A powerful brand must be disliked

Posted on October 14, 2010

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I have been attending a conference in Hong Kong over the past two days where Andrew Cosslett, CEO of IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group) was interviewed on stage during one of the sessions. He made this great comment about branding: “You know you have a meaningful brand when a part of the customer base dislike the concept you have created. When you are trying to attract everyone you end-up with a meaningless brand and ultimately reach no-one”.

We all know that a well thought through brand can only cater to a niche or a well-defined group of people who have in common certain needs and desires. But we never think of how important it is for a brand to be disliked.

Interesting to note that Andrew Cosslett doesn’t have a hotel background but joined IHG in 2005 from Cadbury Schweppes where he had several senior roles and was with Unilever prior to that.

Can a brand truly be liked by a certain group of customers unless it is equally disliked? Should consumers’ reluctance to purchase be a positive criteria when measuring the power of a brand?

Looking outside of the hotel industry, we can acknowledge that a brand like Volvo has developed its entire brand strategy over the last few decades around being disliked by the vast majority of the consumers, all to make sure it was actually building one of the most credible and lasting brand in the automotive industry. Volvo never joined the beauty contest but stayed focused and loyal to its niche.

Food for thought.

Fabrice Burtin – October 2010

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