17 October, 2011 - 09:12 By News Desk

Branding shouldn’t be set in stone

I’m not sure whether the immortal lines “Titter ye not”, “Just like that!” or “Tea, Ern?” (Catchphrases, as if you didn’t know, of Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe) deserve to be literally set in stone, yet that is precisely what artist Gordon Young has done for them in the ‘Comedy Carpet’ installation he has created on Blackpool’s seafront as part of the town’s regeneration plan.

These immortal lines – and hundreds more by comedians who have performed at Blackpool over the years – have been carved in coloured marble and set in concrete on the Esplanade between the Tower and the seafront: a sort of comedy graveyard. All the best comedians died here, and now they all have their own headstones!

I mention this because it brings into focus an important truth about the nature of branding – and a catchphrase is as much the essence of a comedian’s brand as a mission statement or strap line is the encapsulation of a company’s identity.

It’s a mental thing, an ethereal quality that might only exist in the collective consciousness. But when it fades from memory, no monument can preserve it. Or, as has been famously said: “A brand is the most valuable real estate in the world – a corner of the consumers’ mind.”

Capturing it takes all the wit you can muster, but retaining it means staying on the comedy circuit and keeping your act fresh. Or, to put it in adspeak, maintaining your presence through strategic marketing and taking regular image audits.

Speaking of keeping your act fresh, corporate-wise, I was somewhat startled to hear, on a recent visit to my local branch of Lloyds TSB, what I took to be Star Radio or some other commercial music station being pumped out through the bank’s PA system (I can remember when banks were marble and mahogany edifices of impressive gravitas, ruled over by bank managers of formal and formidable aspect).

However, it turns out that the station was Lloyds TSB Radio and the top 10  playlist was interspersed with commercials for the bank’s products, and that irritating bomp-bomp-de-bomp theme tune that features in their Toytown TV spots.

Still, having got over the initial shock, I admit to being pleasantly surprised. Along with the new open plan layout (the clerks have been let out of their cages) and soft furnished break-out areas, a visit to Lloyds TSB is more of a ‘retail experience’ than ever before, and none the worse for it.

As a finishing touch perhaps they should set some comic one-liners in concrete on the banking floor. How about: “We’re here to help small businesses. We just tell them to buy a big one and wait.”

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