Dear brands: Please stop (the dumb) things you do

The Friday Street Club

This article first appeared in Marklives.

Last month, I wrote about some things that I think we, as agencies, should stop doing. It was inspired by a book I’d been reading, which talked about the difference between good and great companies — the latter being ones that focus not just on what to do but also what not to do, and what to stop doing.

In a similar vein, it’s interesting to look at what our partners — the brands we work with — should not do, or should stop doing. Here are some of the things that bug me the most.

1. Stop giving away things free of charge!

Everyone loves a freebie — that little hamper of goodies won by commenting on a Facebook post or the stash of products that arrive by magic for referring friends.

Being a brand that is generous as part of its strategy to encourage trial and recommendation is no bad thing. But, when the giving away of stuff becomes all that a brand does, it devalues itself.

With that, the customers who flock to your social-media pages for freebies will NEVER be the ones who flock to your stores to part with cold, hard cash.

2. Stop asking for things free of charge!

There are those brands (you know who you are!) that think it’s OK to ask for services for nothing or in exchange for product. But, nice as it is to get some free shizz, the stash of stuff you want to give me is not going to pay my mortgage — and most suppliers (those who are any good) do not need to work ‘for free’ in order to “boost their portfolio”.

You wouldn’t go into Pick n Pay and ask for a leg of lamb for free, or in exchange for a hamper of your homemade, strawberry-flavoured mampoer. So don’t do it. It’s rude.

(Linked to this are the brands that want PR companies to work for them because they don’t have any budget and want ‘free’ advertising. Grrrrrrrr.)

3. Don’t get sucked in by the BS

We know. The world of marketing and social media and research and all that malarkey can be confusing. Especially if you don’t come from a background in it.

But don’t think that you need to do everything just because other people are doing it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you are a combine-harvester manufacturer in the Free State targeting old and middle-aged farmers, you don’t need to have a Facebook page, Twitter handle, Google + account, YouTube channel and blog from your CEO to be successful, just because everyone else is.

Likewise, if you team is getting sold something that sounds good to be true, it probably is. Being promised Heidi Klum in a helicopter for your R3 budget? Be prepared for an old bird on the back of scooter.

There are a lot of charlatans who are making a pretty penny from selling things to brands that they don’t understand or can’t afford. Don’t be sucked in.

4. Don’t try to be something you’re not

There’s no need to spend all your time emulating the big brands and trying to be them. They took ages to get there, and spent a whole lot of money. They have that corner of the market nailed now, anyway.

Don’t be shy because you have a local product with a quirky twist or interesting people who work for you. Embrace it and be authentic. We love that.

5. Don’t think that your brand is made just by your marketing team

Many brands — the ones that don’t ‘get it’ — leave all that “marketing stuff” to the marketing team, the rest of the business instead being focused on financials and sales projections and so on.

But the brands that do ‘get it’ know that every single part of the business is what makes or breaks a strong brand — not just the label that gets stuck on the box, or the ad that goes in the newspaper, or the statement that the PR person puts out.

Strong brands know that everything — from the people whom are hired and the way the leadership team behaves to the way the business operates within its community — builds a reputation and builds a brand. It doesn’t matter how much the veneer is polished; a rotten core cannot be hidden.

Sounds complicated?

Not really.

Just be authentic, think big, and treat people the way that you would like people to treat you and your family. Easy.

Emma King (@EmmainSA) is the owner and MD of The Friday Street Club (@TheFridayStClub). Previously, she was head of PR at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Cape Town). She contributes the monthly “The Dissident Spin Doctor” column on PR and communication issues to