Feb 14th, 2013 by 'holic
Bergkamp’s the Man has been bashing the keyboard again, and in his own inimitable style he has looked at Arsenal. the brand. I understand that terminology doesn’t fit well with those who want their Arsenal back, but the future success of the club does depend on building income streams from across the globe and across different commercial markets. Indeed the way to get our Arsenal back, on the pitch at least, undoubtedly depends on the achievements of those now filling the offices at Highbury House.
On a brand and a promise
The fire in the Boars Head snug was deep red with an occasional crackle, whiskies were chasing pints down nicely and then someone mentioned the word BRAND.
“Jimmy Brand the fermer ye mean?” No.
“Thon red-hot iron they use to stamp a coo’s erse?” No.
“Ralphie Brand wi’ sword in hand? Played for Rangers?” No.
So, as several reached comatose and slid silently ‘neath the sight line of their tables, those still standing got right into it. Discussion on brand began, and all concerned waxed lyrically and ludicrously, if rarely lucidly.
And one of the easiest ways to bring everyone closer on such a theme is simply to point. There he was, walking right across the second shelf in his iconic new coat and hat. Johnnie Walker. “Keep Walking”.
“Get awa wi ye! That’s no a brand is it? I thocht thon was just that laddie Walker’s name. His label”
He’s nothing whatsoever to do with motor racing, but Johnnie Walker is at every Grand Prix, flying at speed on the side of Jenson Button’s McLaren F1. That privilege costs his owners a fortune. Do they spend millions just so it might help us to remember his name, his label? Well, actually they do, but that’s not the whole story.
Diageo of Norwalk, Connecticut (“Whit? Not Scotland?”) owns and has trade-marked Johnnie Walker, “Keep Walking” and the striding man figure device. They’ve changed the name from the (much more catchy J) Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky – and that’s an awful lot of bother to go to for a label, isn’t it? But Johnnie Walker is much more than just a label. He’s a brand, an icon and he’s promising us an experience.
“So a brand’s a promise of an experience?” It is.
And in the case of Johnnie Walker, Diageo would have us believe that a wee sip will expose us to the promise of the World’s Ultimate Scotch Whisky. And they’re very clever. They know that some of us won’t be interested, won’t be fooled, will never even drink whisky. But they also know that some of us can be persuaded. We’re their target audience and they seek us out.
They seek us out with laser-like focus. It’s not sufficient that the brand is on a Formula 1 car. Not for them Force India or the Scuderia brigade in Ferrari red. Their target audience is the McLaren fan. They seek him out, entice him with the brand’s promise, and try to differentiate, by association with McLaren’s winning ways, their particular mix of peaty Scottish water and malted barley, from the gallons of similar stuff on supermarket shelves.
Diageo spend gazillions to build their brand. The brand promises an experience. They target their brand communications at a carefully researched audience and then they wait for the supermarket cash registers to go ballistic.
The brand becomes the mechanism for differentiating between peaty water mixes that would otherwise be unknown and unheard of and probably considered identical. Great global brands provide the key to the highest prices on the shelf and the strongest bottom line on the balance sheet.
And I hear you. “This is all very well but what the hell has it to do with Arsenal? Arsenal is just the name of the football club that we all love so dearly!” Well, it is – and then again, it isn’t. Arsenal is a brand, and so it’s the promise of an experience. Arsenal’s badge is one of sport’s most distinctive icons, but how many know it, have even seen it?
Now it’s much easier to differentiate football clubs than it is whiskies. The players wear different colours, the teams are made up of eleven distinct component parts. Telling which one is best is simple – just check the league table. So doesn’t that make investment in football brands unnecessary and a complete waste of money? What’s what is obvious and who’s who is clear, isn’t it? Save the money and spend it on a new player or two, like “us fans” have been saying all along.
Emirates Stadium holds 60,000, only 0.01 percent of the global audience for football, which is closer to 600,000,000. And, of these, not every single soul even knows that Arsenal exists, never mind knows their league position. Just like drinkers, who need to be influenced toward whisky and then to choose Johnnie Walker, so the uninitiated of the round leather ball, in Indonesia, Africa and India, need to be wooed on a promise – the experience that the Arsenal brand promises. But that won’t just happen. It needs to become part of the Arsenal business strategy.
Coca Cola sells more shirts in Singapore and Malaysia than Pepsi. Investment has made the Coke brand the most recognised and valuable in the world. The brand promises an experience and that experience pulls punters through doors for drinks. And while they’re at it, they’re happy to wear a free shirt to advertise the brand and advocate for Coca Cola. Coke has achieved this without winning one piece of silverware. Arsenal can too, even when Manure sits atop the Premier League.
Arsenal needs to deliver the promise of the Arsenal brand on the field. They also need to “spend some fecking money”. But that money needs to be spent to build the Arsenal brand as much as it does to buy new players. Building one of the great global sporting brands will deliver commercial gain of, at least, as great importance as game day wins.
That commercial success will enable Arsenal to attract and then retain the world’s great players. Jack Wilshere will serve out his days in Gunner Red rather than Mancy Blue. And who knows, if Arsenal really get this right, TaBS dream of cheap tickets for The Home of Football may well come true – enabling a round at The Tollie for all for whom “solids are for wimps”. We can but dream. Praise the Lord.
So come on, Arsenal. Spend some fecking money – just spend it on the brand. Ivan Gazidis, are you listening.
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