Brand clinic: Can government hurt brands?

06 November, 2009
Page 20 

Brands are sensitive, delicate things even the most robust ones. Treat them inappropriately and without the care they need, and they'll suffer. Remember Mr Kipling, when the packaging forgot about the brand? Remember Tropicana in the US recently, when a design disaster caused sales to plummet? Some memories might stretch back to when Babycham killed 'Bambi' and repackaged it in a trendy blue bottle. And who cannot remember the Coke Classic debacle or the awful squeezy Heinz Ketchup bottle, which collapses in use, leaving at least a quarter of the product inaccessible? How that got to market is a total mystery! I can just picture the meeting that sold that design to the client! It's easy to excite with 'innovation'.
There are countless examples of brands suffering at the hands of change, whetherit be design, advertising or product formulation. Some of these wounds are self-inflicted, but some can be the result of nanny government interference in product functionality. Part of a food brand's equity is its taste, smell and texture.
So when the government tells manufacturers to remove fat, remove sugar or, for example, the recent FSA demand to cut salt in bread give them half a chance and they'll remove everything but water, because, let's face it, everything is bad for us and will kill us in the end it inevitably has a knock-on effect on the consumer's experience of the brand. Brands with signature tastes rely on consistency of delivery.
What amazes me is this constant haranguing of the food market when there are products out there that everyone, especially government, knows are seriously and undeniably dangerous, wreck lives and actually kill thousands of people every year. We all know what they are! Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely not calling for them to be banned because I firmly believe that people should be educated about potential risks though it's almost impossible to find anything that isn't a potential risk but be permitted to actually make their ownlife decisions.
Surely choice must be left to individuals not some bureaucratic, holier-than-thou quango, made up of people who seem to inhabit a different universe to mine. But instead of tackling the really serious problems presumably because of the revenue they generate they seem to tick their little boxes by finding easy targets because they are easy and, in that way, they can be seen to be doing something anything.
The thing that terrifies me is that we all just roll over every time we're instructed by our (in)glorious leaders. Isn't it time manufacturers took a real stand against bullying and strike a blow for freedom of choice and real-world common sense?





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