.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Thursday, December 15, 2005

French Connection -- all fcuk’d up

One minute you’re a floundering British retailer; the next you’re on top of the world. Essentially that’s what happened to French Connection in 1997 when they re-branded themselves fcuk. The name is an acronym (French Connection United Kingdom). Needless to say, it caught on. They used it on everything, from clothing to advertising. It was hip. It was cool. It was a great way to engage the under-twenty-five set.

But that was then. This is now. According to Fashion United, French Connection announced recently that the logo had been dropped. “Use of the fcuk logo has been toned down and will be used in a much more subtle way,” spokeswoman Lorna Perrin told Britain's Press Association. “Branding on the recent autumn/winter collection has been significantly reduced and used in a softer manner. But fcuk is interchangeable with French Connection as the company's name and so will continue to be used.” Who is she kidding?

The reason for dropping fcuk is French Connection’s lack-luster performance. Like-for-like sales dropped 9 percent in the first six months of 2005. Profits have dropped from £16.2 million to £5.1 million. According to analysts who follow these things, consumers have become bored with the fcuk logo. Sure, blame it on the brand. What it looks like to me is a case of not delivering the brand promise. Consumers aren’t bored with fcuk; most likely, they’re bored with clothes and designs that fall short of their expectations and don’t live up to the brand personality. Too bad that the French Connection let the value of its once-strong brand slip away.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Deny everything

To a non-techie like me, the story of Sony BMG and its XCP content protection technology isn’t really a story about copy protection. Nor is it a story about a global entertainment giant invading our hard drives and depositing unsecure code. To me, it’s a story about denial and an almost great moment in corporate humility.

First, some facts. To protect its content, Sony BMG added content protection software on 52 CD titles. They used XCP software, provided by a third-party vendor, London-based First4Internet. The software was designed to prevent unlimited copying and unauthorized redistribution of the music on the disc. Unfortunately, it did more than that. It acted like a Trojan horse, burrowing deep within the computer’s hard disc, potentially opening it up to attack by viruses.

When the problem was first detected, Sony BMG said there was no problem. But don’t give Sony bad marks for that. They were just employing a proven management tool for business (and politics, too): denial. It used to be that only criminals denied guilt. Now everyone does it.

Our story has a somewhat happy conclusion. After a prolonged, angry outcry by music fans, Sony BMG admitted that XCP had flaws. Said in an open letter to consumers: “We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause our customers and we are committed to making this situation right.” Sony BMG, announced a recall of some 4.7 million CDs with the software from consumers and retailers. Any consumer who purchased an XCP-protected compact disc can receive a replacement without copy protection, plus an MP3 file of the titles.

No—this is not the Tylenol model. But you have to give Sony BMG some credit for stepping up to the plate. Of course, it would have been better if they had done it from the start. They ended up doing what they should have done in the first place, but they got far less value for their actions. Such is business today.

Monday, December 05, 2005

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I've added a new link to reveries magazine. If it has to do with marketing, you'll find it here--with just the right spin. They publish a daily marketing email and have a comprehensive Web site. Check it out.

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