Monday, February 12, 2007

A Pervasive Branding Problem

-- posted by Interrobang

The "Hardlines" newsletter, a Canadian trade periodical aimed at insiders in the lumber and building industry and edited by Michael McLarney, reports today in their "Companies in the News" section that Lowe's (the large US hardware and home improvement store) is opening its first store in Brampton, Ontario, this year. It also reports that Lowe's has pulled its advertising from "The O'Reilly Factor" because of comments made by Bill O'Reilly:
MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Lowe's has pulled its advertising from Fox TVs O'Reilly Factor after its host suggested that a 15-year-old boy enjoyed the experience of being kidnapped by pedophile Mike Devlin.

Radar Online gives more detail. They report that O'Reilly actually said, "[T]here was an element here that this kid liked about his circumstances. ... The situation here, for this kid, looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his 'old' parents. He didn't have to go to school, he could run around and do whatever he wanted."

According to Radar Online, Fox received e-mails critical of O'Reilly's statements, and people contacted Lowe's to suggest that their brand not be associated with someone who envies Shawn Hornbeck, because being kidnapped and held for four years by a pedophile is 'fun'.

There are two lessons to be had here. The first is that writing the advertisers really does work. Although everyone to the left of the Moral Majority is pretty new at using this tactic, it seems we're becoming pretty effective at it. When enough advertisers find out the kinds of things these right-wing motormouths have to say on a distressingly regular basis (and they can deny all they like, but they keep getting caught on tape -- they're slow learners, I guess) and flee screaming into the night, these same right-wing motormouths will find out that ugly speech put out on broadcast media actually has genuine, real-world negative consequenses.

The second lesson is that more than just the screamers at KSFO have what the marketing folks might call an "optics problem." These bad optics go far beyond just a couple of local shock jocks at one little radio station. They go all the way up into the mainstreamiest of mainstream conservative on-air personalities. There's no "there" there, folks; they're all rotten to the core. And their words are making them look bad, especially in the eyes of advertisers who probably don't want to be associated with things like backhanded defenses of pedophilia, genital torture, concentration camps, and calling for the execution of the editor of the New York Times.

Most people get a little squicked by that kind of stuff, and people who want lots of money from lots of people try to avoid squicking their customer base. It's simple economics, really.


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