It all comes down to dollars and sense: The value of common sense and brand association

I spent this weekend in Miami.  I was slated as a presenter at the Women In PR Summit to educate young publicists on how to protect their ideas and business assets.

The keynote speaker was to be Kelly Cutrone.  Two days before the Summit, it was announced that KC was not attending. Immediately, a Twitter and Facebook war broke out.  Before you read on, check out the twitter conversation between @womeninPR1 and @peoplesrev (week of September 16th, 2012) You can also see Kelly Cutrone’s facebook videos (and another video) and document postings about the situation.

That Saturday night, I had dinner with about 8 others and we got into a heated discussion about why Kelly Cutrone was so mad.  I was dumbfounded that I even had to explain why.  Here’s why.

Brand identity is critical to a brand’s success.  It just is.  If the public is not aware of your brand or cannot identify your brand, then they will not purchase from your brand because they do not know anything about your brand and do not have a foundation of trust in your brand.  One way that people try to garner awareness and credibility in their brand is to associate themselves with another brand that is well known and has an audience of trusted, loyal followers.

Why? Well, because this association implies endorsement or approval in the association, and thus translates into an approval or endorsement in the lesser known brand.   It translates to lending credibility.

Here are some examples of popular types of brand associations:

  1. In some situations, a brand may associate with another brand for the purpose of bringing two different brand consumer audiences together to introduce each brand to a different audience.  Example:  Jay-Z and R. Kelly, Best of Both Worlds Tour
  2. In most instances, a lesser known brand will associate with a greater known brand for the purpose of giving credibility and drawing attention and awareness to the lesser known brand.  One example is an opening act for a headliner.   Many times, a great brand will choose a lesser known artist to open for them…an act they like and approve of to perform for the particular audience that came to see the greater known brand.
  3. Another example is a local organization throwing an event and wanting to attract attendees so it will secure a nationally recognized brand to speak at its event (like that of WomenInPR and Kelly Cutrone).

All of this is PERFECTLY OKAY and typical.  Great brands know that there is value in their brand and are happy to lend that value to a lesser known brand….IN EXCHANGE FOR COMPENSATION…and rightfully so.

If you’re going to use the value of another brand to bring value to your brand, you must pay for it (or give it something equal to the value you’re using).  Many great brands make a substantial income and revenue from the reputation and notoriety in their brand identity.

Failure to pay for that value = BRAND INFRINGEMENT.

Using someone’s name and likeness to attract attendees to your event without compensating the brand (or whatever you’re supposed to give the brand in exchange for the usage) = BRAND INFRINGEMENT.

So why is Kelly so mad?  First, she agreed to allow Women in PR to use her name and likeness in association with promoting their event for more than 6 months  for a FEE and was NOT paid.  But most importantly, it was that she knew that attendees bought tickets and paid registration fees to WomeninPR to see her.  She knew that attendees bought tickets and paid registration fees to an organization they knew nothing about because the mere association of Kelly Cutrone with their event lent credibility and value to WomeninPR.  And she knew that if she did not expose what was going on, then her loyal followers would question the credibility of HER brand for not showing up.

What’s my point:  Brands love to associate themselves with other recognizable brands.  Why?  There is a value.  And they want the public to associate that value to them.  There is nothing wrong with this…just be sure to pay for that value.

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