Is Al Fayed’s Jackson tribute an own goal?

Al Fayed and Jackson. Thrilling. 
Last week Mohammed Al Fayed erected a statue of Michael Jackson outside premier league club Fulham’s football ground. Most people thought it was an April fool’s joke but it has turned out that the joke may well be on Fulham’s PR team.

This morning Al Fayed has responded to Fulham fan’s negative reaction to the statue by saying that fans can "go to hell" if they don’t like it.

While Al Fayed’s response seems like the action of petulant millionaire they are actually not all that unusual. Industrial brands do something analogous to this all the time.

The difference is that engineering brands normally don’t realise they have fans while the Fulham supremo has 35,000 supporters in his ground every week telling him he does.

Industrial brands have fans you say? Is this possible? Well, kind of; you all have customers and those customers buy from you for a reason. If you suddenly attempt to associate something entirely incongruous with your brand, you will find that a portion of your customers will respond negatively, just as the Fulham fans have with the Jackson statue.

Equally, if you metaphorically tell your fans to ‘go to hell’ by radically changing your offering and alienating them in the process, they are likely to respond negatively, just as the Fulham fans have done.

For instance, telling your customers that you suddenly only sell ‘solutions’ when they are comfortable buying widgets from you can be a bad move. It’s not a coincidence that giant global brands make these kinds of transitions gradually and slowly.

Not doing these things sounds like too obvious a piece of advice to go unheeded. But they still happen all the time. And they are auctioned by sensible people like you and me, not just eccentrics like Al Fayed.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.


Paul Downey said...

The statue is horrific to be honest, and so random. If anything the only thing it has achieved is to give journalists an abundance of cheap puns to use in their article and on twitter.

Richard Stone said...

Spot on Paul, horrific is just the right word, I think. A horrific waste of money and a tribute to someone who doesn't really need any more tributes.