January 16, 2006
A Christian friend of mine blogged about how some American homosexuals felt they were being persecuted in the United States—despite having many more rights recognized there. And when I wrote my response to his entry, I felt that there was a relevance to branding.
The belief by gays that they are being persecuted might come from the politicization of their issues, with a willing and cooperative media—and sadly, there’s money to be had in doing so. I am not blaming gay groups—often “right-wing” groups are just as guilty. This perhaps happens more Stateside than it does here, where everything seems to be under a political bent—from race relations to sexuality. Though follow the trail more, and it leads to dollars: you sell more air time and newspaper ads if you make it controversial and exaggerated.
Earlier media simply didn’t cover the inﬂammatory rhetoric, dismissing them as rantings of madmen (in some cases they are). At the end of the day there was more integrity: reporting rantings was bad form then, but is good ﬁnancial sense now.
This sense of responsibility ensured that everyone felt reasonably good about themselves.
Today’s pessimism has come from these forces, but they have led to a lack of faith and acceptance. This has persuaded gays that if they are to be visible in society they either (a) stay in the closet or (b) target being outside the mainstream—the exception being the more militant speakers, who get the headlines (assuming they exist today). The gay community’s freedom has been lost.
That money argument I make extends further and adds to prejudice: why not target the mainstream, now that we can quantify exactly how much the gay market is valued? (Equally, the ANZ has begun an ad campaign in Cantonese. Why not Mandarin? Because while Mandarin speakers outnumber Cantonese speakers, Cantonese speakers usually have better credit.)
As mentioned before, I am sure homosexuals don’t need a heterosexual like me to defend their rights, just as I don’t expect the majority race to defend my rights. I am not picking on them in particular—but I am using their group as it is convenient.
Now, the solution may be to reintroduce a concept of responsibility (how about it: brand responsibility?). The media realize, for instance, that they need to change—falling newspaper circulation ﬁgures are cause for alarm. Therefore, the solution is to put integrity back in the news—because cynical consumers have a BS meter built in to their minds, and have been rejecting the mainstream media (MSM) in favour of either online media, blogs or media outlets that they perceive to be balanced.
When that happens, the voices that are reported may have more substance rather than sound bites, heading back to a more “educated” form of reporting.
But this must begin at the individual level. We get what we deserve—or what we unwillingly pray for. If we don’t demand newspapers change, for instance, or if we keep feeding the tabloid machine, then we only have ourselves to blame when they report on the loud-mouthed fringes, one which limits the quieter, tolerant members of society, regardless of creed, sexuality or race.
How does this relate to branding? If our theories are right, and citizens are responsible for the way a brand is perceived, then we have the power to steer companies to responsibility themselves. We need to decide whether a company is worth our patronage based on their social record, not their share price. It’s up to us as much as organizations—just as some of the world’s strongest brands (Patagonia, Amnesty International, the Body Shop) already realize. And what is the measure of their success? Your awareness of them, your loyalty to them, and the level of passion they create amongst their audiences. permalink
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