Friday, August 2, 2013

OP ED: Goldman Sachs' "Progress" Campaign -- Necessary but not sufficient

Two things came across the transom this morning:  The news about another Goldman Sachs exec convicted of fraud, and Goldman Sach's "Progress" campaign.

A friend lobbed the campaign link at me knowing darn well I'd have something to say about it. You know the one:  "Progress is Everyone's Business."  Tons of video all over the web -- especially for one of their clients, the YES Network.

[SIDE BAR:  Somebody in the B2B Beenut Gallery just wondered aloud, "Who the hell is this YES Network?  And why don't we know more about them?"  To which the first rapid-fire reply was, "Obviously Goldman's funding didn't extend to a promotional budget."  I wonder... Actually, it's the Yankees Entertainment and Sports network.  We're Bostonians.  Do the math.]

I love the production values, the messaging, the testimonial tactics, the art direction -- the whole freaking campaign is beautifully executed and clearly represents a BIG investment on Goldman's part.  It will probably win an award or two based on this, but will it fix Goldman's brand?

1. It's built on a brand foundation that resembles earthquake rubble.  Goldman has never dealt credibly with the "F" word:  FRAUD.  In fact (metaphorically) they've never really even acknowledged that there was an earthquake, let alone cleaned up and fortified what they had left.

2.  Perhaps "Progress" is their new foundation.  Okay, not good.  It's not strong enough and it won't hold.  Like replacing steel beams with plastic.  Is this a case of denial on a corporate scale?

To which I can only say, Snap out of it!  Goldman's brand is so negative that, by associating itself with the notion of Progress, it's very possible they're giving Progress a bad name.

When your brand is reduced to rubble, you have two choices:  Clean up the mess and go away, or clean up the mess and rebuild.

Goldman isn't doing either of these things based on this campaign.

On the "Plus Side," they absolutely had to do something.  Metaphorically hiding under one's desk,
leaving by the back door, etc., is no way to project credibility, transparency, or strength.  We're glad they're out from under their desks, but wish they weren't in denial.

So, I think this is where we're coming down on this topic, here at B2B:

  • Is Goldman's campaign well done?  Absolutely.
  • Is it about time they did something?  Without a doubt.
  • Is it going to help their brand?  Almost anything with a positive spin would help at this point.
  • Is this what they actually needed?  Not even close.  But, baby steps ...
  • What do we think they'll do?  Who the hell knows?!  But, hopefully they're already doing in-depth, ongoing perception analyses, and will continue to do so f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  Perhaps they will take the results to heart; and perhaps they will continue to communicate with the public at large in ways that have more meaningful impact.
And while branding is my sweet spot, vs. corporate culture, perhaps they'll take a look at the corporate culture that spawned the kind of business practices that put them in their current position in the first place.  (I know, I gotta lose the rose-colored glasses).

Your brand is a reflection of your corporate culture -- your personality, your character, your reputation, what people say about you when you're not in the room.

And, in financial terms, it is critical to your valuation.  It is that 35-55% so-called "intangible" factor that determines whether people will do business with you.  And, like it or not, everyone in your organization is an ambassador of your brand.

Just like sound business practices, if these branding factors played any part in the development of this campaign, I daresay "Progress" would not have been its theme.

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