Don’t Let Your Brand Become Another Marius

Pity poor Marius. One minute you’re being fed your favourite meal (rye bread, apparently) the next you are yourself a meal. All because his genes were not the right fit. On the whole you have to say that whatever the scientific justification, the shooting of 12 year old Marius the giraffe by Copenhagen Zoo is nothing short of a PR gaff.

You can’t go around shooting healthy giraffes, whatever their genetic shortcomings, let alone butcher them in front of the kids and then chuck the raw and bloody bits to the lions. Though I’ll bet there a few marketing directors reading this who've faced board meetings which may well have felt like they were heading towards a similar outcome. 

Photograph: Scanpix Denmark/REUTERS

That said, does Marius really have anything to teach us in marketing? I’d say he does. Here’s a fine animal which didn't seem to have anything in the world to worry about. Life was going on just dandy. No predators – or so he thought – and fodder and rye bread delivered straight to the door. A modern home with all mod cons – and an apparently adoring public who probably loved seeing you eat out of their hands. What could possibly go wrong?

As we now know – it could go very wrong – and the problem was all in his genes. All his safe and cosy assumptions were turned on their heads in the blink of a big doe-like brown eye – simply because his genetic make up left him out in the cold – and that’s the critical lesson for marketers.

As with genetics, brands are part of a constant and ever changing environment. They simply can’t afford to stand still, but need to constantly evolve to keep ahead in that ever changing world. If they don’t, like Marius, they may find that their genetic make up is no longer relevant. It’s very easy to become yesterday’s gene pool.

To stay ahead you need to evolve and adapt – and keep passing on those successful genes to the next generation of the brand. Fail to do so, and like poor Marius, you may find that customers and investors are looking for someone to cull and feed to the lions – and you don’t want that to happen to you and your brand, do you?  

Andrew Woodger
Andrew is a fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing and heads up Purple’s data and planning teams. Having started his career in the music business, he turned client side marketer with spells at United Biscuits, Asda, Peugeot and Nissan, before jumping ship to immerse himself in the world of data. Now a committed planner and brand strategist, he has worked with clients including First Direct, Next Directory, Honeywell and Flight Centre blending research and data insight with a marketer’s instinct for a good proposition. Away from marketing you’ll find him on a cricket pitch or building sandcastles on the beach!