an open letter to the swine flu brand manager

to whom it may concern:

even though it doesn't have the deadly impact of, say, cigarettes, you've come up with a product that has captured consumer's attention. and i have to give you credit - you're making great use of social media. the term "swine flu" has been topping the search charts at google and twitter. heck, even austrian bodybuilders-turned-governors are tweeting about it. don't know if you're seeding, or if it's just one of those natural viral things. either way, kudos.

but i'm not convinced you're a shoe-in for ad age's marketer of the year award quite yet. in fact, i'd say you've made some significant branding mistakes.

1) it's a bad name. swine flu? really? you might as well have named it "don't-worry-humans flu." have we learned nothing from mad cow disease? if you're going to have an impact on consumers, you have to make sure they know it's THEM in danger, not some far-off farm animal.

2) you're not controlling the brand's story. your target market is rife with misinformation. the new york times says a vaccine is months away. somehow, utah has theirs already. i know, i know. companies don't own the brand, consumers do. but right now, the US government is renaming your product the 2009 H1N1 flu. that's not giving consumers control, that's brand abandonment.

3) it lacks a brand signature. what's the ownable element here - the one that keeps the swine flu from becoming just another SARS? there's no logo, no mascot... how about becoming the first disease with colored face masks? think of the co-opping you can do with cause-related marketing. say, the yellow masks help support Livestrong, the pink ones support breast cancer awareness.

i don't know, i'm just spitballing here. you're the one with the MBA. i just know when a brand isn't living up to its potential.


Greg Christensen said...

I don't know. I think Swine Flu's a pretty good name. Human beings are obviously catching it. And it suggests you might actually develop a porcine nose, curly tail and extra nipples once you catch it.

Also, Swine Flu is much filthier than Pig Flu or even Sow Flu.

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