Whose brand is it anyway? Free beer and bling champagne

July 23, 2006 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

It must be tough being a brand manager these days. The very name ‘brand manager’ implies you are in control of the brand. It’s your responsibility. And all the tools and literature developed during the post-war marketing era assume a certain level of control.

But as The Big Switch plays out, and audiences take control of their media, they are also taking control of their brands. Two recent stories demonstrated how to harness this power…and how not to ignore it.

The first story is all about a Free Beer from Denmark called Vores Øl. Sadly that’s ‘Free’ as in ‘freedom’, and open source, not ‘free’ as in ‘a lifetime’s supply of free beer’! The project, originally conceived by Copenhagen-based artist collective Superflex and students at the Copenhagen IT University, applies modern free software / open source methods to a traditional real-world product, beer. I love the thrust of their FAQ:Vores Beer

How can a beer be “free”?
The recipe and the FREE BEER brand is published under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which basically means that anyone can use our recipe to brew the beer or to create a derivative of our recipe. You are free to earn money from FREE BEER, but you have to publish the recipe under the same license (e.g. on your website or, better still, on this webpage) and credit our work. You can use all our design and branding elements, and are free to change them at will provided you publish your changes under the same license (”Attribution – ShareAlike”).

Can large companies market Our Beer?
Yes, they are free to use our recipe at will – but they also have to comply with the licence and publish their version of the recipe under the same Creative Commons license. This requirement is to keep the beer “free” so everyone has the freedom to improve the recipe based on the work of others.

Now even though the Danes are good at beer, I have no idea whether Vores will be a success or not. I hope so – because it’s open source, and therefore it’s truly MY BEER. I know if I ever come across it, I will buy it, and tell everybody the story. Now if everybody thinks the same way, Vores is destined for greatness.

The next story about Cristal champagne is not so uplifting. As described in the Cristal entry on Wikipedia:

In 2006, asked by The Economist [see article] about whether associations with rap stars could affect the marque, new managing director Frederic Rouzaud said: “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

Since the release of this statement, rapper and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z has decided to boycott the product in his personal life and various clubs he owns claiming that the views expressed were racist.

Whether Rouzaud’s comments were racist or not became a hotly blogged issue, but nobody can deny it was bad brand management. Companies never fully owned their brands, or their customer profile. Today, more than ever, customers need to feel a sense of shared ownership if they are to use and endorse a brand. I’m keen to see whether Cristal will pay the price for forgetting this.

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Entry filed under: media general.

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