It’s The Brand, Stupid

It’s been a rollercoaster couple of weeks.

Patrick Swayze passes away, the wife goes into mourning and, if I interpreted the brief glimpse I got of the TV last night correctly, sitting through Dirty Dancing (again) looms large in my future. (Which begs the obvious question – why does everyone consider Dirty Dancing a better film than Point Break?)

Then the world-stopping news that gastronaut Keith Floyd’s clogs have gone pop (rather delightfully, after a large meal, with wine), I’m in mourning, and no matter how much I may wish it, I cannot see Auntie Beeb treating me to an evening of back-to-back Floyds on Whatever. Anyway, back to me, Clive.

So I’m feeling a little bruised inside, and – is there no let up? – the breaking news that Keisha has left (ousted, more like) the Sugababes, to be replaced by the less-than-successful and (in my opinion) pulchritudinally-challenged Eurovision entry, Jade Ewen.

Which means that there are no members of the original line-up left in the band. Cue frenzied debate around whether the name should be changed, whether, indeed, Sugababes should continue, whether the fans are being cynically exploited.

The answer to all of this – if I can be tiresomely arch (and I can, oooo, I can) – is in the letter ‘r’. There are now no members of the original line-up left in the brand. But the brand itself continues. What’s fascinating about this is that, in a world of manufactured pop music and fake bands, the Sugababes have always seemed to have the edge – there was something almost credible about them (maybe it was – is – the constant rumours of in-fighting, bullying and general nastinesses) – and yet, with the constant changes in line-up, they are the most manufactured outfit of the lot.

So manufactured, in fact, that it no longer matters who works for it. The Sugababes is a brand, like Special K – those who work for it are its guardians and that’s all they will ever be. (Pity poor Jade, who may think that she’ll leave some impression on the brand, but obviously won’t – like the brand manager who thought up Frosted Shreddies – who remembers him? Or her, obviously).

And like any brand, its loyal consumers will still continue to purchase it, whether the packaging changes, whether it now has 20% less fat (and this is not a veiled reference to Ms Buchanan, she was my favourite, after Mutya, clearly), whether it now has a chocolate coating or added boysenberries.

And it’s a timely lesson to all communicators – something for us to remember when dealing with our customers, external and internal. We (they) are not the story. The brand is the story. No-one person is bigger than the brand.

And the show must go on.

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