Al Riese’s article this week at adage.com on “The Pitfalls of Branding” should be a must-read to all PR execs. Or at least those who are creating new products, new practice areas and specialties as quickly as Fox launches a reality show. Riese’s article discusses the perils of mega-branding and line extensions that blur the raise d’etre for the brand itself. Do we really need (or want) 11 flavors of Wheat Thins? Despite umpteen extensions of Coca-Cola, consumption of the brand as a whole is declining. Are you a PR firm that specializes in tech, healthcare, manufacturing, entertainment, defense, energy, telecom, automotive and childcare issues? How special is that? There’s nothing wrong with having multiple practice areas and being positioned as a full-service firm across many vertical markets. But there are pitfalls to that strategy as well. Perhaps you specialize in reputation management across those markets. That might be a better connector with your stakeholders. A blog entry I wrote earlier this year advised Starbucks to stick to its knitting, avoid introducing products that deviate from its core identity and smell up the place (like egg sandwiches). We now know there’s more brewing at Starbucks than the espresso. So what does your product stand for: are you trying to be all things to all people, or do you have the restraint to focus on a few things you can be great at, that defines your brand and your own raise d’etre as a brand and product steward? PR should lead the way.
– Diane Schwartz