Monday, January 15, 2007

Brands: I just don’t understand …

I am so perplexed these days. I keep seeing editorial about two brands that have obvious brand equity and heritage, yet I don’t know a single person who uses the products or confesses to even liking these brands. It’s strange, both brands command decent PR, but neither command a loyal following that I can point to.

The Vespa

Let’s start with those pesky little Italian scooters that come in a variety of cool, pastel and jewel-toned colours – The Vespa. Now, everyone knows (and if you don’t, you will now) I’m a staunch supporter of anything Italian. I spoke Italian before English, I was eating polenta, osso buco and parpardelle well before they all became mainstream menu items, and I have watched every Toto film before the age of 10. So, you would think I would love the Vespa brand … not! They are remarkably silly. This is not the city or the climate to be scootering about (well, if global warming persists, maybe!). This city is home to 4x4s, sports cars and yes, regular bikes. I wouldn’t be caught dead on those dinky motorized toys. And you know what? I don’t know anyone who has one. Not a sole. I know the brand, walk by the showrooms and read the news articles, but I scratch my head at anyone who would want to ride those things. Put on a matching green helmet and you’re a shoe in for The Great Gazoo! Vespas should remain in their natural habitat of Roma, Napoli or the Amalfi coast, it’s part of that landscape, not ours. So, please dear Italy, keep the Vespas in your country and export more super Tuscan wine to Canada.


Now AOL is one of those brands that make you go hmmmmm. Try this experiment. At the next party or function you’re at ask five people what AOL is. I promise, you’ll get five different answers. This is another one of those brands you know of and read about, yet I don’t know anyone who uses AOL, has an AOL e-mail account or can even discuss the virtues of this portal. As one IT guy told me recently, he wonders why AOL hasn’t been gobbled yet. I really have a hard time understanding this brand. What does it do that is different from Google or Yahoo? Why do I need to subscribe to get content that is already free on the Internet? What is the value proposition of AOL, and why on earth does it still exist? I got turned off years ago from the AOL brand when the company overloaded my mailbox with CD-ROMs. They had freebie discs popping up everywhere – in cereal boxes, poly-bagged in magazines. I swear I even found one of those discs in my box of Tampax! God, it was so annoying. They were so desperate for consumers to take a free ride on AOL that it just made me look the other way.

Now I know it’s a Time-Warner company and they have poured millions to keep this entity alive and well, all while trying to regain some of the luster the brand enjoyed in the nineties. But I question the relevancy and validity of this brand when the world is all about “search” and AOL is nowhere to be found.

I hear Taps playing … do you?

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