It seems funny how certain branding principles are forgotten or overlooked when companies embark on new strategies and promotions especially when the “guilty” company is a huge corporation who should know better.
There is a specific case most recently we can explore to draw parallels with and show SME’s and even larger companies how to not conduct branding.
The example is the writer of Solo: A Star Wars story - Jonathan Kasdan son of Lawrence Kasdan who wrote Empire and Return of the Jedi.
Jonathan, in what can be described at best as virtue signalling and at worst a complete misjudgement in how a legendary character (Lando) is perceived by the Star Wars faithful and young at heart.
What did Jonny boy say to damage the brand?
He asserted that Lando Calrissian was pansexual!
The definition of pansexual is vague depending who you speak to and whether they are pro pansexuality or anti pansexuality – These are muddy waters but essentially it means a person is not just heterosexual or homosexual there are attracted to different sexualities “across a spectrum” which again can be interpreted almost ad nauseum.
Jonathan Kasdan appeared to allude to the fact that Lando was attracted to or may have engaged with a droid called L3-37.
The fallout definitely harmed Disney and Lucas Film in terms of box office receipts.
I have read people stating it isn’t that important to others stating it is abhorrent to have this topic included within what is ostensibly a children’s film.
The negative reaction from the Star Wars community was immense but perhaps more damaging to Disney and Lucasfilm was the casual Star Wars fans reaction.
These movie goers had heard through multiple channels the “pansexual” term and decided to avoid the new Star Wars film for fear of the inevitable questions it could raise from their kids.
The Irony of this episode is the film neither mentions the term or even hints that it is within Lando’s makeup. There is one scene where L3-37 hints of a complicated relationship with Lando but it does not make it out to be sexual in nature.
That one remark, however off the cuff or “inclusive” it may have been intended was one of the key elements of why Solo: A Star Wars Story “bombed” at the box office – it was entirely misjudged and has already cost Disney and Lucasfilm a great deal of money.
There are of course other reasons as to why Solo underperformed.
There are arguments that because of the extremely divisive film The Last Jedi a lot of fans decided that enough was enough and Star Wars had essentially “Died” in their eyes and along with production problems, rumours and directors being fired it would be difficult for Solo to set the world alight.
The Film is not that bad, its not really a Star Wars film as we would recognise it. It was largely not a required film to expand the universe and it did feel like a cash grab.
The main issue is with the Star Wars brand – a brand Disney paid $4.05bn to purchase Lucasfilm from George Lucas in 2012.
It made and makes sense to produce more content to ensure that purchase amplifies the return on investment.
It didn’t and doesn’t make commercial sense to alienate the core fan base in the way Lucasfilm has since 2012.
There are a catalogue of errors made by the current president of Lucasfilm and the team who surround her which has eroded the attachment of the fan base – a fan base which could have fuelled Star Wars and the subsequent films for decades making the initial outlay look like pocket change.
What is happening right now and will accelerate in the build up for episode 9 of the original trilogy is key to demonstrating how not to conduct branding.
Looking closer to home what can SME’s and even larger business’s take from the maladministration of the Star Wars brand?
First: Do not alienate your existing customer base.
This may seem utterly logical however there are some brands who seek to expand their customer base or even reach out to find a brand new one, sometimes at the cost of the existing base.
There are no guarantees the new base sought can perform better or even to the levels of the existing customers and yet some firms appear to believe the grass is always greener.
This can be fatal to any business who embarks on this strategy.
Secondly: Know your audience.
Stating anything controversial is a risk and that risk can negatively affect your existing customers and clients. An example would be if you operate in the fossil fuel energy sector any kind of promotion to competing tech would be ill advised if not handled correctly.
Thirdly: Are there any issues with language translations?
We have all seen those pictures where words in English have a different meaning in other languages which have resulted in a funny meme or picture.
Some of these are unavoidable but being aware of this may help when constructing new branding.
Fourthly: What is your objective?
If you are trying to secure new business the branding needs to assert confidence in your brand.
There is little value in throwing “old” branding in the dirt to try and secure new customers based upon elements which have just been adopted.
To bring these points home in relation to workwear, uniforms, signage, PPE etc – every firm should know that any piece of equipment or products which display their brand name is a walking and working piece of advertising.
What would you think if you walked past a job site and the PPE and clothing looked tatty and in poor condition?
Would it be a positive perception?
What if a works vehicle wrapping was peeling away?
Would you think that company cared about how customers or potential customers perceived them?
These may seem trivial but its those trivial markers which are subliminally interpreted by our brains which give us the perceptions that drive our buying patterns and habits.
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