/15 issue of The New York Times.)
Young adults are hardly alone. People everywhere expect to connect with brands on their own terms—whether it’s with the latest mobile apps, through digital images and photos, or via elaborate, experiential events. Frankly, brands have no choice but to adapt. The savviest among them know that the need to have a solid strategy in place so they have something to refer back to when consumer preferences and behaviors change.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to stretch your brand. Go where consumers are and become a part of their communities. Just understand that consumer behavior is neither predictable nor permanent. Don’t do something that causes irreparable damage to your brand—and never, ever offer to give someone a tattoo.