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Achieve brand relevance while minimising risk

Balancing the brand's DNA with the consumer need is the key to creating attractive, product-focused content.

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“Unless risk is in the brand’s DNA, and is the consumer need that the brand aims to fulfil, there is no place for it.”

Focus PR was invited to participate in a discussion on "how to manage the inevitable tension between creating attractive content and minimising risk to a client’s brand".

Of course, it depends on the brand and the need(s) of the end user.

With every brand comes strategic imperatives. There are five considerations regarding the brand that must be defined, revered and never put at risk:

  1. Values – the attributes that form the DNA of the brand.
  2. Purpose – the point of the brand’s existence.
  3. Promise – the benefit(s) the brand delivers – it has to reflect a human truth that gives a clear reason why consumers should engage.
  4. Personality – the "softer" characteristics of the brand, and often those that make emotional connections; the way in which the brand represents itself externally.
  5. Symbols – the visual brand assets that are key to its instant identity.


It is critical, before representing any brand, that these five strands are written down and respected, without exception. Then we turn to the end-user need.

Needs are universal insights that a brand aims to fulfil. For inspiration, a thought-starter may be Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Though not exhaustive, it provides a guide. At the base of the triangle are physiological needs, then safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation at the top.

To represent any brand, client/agency custodians need total clarity on the consumer need that the brand meets.

With the combined framework of the five Ps and the end-user need, debate about risk and attention-grabbing content becomes simple.

Take our client Jim Beam, the world’s best-selling bourbon. The brand’s values centre on being the Beam family’s pride (current master blender Fred Noe is seventh generation), the quality of the spirit (nothing is added to the grain except Kentucky limestone water; nothing is taken away) and the ageing of Jim Beam White, which lasts four years (the legal require­ment is only two).

It is a game-changing bourbon from seven generations of men who have set a bold standard since 1795. The brand’s purpose is to reflect the consumer’s individuality (you make a bold choice by selecting it). The promise is that Jim Beam is the innovative, quality bourbon and inspires the bold choices that give the drinker approval from those they respect.

The brand’s personality is defined in seven adjectives: fun, sociable, approachable, adventurous, smart, charismatic and confident.

The visual symbols include the white, black and red livery, the red Jim Beam wax seal and the strong, square-shouldered bottle.

In terms of consumer need, we aim to recruit "everyday 18- to 25-year-old guys", as fans of the Jim Beam brand, and have identified among this audience the need to discover a drink that reflects their values, has true heritage and gives them credibility; in short, a brand that reflects the things that matter to them.

So the user-need straddles belonging and esteem, and Jim Beam’s traits meet that need. In this case, when weighing up risk and engaging content, there is no relevance to taking risk (assuming there is an on-brand, adventurous facet to content).

One risk, to be avoided at all times, relates to the alcoholic drinks category itself. Drinkers must not appear to be under 25 years of age, or under the influence; no associations must be made to imply sexual prowess; neither can there be explicit nor implied links to dangerous sports or driving. The alcoholic drinks industry is self-regulated by The Portman Group and its Code is clear as to what is deemed acceptable or not. 

No images must appear in social media or brand collateral depicting consumers who could be under 25. It gets tricky when consumers themselves share pictures and the brand is featured or appears to be connected. We can, of course, link the brand to our target demographic by sharing content that is not of them but is of interest to them. 

For Cadbury Twisted, on the other hand, we ran a social-media competition to win £20,000, and "controlled" user-generated content by issuing rules of engagement. Consumers could win only if they abided by these. Participants (all in the 18- to 25-year-old age group) won bonus points for "the correct depiction of the brand" and were penalised for any message/image that was "off-brief" (or rather, "off-brand strategy").

Unless risk is in the brand’s DNA, and is the consumer need that the brand aims to fulfil, there is no place for it.

No client brand should be put at risk in the pursuit of attractive content, even if your brand is Red Bull.


Hilary Crossing, managing director, Focus PR

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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