by James Mahoney, Creative director/writer at Razor’s Edge Communications
What does a 42-year-old military offensive have to do with branding and social media? Quite a bit, as it happens. Consider four seemingly unrelated situations:
First, clothing purveyor Gap experienced an alleged misadventure recently when it unveiled a "new logo" on its website, only to reinstate the old logo a week later in the face of withering online vilification.
Second, Tropicana experienced a real misadventure when the company jettisoned its venerable and valuable "straw in an orange" for a new look and identity. That disastrous move was reversed in the face of actual withering response: a precipitous sales drop that validated the hue and cry.
Third, a few years ago, The Wall Street Journal revamped its look and feel. As change like this always does, this generated initial resistance in the readership, who had to recalibrate their familiarity with the paper. But the change was durable and the transition period short. Since then, the WSJ has continued to successfully tinker with the design and content.
Fourth, history students, and those of us old enough, will be familiar with the 1968 Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. For others, here’s a brief description: At a critical moment in that war, the North Vietnamese launched simultaneous attacks across South Vietnam during the normal New Year’s armistice. While the offensive was a resounding and crippling military defeat for North Vietnam*, it was perceived as a convincing victory for them by the American public, whose only points of reference were frightening scenes of bloody combat in near-realtime on our living room TVs, and commentary in the media.
So, what’s the connection? All four were abrupt events that dislocated a status quo. All four involved branding and media, social and otherwise. Two were successful; two weren’t.