Bell Canada fired their president earlier this month because he tried to influence how their subsidiary, CTV, covered the CRTC’s recent “pick and pay” decision. According to George Cope, head of Bell Canada and BCE Inc., the firing was necessary to protect the “independence of Bell Media’s news operations” and to “uphold the journalistic standards that have made CTV the most trusted brand in Canadian news.” This is an example of “brand management,” a sophisticated discipline for which gurus are paid big bucks. A few years ago, writer Naomi Klein released a 10th Anniversary edition of her best-selling book, No Logo, describing how major corporations protect their brands. She analyzes the impact of branding on the contemporary world economy, and the lack of public space free from brands.
The Mike Duffy trial raises questions about the Senate brand, the brand of the Harper government, and the brands of political parties generally. Do the same standards that apply to the corporate world apply to politicians? What is the brand of Canada? How do Canadians view themselves, and how does the world view Canada? How has our national brand evolved? Which political party best protects the Canadian brand? These are big questions worth pondering in the federal election campaign already underway.
A recent phone call from a friend tweaked me to think about branding. It hadn’t occurred to me that the name of my blog is itself a brand. If so, naming a blog becomes a key decision.
It took months to come up with the name “Effervescent Bubble.” Friends said it reflected my personality and would be a great name. I disagreed. When I was a don at the University of British Columbia in the 1960s, one of the residents called me “an effervescent bubble.” I never forgot her. She was a tall, lanky biology student who regularly picked up the carcasses of dead birds she found outside after they’d hit the windows. She would rescue the avian corpses and store them in the freezer of the first-floor kitchen refrigerator until she could dissect them later. Naturally, I received complaints from other residents, and had to sit down with her and suggest she find a morgue for her birds elsewhere. She was not amused. Even though she was not an English major, her branding me as an “effervescent bubble” was clearly intended as an epithet of derision.
And so I remembered it all this time. I knew that I was prone to talking too much and to gushes of enthusiasm which others sometimes find hard to take. When I thought about it, the connotations were of an “airhead,” transitory, and fleeting, of no great consequence. Not the image I really wanted to present.
Others convinced me differently. Bubbles are beautiful, they said, and luminescent and whimsical; all good things which we don’t get enough of and which we find attractive. Perrier and other sparkling waters are popular. And gushes of bubbles in a stream alert us to underlying rocks and eddies and currents which we may not have noticed. And, of course, the bubbles which rise up in a geyser are powerful, and forceful, and cause us to pay close attention. What more could one aspire to, in a brand for a blog?
Maybe. The brand for this blog is hard to spell, but it is quirky and always draws a smile. When I first announced my new blog, I did not know that computers would automatically separate the “effervescent” and the “bubble.” No wonder most got lost in the Google listing of companies producing bubbles which apparently are effervescent. I now make a point of telling potential readers that, when they search the internet for my blog, they will need to override their computers to force the parts of the name together. It is amazing what glitches arise in contemporary technology. But that’s why the gurus recommend test runs, right?
What I did not expect is how the brand has made my life easier. On a psychological level, the brand has redefined into positive terms a latent hurt from my youth. What other inconsequential slights can be cast aside in the face of advancing age and certain mortality? As I now readily identify with bubbles, it also makes shopping a snap. This past winter, our house sitters who are also professional painters noticed that the lighting in the rooms they planned to paint needed upgrading. We went off to one of those big lighting emporia in the North Toronto “design district” to choose the new fixtures. The choices available seemed overwhelming, until we realized that one set of fixtures had a bubbles motif. Voilà! The choice was made for us. And then last week my friend phoned to tell me that her friend had been in a Yorkville dress shop which was showing a long jacket with bubbles on it. Since I had a blog called “Effervescent Bubble,” they both thought I should rush over right away and get a jacket that matched my blog. Who was to know that my brand would lead to having not one, but two personal shoppers? And they were quite right. I visited the shop the next day and, sure enough, there were several garments suitable for a blogger of a certain age with bubbles in her brand. From the powerful to the personal, branding has its advantages.