Should marketers try to protect brands beyond the transaction? The Marketing Society Forum

Mars has issued a disclaimer regarding deep-fried Mars bars available from a Scottish chip shop.

NO - Michael Sugden, Managing director, VCCP

Mars wants the Carron Fish Bar to display a disclaimer saying Mars does not endorse its signature dish, the battered Mars bar, as it is worried the product contradicts its commitment to healthy living.

If Mars is that worried about healthy living, just stop selling the damn things. With 34g of sugar in every bar, some would argue deep-frying makes it healthier.

This is 'nanny branding'. When a brand sells a product, that item becomes the purchaser's property. Brand meddling beyond this point of transaction is dangerous, and this case illustrates how counter-productive it can be. By seeking to gain control where it's unwelcome, Mars has inadvertently drawn attention and added kudos to the cult of the battered Mars bar.

NO - Stephen Bisset, Head of planning, EHS 4D

Marketers instinctively want to protect the sanctity of their brands because they're trained to act as guardians.

Things are out of their control after sale, however, and they cannot stop people using products as they wish. Marketers would do better to roll with it.

Instead, embrace the new income stream and rejoice in some easy PR coverage. Run a competition, for example, for creative uses of the product and see what else is being done. Engage the wider audience and welcome the conversation - far better than fighting a losing battle with a crowd.

Companies crowd-source for a reason: consumers have a big stake in brands and that engagement can make for a stronger connection.

YES, Ida Rezvani, Managing director, McGarryBowen

Marketers need to build brand equity and, as such, also need to try to manage any negative equity, before or after the transaction. How they do it is debatable. Legal suits can enforce brand protection but can also inadvertently create negative equity or inhibit engagement with the brand.

In this case, Mars wanted to be associated with 'promoting a healthy active lifestyle', so made its disclaimer request. It's understandable that Mars felt adding batter to its product would create negative brand equity.

Guinness, on the other hand, embraces those who want to add Champagne to Guinness to create Black Velvet, probably because this mix adds to the brand's equity.

YES - Ash Amrite, Head of digital, DLKW Lowe

But not like this. Brands are no longer 'owned' and consumers' relationships with them are difficult to regulate. It is now brands' role to curate and facilitate consumers' enthusiasm.

Brands in the tech sector recognise the value of letting customers modify products. Microsoft's response to Kinect hacking, where gamers re-code the Xbox controller, has shifted from initial hostility to vigorous support. A very different, more measured reaction to what is effectively the same issue.


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