A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Cleveland Indians would put an all-stop to using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms by 2019. The cartoon-like logo depicting a Native American was first introduced in 1948 but over the years, the team name and symbol have been called out as insensitive and racist to Native Americans resulting in many a debate and protest. In fact, pressure to remove Cleveland Indian brand symbology has been ongoing for the past 50 years. So why the change today?
In our highly connected and attuned society, it is more important than ever that a brand be keyed-in and connected to the fast moving cultural barometer at-large.
Culture inherently moves like an ocean, its forces and waves breaking as “a storm to the norm.” Think watershed or counter-culture movements.That’s why all brands, regardless of industry, should be paying attention to cultural conversations; and if brands are smart, they will be leading changes for good vs. reacting. When a brand doesn’t keep up with culture, it runs the risk of the worst brand offense: irrelevancy. We’ve seen our culture break many brands that were too slow to evolve. We’ve also seen culture reward […]
The New York Times headline was bold, “The 2016 Pirelli Calendar May Signal a Cultural Shift.” The piece went on to say that the Pirelli brand, a strong supporter and champion of the quintessential male gaze, had taken a radical departure for the 2016 calendar by featuring whole women of accomplishment vs. pieces of female endowment. Brought to you by Annie Leibovitz.
As a woman, there’s a lot I could say regarding this departure. As a brand strategist, I am interested in Pirelli’s brand message and behavior, and what that says about the brand and about us.
In releasing this calendar, it appears that Pirelli is a brand transformed. The New York Times piece presents this transformation in the form of commitment and responsibility. Yet Pirelli, and a few subjects of the calendar, do not necessarily agree. Both Mellody Hobson and Agnes Gund made it clear in The Times article that, “their relationship was with Ms. Leibovitz, not Pirelli.” And Artist Shirin Neshat said, “I didn’t feel like I was selling out by doing this as much as helping Annie support a new idea about female style and beauty.”
Have you seen him? He’s on-air and online, wandering through highway underpasses and baseball fields with a big bucket of chicken.
Why, hello. It’s me. The Colonel.
Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), sold the company in 1964 but appeared in countless ads for the brand through the 60s and 70s – a big old-fashioned man with Southern fried charm. But Colonel Sanders was more than a real-life spokesperson for the brand – he became a larger-than-life brand equity, a Big Daddy Tennessee Williams style matriarch presented as master of his chicken universe. Even with cane in hand, the Colonel had a formidable power. You believed he was a trusted protector of real meals in the age of fast food, and a true chicken benefactor. In the days before Chick-fil-A and Church’s, when Americans wanted fried chicken, they went to the Colonel. They had a relationship with him.
Although the Colonel passed in 1980, the power of his image continued as the central force in the brand’s identity – his smiling mug was part of the logo, on packaging, and in-store. But the meaning of the Colonel shifted with the passing of a real human […]
I’m simply fascinated by the latest Levi’s marketing work and recently stumbled (or so I think) on their mini-docu-series, advert, whatever, for Braddock, PA on IFC. Levi’s has opted to hitch their brand onto a dying town and dig into its trashy, worn authenticity to gain brand value.
I love it. Levi’s is providing the town (near 15% unemployment) with a million bucks and a “Ready to Work” ad campaign hoping to turn the town around. It’s the perfect commercial set featuring real, built-in tragedy with a positive spin.
I don’t know whether the brand is doing something amazing for the town or vice versa. Maybe by bringing awareness in a warped Michael Moore-ish way, and raising a blue-collar brand flag at the same time, Levi’s is serving everyone involved. Or maybe using the “ready to work” message of the town’s unemployed to sell clothing is really just brand exploitation. What I do know is that this gritty, dark and dreary effort fits perfectly with the down-to-earth, in-the-earth (as in death, like the Burroughs sounding voice-over in recent campaigns) mentality of the current Levi’s brand re-do.
Timex® … Redwing® … Levi’s® … quintessentially American brands that in their current state fall within a spectrum of relevancy. They all have the polish (or valuable tarnish) that age gives them. And J.CREW is banking on it with a co-branding strategy that rehashes classic items—hence, brands—nearly from the dead to pepper its own brand with a skewed, vintage authenticity that actually (gulp) works.
J.CREW may not own 100 years of brand cache or iconic pieces built into the American lexicon, but they know their audience well. By exclusively reissuing classic apparel and accessories from here and across the pond—hello Belstaff® and Baracuta®—J.CREW is post-modernly celebrating the borrow with a bizarrely fresh “In Good Company” collection.
Maybe you’ll fall in love with the reissued pieces, or maybe you’ll fall for J.CREW’s oddly charming and transparent brand honesty. There’s never been a more authentic approach at something so completely inauthentic.