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Gulf Times Thursday, November 21, 2013

COMMENT

COMMENT

Chairman: Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Attiyah Editor-in-Chief : Darwish S Ahmed Production Editor: C P Ravindran

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France’s young guns can make a mark in Brazil

Once the heady cocktail of euphoria and relief wears

off, the real fascination about France’s qualification for Brazil 2014 will be dissected in private conversations at the headquarters of the French Football Federation. Just what, exactly, do they want to achieve from their World Cup experience next year? Aside from the obvious aims to go as far as they can and hopefully present a significantly more harmonious image than the explosive rebellion they managed last time out, the question of whether the World Cup needs to be part of a bigger picture preparation for the 2016 European Championship finals, which will be held in France, requires serious consideration. This is not a vintage France team. For all that Didier Deschamps would have felt overjoyed to be given the bumps in the centre circle by his players and staff come the triumphant final whistle against Ukraine, the coach knows that standards are below the level he experienced in that very arena, with that same 3-0 scoreline, as a World Cup winning captain. Make no mistake, France have enough talented players to think they should be making some kind of positive impression in Brazil, but the impetus to gather as much momentum as possible ahead of a tournament on home soil where expectation

to perform will be intensely magnified is important. France have a crop of young players whose integration into the national team will next year become a subject for debate. A handful

Paul Pogba, the powerful and silky Juventus midfielder, was outstanding against Ukraine

of promising ones have been serving a long ban from the international scene after they were punished for an unauthorised night-out in Paris when on under-21 duty. Soon Antoine Griezmann, the tricky Real Sociedad winger, M’Baye Niang, the powerful Milan striker, and Yann M’Vila, the midfield anchor, will become available again. Potentially, all of them could be part of an exciting new generation, so the decision whether or not to give them big tournament experience in Brazil (and if so, at whose expense) needs careful deliberation. It was notable that the two youngest players Deschamps called upon to overcome Ukraine on an emotional Paris night were highly influential. Paul Pogba, the powerful and silky Juventus midfielder, was outstanding. To see such composure and comfortable passing craft at the age of 20 it was reasonable that the man he is compared to, Patrick Vieira, lavished him with praise. Raphal Varane, one of five key changes made by Deschamps to inspire the turnaround against Ukraine, was calm and secure. The Real Madrid defender is just 20, but also radiated a strong sense of serious determination. There was a real insight into his character glimpsed through the cameras in the tunnel before the game. As the teams lined up, it was Varane, the youngest member of the team, who made a point of going up the line of players to give a bear hug of encouragement to each teammate. The development of the new generation and the clear public enthusiasm for them helps to distance France from the problems that soured the World Cup in South Africa. Brazil 2014 gives them a huge platform to showcase their talent.

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Fax 44418811 Subscription circulation@gulf-times.com Singapore Airlines cabin crew: the advertising and marketing

Singapore Airlines cabin crew: the advertising and marketing campaigns of the Singapore Girl have become a hallmark of the carrier’s corporate image and one that is instantly recognised around the world.

Branding exercise: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Change for the sake of stepping up market awareness can go a long way to achieve recognition or competitive edge, but has to be carefully thought through

By Updesh Kapur Doha

C reativity equates to praise,

adulation, brownie points

and a chorus of approval

for working up that magical

touch. Well that’s what thinkers yearn for! An inventive idea for a new product;

a master stroke of ingenuity; out-of-

the-box thinking; or spring a wow factor to grab headlines can make all the difference between success and failure. In the case of the latter, however, it can amount to a PR disaster. In a world where corporations feel under pressure to reinvent themselves for the sake of modernising their brand, the cost of implementation is of little concern. Millions of dollars are spent on makeovers. Be it just a slight tweak of a company’s logo, colour or design, or a major overhaul of its identity accompanied by a refreshing new slogan. Regardless, the goal is maintaining brand integrity. Change for the sake of change is no good. There has to be strategic reasoning. Change for the sake of stepping up market awareness can go a long way to achieve recognition or competitive edge, but has to be carefully thought through. Some companies have successfully exercised change by investing time and effort into thorough market research involving employees and customers in their home market or if it is a global brand, internationally.

Some companies have invested little or nothing in research, just executing an idea at the whim of an executive making a decision holidaying in an idyllic resort. Such actions face deep consequences. In some cases, companies have faced public backlash for what was perceived as a great brand renovation, yet consumers were not ready to absorb such change. To build confidence and brand loyalty takes time. But to ridicule a brand is quick and easy at a flick of a switch – a situation that necessitates serious damage control. Consumers and employees are the best ambassadors from whom to seek

real advice and insight before taking the plunge into a dreaded makeover. As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! In other words if something

is working adequately well, leave it

alone. Coca-Cola, one of the world’s instantly recognised brands, has had its fair share of pendulum activity reflecting both the good and bad times. Celebrating its 127th year of operations, the soft drinks manufacturer has gone through cosmetic changes of its logo and brand identity over the years. But in essence, its iconic curvy white

lettering on a bright red background has graced cans, bottles, marketing collateral and advertisements for the vast chunk of over a century. Tweaked over the years, the Coca Cola brand has by and large remained intact ensuring the brand is easily identifiable even if most of it were hidden to the naked eye.

even if most of it were hidden to the naked eye. British Airways tailfins: in 1997,

British Airways tailfins: in 1997, BA management decided to replace the symbolic colours of the Union Jack with a choice of over 50 ethnic designs on all aircraft tail fins. It took four years for BA’s new chief executive Rod Eddington to announce the entire BA fleet would be repainted to feature the Union Jack livery. By then almost two-thirds of the 340 aircraft had already been painted in one of the ethnic tail-fin designs.

However, in 1985, Coca-Cola was forced on the back foot when it launched the ill-fated New Coke. It was simply described as the marketing blunder of the century and is today actively used as a case study by lecturers at universities and colleges worldwide. Having enjoyed the number one spot in the market for many years amid fierce competition from arch rivals Pepsi-Cola, the US giant took a big gamble by introducing New Coke – a new taste of Coca-Cola – in its quest to widen the gap in market share, particularly among its largest customer base in the US. This was a result of Pepsi upping the ante using global superstars such as Michael Jackson to front massive advertising campaigns to lure younger consumers. Both companies resorted

to cola taste tests to see which one had the edge. With market share slipping, Coca Cola concluded that the taste had to change of this closely guarded formula

– which incidentally lies hidden in a

vault at its Atlanta headquarters. It was to be the first major change to the soft drink for 99 years. It was also to feature

a new brand identity on bottles, cans

and advertising campaigns. The company received thousands of complaint calls and letters daily as consumers expressed their dissatisfaction. Coca-Cola is even reported to have hired a psychiatrist to listen to callers expressing their anger and despair. The change became the focus of TV and radio talk shows ridiculing the switch. The taste tests may have gone down well, but didn’t show the close bond consumers had with the look and feel of the original Coca-Cola brand that was being tampered with. The time, money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola had not revealed the deep emotional attachment consumers had to the original Coca-Cola felt by so many.

consumers had to the original Coca-Cola felt by so many. Coca-Cola 60 years ago: little change

Coca-Cola 60 years ago: little change in the look today.

The public outcry resulted with the return just 79 days later to the original formula and, with it, revived marketing campaigns focusing on Coke’s original formula rebranded as Coca-Cola Classic. Consumer affection was on a high and

sales as a result soared after a downturn. Once reverting to the original formula, Coca-Cola made national headlines for the right reasons, even to the point of becoming breaking news on channels across America. Clothing firm Gap faced an outcry when the font, colour and design of its infamous logo used for more than 20 years was changed resulting in a PR disaster which some referred to as “Gapgate”. Such was the backlash that Gap returned to its original look to preserve a brand image known around the world. In the airline industry, there are two clear extremes of how change can either badly impact or greatly enhance

a company’s image. British Airways

and Singapore Airlines. Last week, as the Saudi carrier

nasair, much younger than its legacy peers outlined above, unveiled a full

blown makeover – a brand new name,

a new corporate look and new aircraft

livery - the move was widely welcomed

as the carrier entered a new era in its short history. Changing its name to flynas, introducing a business cabin and switching to a hybrid model between

a low-cost and full-service airline and

facing new competition domestically and internationally from next year, the carrier feels the time is right to freshen its image. For many years, British Airways (BA) was seen as one of Britain’s best known brands, proudly flying its instantly recognisable blue, red and white colours to all corners of the world. But it wanted a more cosmopolitan image and reposition as a truly global organisation. BA said that with 60% of its passengers being non-British, the old colours were considered dated and stuffy, hence the move to a more multinational look to reflect the diverse network of BA’s global reach and the diversity of its customers. In 1997, BA management decided to replace the symbolic colours of the Union Jack with a choice of over 50 ethnic designs on all aircraft tail fins. It involved more than 250 aircraft.

It was to prove one of the most embarrassing makeovers in corporate

history. BA was forced to do a U-turn having already put aside almost $100mn for the revamp. The colourful tail fins came in for a roasting from all quarters. It became

a public relations disaster, with the

British media, passengers, staff and even former British prime minister

Lady Margaret Thatcher all turning their anger on BA. Safety concerns were even raised by air traffic controllers who felt the lack of a consistent tail design could lead to BA aircraft being misidentified by airport staff and crew. It took four years for BA’s new chief executive Rod Eddington to announce the entire BA fleet would be repainted to feature the Union Jack livery. By then almost two-thirds of the 340 aircraft had already been painted in one of the ethnic tail-fin designs. He argued that the exercise had hurt BA’s image among its core customers and something had to be done to rescue the problem. But the damage had been done. Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson, always an opportunist, quickly stepped in and ordered his design agency to come up with a new look for its fleet and pour scorn over rivals BA. What emerged was classic. Virgin painted the Union Jack on the winglets of its entire fleet of Boeing 747s and proudly declared it – and not BA – was Britain’s flag carrier. The flag was proudly painted below the cockpit window and subsequently applied to the vertical winglets of Virgin’s aircraft. Here was a case where BA’s research had not gone far enough, causing seismic change to a well known brand. Singapore Airlines, however, has adopted the exact opposite approach to BA. Despite being an international, global airline like its British peer, it has focused on maintaining the charm and elegance of a look born 40 years ago. Proud of its gracious Asian hospitality, Singapore Airlines has successfully kept hold of its brand identity with only cosmetic changes to its look and feel since 1972 when a restructure saw it began flying independently.

For four decades, the advertising icon of Singapore Airlines has been a female flight attendant “Singapore Girl” dressed in a sarong kebaya. The image has helped create one of the most recognised and trusted brands in the global airline

business – and one which Singapore Airlines dares not tamper with. The kebaya is a traditional blouse in South East Asia and worn by women with a sarong. In the case of Singapore Airlines, the garments reflect the culture of Singapore and neighbouring

countries. The advertising and marketing campaigns of the Singapore Girl have become a hallmark of the carrier’s corporate image and one that is instantly recognised around the world, reflecting service of the highest standards. The Singapore Girl has effectively become a trademark in its own right absorbing the true assets the airline wants to project – caring, gentle, elegant and serene. Since 1972, the image of the Singapore Girl has appeared continuously in advertisements in TV and print campaigns worldwide. Earning so much kudos, the Singapore Girl earned a prestigious place at Madame Tussaud’s in London with a wax figure of the iconic crew becoming a feature of the wax museum in 1994. Rebranding is a tricky business. When it goes right, it can lead to unprecedented success. But when it goes wrong, it goes very wrong. Moral of the story: don’t mess with a classic. Leave things as they are unless there is a serious business case for change.

Updesh Kapur is a PR &

communications professional, writer and aviation and travel specialist. He may be contacted on updeshkapur@gmail.com