Phil Bilbrough: Dreaming of a world of perfect brands.

Dreaming of a world of perfect brands.

By Phil Bilbrough

I’m enjoying Steven Spielberg’s and Tom Hank’s “Brand of Brothers” It came out 2001 in the States and still resonates over there or at least it does on the web. “Brand of Brothers” is an American’s dream of which values America should uphold, a kind of “Brand USA”.

Brand of Brothers is been repeated now and the repeat is being the repeated but that repeat is called an encore. Poxy name, but thank gawd that they do because that’s when I get to see it.

Band of Brothers is pretty good. There are failings, but the action, and everything else, delivers. One of the central characters (Band of Brothers is about Easy Company, American Paratroopers in WWII Europe) is Major Richard D. Winters, played by Damian Lewis. He is a handsome, heroic, quietly spoken, introspective, respected leader of men. There is nothing wrong with this guy expect slight spasms of guilt when his men die or get injured and he flirted with a flash back when he shot a young SS soldier. One time he charged in front of his men ran up an embankment and took the young SS soldier by surprise. There was a whole company of SS soldiers immediately behind the youngster so – I dunno – in this case it was OK to blast him.

So Major Richard D. Winters is a hero’s hero. And Damian Lewis is the world’s best actor. Why? Because Maj. Winter (so far) is a man without ANY flaws. His men love him – follow him into some very sticky situations and occasionally die. Yet Damian Lewis can make this perfectly perfect guy almost compelling even when his character isn’t running into battle, which is about 40% of the mini series.

Major Richard D. Winters is a perfect brand for the America and American G.I.s in World War II. I think that he has  antibiotic qualities for Spielberg’s and Hank’s bacterial doubt about American foreign policy, its wars and its soldiers.

Perfect brands don’t exist, or if they do it is only in the brand manager’s imagination or it has been created by Steven Speilberg. Toyota was quite good until some of their cars accelerated themselves over a cliff with people in it. XT flew for a while but it dropped out of the sky and worse still in the public’s perception it even started mining in Fiordland.

I wonder if brand people want or have been told to only to see the positive – the superlative – in their brand and are deeply scared of anything even fractionally disparaging or negative, of which I mean, reality.

In Wellington there is the once family appliance business, “LV Martin”. Their strapline was, “It’s the putting right that counts.” It’s about service. Yet it implies that their customers are likely to have some problems. I love that strapline, and I don’t believe that ANY brand manager would ever consider a strapline like that now. All the brand people that I have worked and talked with insisted on positive brand attributes only – nothing else could possibly exist. But many things are really real. Major Richard D. Winters actually existed.  And customers, may individually have stupid moments, but collectively they learn quickly and will punish you if your brand’s reality doesn’t match its expectations.

I wounder if the attributes or personality traits of some brands are too narrow (innovative, upbeat, and accessible) and not aligned closely enough with the organisation (staid, dull and in-approachable) and their product (over featured shit that never did what it was meant to) for which they speak. XT did promise an awful lot.

I feel that the Warehouse brand shows integrity – we sell lots of cheap stuff. We are about bargains, if the product that you buy from us lasts  – then you’re onto a winner. Can a brand be more transparent?

My university marketing lech-urer spoke of brand life cycles. This is when a brand starts their life down market and if it survives puberty,  it gains credibility and matures to become an aspirational brand. Then one minute after its used by date it gets discounted again. This is the cycle of life. I felt that Farmers (the department store chain) is on this cycle – possibly the recession slowed their journey – but I felt they were making a slow but sure progress up the aspirational pathway.

Anyway brand life cycle theory has gone out the window. The new brands are positioned straight into middle-age with aspirational facial hair. No puberty spots no wispy hair and creaky voices. Position where you like but you might be found out if – Oh I dunno – when those old fashioned things like product quality and service fail you. Strike me down as blasphemous – but what if Telecom went to market with a cut price broadband product – one that had mobile and home connectivity and was likely to be – well – crap. You know fast late at night – intermittent download speeds during the day, next to nothing upload speed and no support. You know I’d call it “TC” – try and guess what “TC” stands for in your comments. Consumers aren’t stoopid – many will take that price quality trade-off and be happy. Then maybe just maybe TC starts to build its quality and service and become a teenager. The TC brand would aim to meet its customer expectations and sometimes exceeds it – and if it did – I would think it the perfect brand.


Phil Bilbrough is a freelance online advertising specialist who is blogging on the subject for Scoop at He can be contacted at

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