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Brand Failures Are Not Fatal


Even the best of brands are not immune to taking a hit.

Apple, today the world’s most valuable brand ($153 billion in May 2011), was in serious trouble fifteen years ago. In 1985 Steve Jobs was forced out of the company he cofounded. John Scully was the new CEO. By 1997 Apple was in a world of hurt (products, financials…and, of course, its brand). Remember the Apple Newton?  Scully was out and Jobs was back. The next few years were not pretty but clearly the Apple brand survived. Perhaps even thrived in its difficulties. Jobs (and Apple) went into damage control mode and came out stronger.

This weekend I saw the opening of Saturday Night Live. SNL is another brand that has languished for years. In its hey day – driven by Acroyd, Belushi, Martin, Radner and others there was no better show on TV. Today the SNL brand is barely relevant. But what I saw was bigger than SNL’s tepid comedy.

A full-scale barrage on the Barrack Obama brand. Whaaaaaat? I know!

I was stunned. Has the media turned on their wunderkind? In 2008 Fast Company’s Ellen McGirt (which is a really cool last name) wrote a piece called, “The Brand Called Obama”. In McGirt’s article this quote sticks out, “Barack Obama is three things you want in a brand,” says Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide. “New, different, and attractive. That’s as good as it gets.” Turns out Obama really isn’t different. Now he’s not even new. All he’s got is “attractive”. We know how well that works for brands like DeLorean, Enron, Palm, and Tiger Woods.

Obama’s biggest short-coming is he is failing to deliver against the brand promise. “Hope and Change” sound like hollow promises in mid-2011. Is Obama’s brand like DeLorean’s or like Apple? I’d suggest Obama’s brand handlers familiarize themselves with the book “iCon Steve Jobs”. The book’s jacket calls it “The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business.” It might serve as a template for making sure the Obama brand failure is not fatal.

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