Brand management is concept that’s often associated with an organization’s marketing strategy. It is a process that monitors market competition and seeks any opportunity to assert and affirm the company brand. Think Coca-Cola . . . What do you immediately associate with the soft drink company? Perhaps the red can, polar bear or glass bottle? In any event, no matter what association you make, you can still identify the branding elements that are distinctly Coca Cola.
Now imagine if you took the traditional Coca-Cola can and changed its color. Well, this winter, in partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Coca-Cola introduced a new white can to signify its newest campaign supporting polar bear conservation efforts. Fresh idea? Maybe. But the winter edition can closely resembled another member of the Coca-Cola family: Diet Coke.
Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, what started as a well-intentioned branding effort soon turned into huge issue with significant consumer backlash. People were confused by the white can and occasionally upset when they mistakenly grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator instead of a Diet Coke. Thankfully, Coca-Cola was able to remedy the situation quickly with the introduction of a revised red winter edition can, but not before recalling the white cans from grocery store shelves.
This case clearly identifies the importance of color in organizational brand strategy. It also calls to the forefront a pivotal issue: Who should have a seat at the table in discussions about brand management? Maybe the initial strategy is best suited for marketing professionals, but Coca-Cola’s public relations department was called into action when consumer loyalty and brand relationships were tested.
Public relations professionals should certainly be involved in brand management strategies — because after all, the heart of brand management deals with stakeholder relationships. Had someone sat down and actually considered the issues involved with re-branding the Coke can (and kept their other product brands at top of mind), maybe the white can would have never made it into production. Brand management can’t deal solely with marketing the organization, it also has to manage public attitude and perceptions.
Bottom line: Any branding strategy has to be consistent with the organization’s vision and the public’s perception. And don’t attack your own brand by forgetting about your other products and their respective branding!