Channeling Brands

A local Sprint store sale punk demonstrated Siri on the new Apple iPhone 4S by saying “Siri, I’m drunk” to which Siri relied “There are 15 taxis in the vicinity …”

This demo would kill Steve Jobs.

iphone-beerOther customers on the sales floor were a mixture of amused and offended, though before the demo all had come cash-in-hand to see the new iGizmo. Each now wore a creepy expression on their mugs — similar to the ones they likely wore upon discovering the Santa Myth (which is not to be confused with the Santana Myth which claims that Carlos can sing). The iPhone’s image had been tarnished by a frat boy stunt in a place trying to sell iPhones.

Apple’s G-rated brand was slammed with an R-rated demo, and nobody left that Sprint store with a 4S.

Growing or preserving a brand through channels is slightly more difficult than balancing the federal budget. Not impossible, but prone to failure because channel managers do not exercise the same degree of care vis-a-vis branding that your sales force does. Yet the channel is your differently-paid sales force and needs to communicate your brand with approximate fidelity. Scraggly bearded Sprint sales drones shouting “I’m drunk” into a handset was never part of Apple’s branding strategy.

Key to channel marketing and branding is to educate your channel as well as you would your own sales teams. This takes resources, though in our wired world it is increasing cost effective. Only after everyone in a partner organization knows your brand can you even attempt to enforce their individual behaviors. Given how the other Sprint store clerks responded, they had not received Apple brand training either.

If your go-to-market strategy relies on channels, then assure those partners are appropriate brand ambassadors. Otherwise your brand will be slowly chiseled away.


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