Brand Strategy / Marketing Strategy

Kodak and Thomas Cook need to tread carefully


Kodak and Thomas Cook have two of the strongest straplines in their respective industries.

But, as the global economic climate cools, both are fighting for their future.

You can’t make a business on a slogan alone.

Catchy words don’t turn a profit – but they can sure help by getting into the consumers’ minds and then, if they’re good enough, becoming part of common parlance.

The situation is improved if the lines come from somewhere deep, somewhere fundamental, in the brand’s DNA.

Let’s start with Eastman Kodak, which is currently fighting for its future. Once upon a time, the company exhorted its customers to capture the ‘Kodak moment’.

The Kodak Moment. What a perfect phrase.

According the Urban Dictionary, the Kodak Moment is:

… a rare, one-time moment captured with a photo, or should have been captured by a photo.

Wow.

The phrase provides huge cognitive consonance within the audience. We relate to those special moments in time, whatever they may be.

We relate emotionally – the very memory takes us back to the state we were in at that precise moment. If we have the photographic evidence in our hand, we can refresh those memories to ensure that nothing is lost over time, as we age.

The ‘Kodak Moment’ positioned Kodak as an ‘enabler’ business. By using a Kodak product, you could capture those singular occasions, recording them until the end of time.

But now the company is in the doldrums, fighting for its future.

The Kodak moment may be over. (More on this topic soon in an exclusive interview to be published here)

Meanwhile, over in the UK, travel operator Thomas Cook is realigning its business plan and looking to close up to 200 High Street stores.

For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, their long-running strapline has been: “Don’t book it, Thomas Cook it!”

Pulling this apart reveals something interesting about the business.

They’re promising you more than just a flight and some accommodation.

They’re promising you an experience.

Presumably this experience starts at the booking desk, continues into the holiday and doesn’t finish until you’re back at home, slippers on and cup of tea in hand.

It’s another amazingly strong, bold proposition that should resonate both with the consumer and the brand’s core DNA.

However, in the face of the current economic climate, it hasn’t been enough.

The promise of an experience which you can access with 100% confidence hasn’t been enough.

Now, the company is switching to a different proposition, displayed in store windows:

We’ve been delivering great value for 170 years – 2012 will be no different

Let’s pick this apart…

This new approach attempts to do three things:

    1) Reinforces the fact that the company has an extensive track record
    2) Informs the public that they are still there, in spite of media hype, and will be serving our holiday needs into 2012
    3) Introduces the idea of value, not experience, into the holiday market. It’s interesting to see that this new value proposition also comes at time when the brand is deep discounting against its summer holiday packages. Value = cheap, perhaps…

I foresee a potential problem with this.

Suppose one of the stores displaying this new poster closes.

What happens then?

They’re not there to serve you in 2012, as the poster promised.

How’s that going to help consumer confidence in the remaining parts of the business?

IF “Don’t book it, Thomas Cook it!” is forced to make way for a strapline which is less about the experience and more about the ‘value’ (or cheapness), I believe that the brand will be weaker for it.

The strapline is, as with Kodak, the promise of an enabler brand.

By booking something more than just a holiday, the brand is enabling your experience.

Anything less than this, anything weaker, and the promise just isn’t there – so you might as well book with someone else…

Both Kodak and Thomas Cook need to tread carefully now. While slogans don’t make the brand, they form an incredibly important part of the consumers’ experience of, and relationship to, that business.

Both businesses need to look at how they can leverage the strength of their existing propositions.

If we lose the promise of either, then we lose our access to the brands respective DNA strands.

And if we lose that access, we don’t know what they stand for any more.

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