The difference between a squirrel and a rat

Told you not to look up close!
Here at Stone Junction Towers we know we aren't alone when we say we think rats are disgusting, pigeons are filthy and moths are ugly, annoying bugs. But squirrels are cute, doves are romantic and butterflies are beautiful: despite them all being pretty similar to their stigmatized counterparts. So, why the split opinion about things that are almost identical? Good PR basically.

In reality some rats can be cute, doves are just a cleaner looking pigeon and butterflies are just as horrible as moths. Especially up close. Don’t ever look at a butterfly’s face up close.

The key to certain animals having more desirable characteristics associated with them is that people have told stories about sly foxes and beautiful butterflies for years. Those characteristics are permanently set in the mass consciousness.

The same is true of some companies.

In the case of businesses though, these characteristics are known as brand values and they are constructed by the customer. Just as animals don’t have a choice about what stories we tell about them, neither do companies. Brand values will be constructed by your clients whether you like it or not, which is why it’s crucial to positively manage them.

Not only that, once the HMS Brand Values has set sail, its turning circle can be huge. To unpack that metaphor, it’s very difficult to change or lose any values associated with your brand.

SKF – An industrial brand management example 
One example, unexpectedly, comes from the 2004 series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me out Of Here. After completing a bushtucker trial, one of the contestants, former engineer Lord Brocket, remarked to Ant-or-Dec that he was, “more reliable than that Swedish bearing company”.

The company he was referencing was SKF, who do indeed make reliable bearings and have done for over 100 years. You might have heard of one of their spinoff companies; Volvo.

The point of the story though is that for years, SKF concentrated on constructing brand values centered on reliability, to the point that a former engineer on a reality TV show compared his performance to theirs. But for quite a while now, SKFs marketing division has been concentrating on condition monitoring, rather than reliability.

They’re still known as reliability experts and are only slowly becoming condition monitoring experts. So what went wrong? Well, nothing – they’re doing a sterling job.

But brand values are resistant to change, and it takes a lot of momentum to get them to do develop. Good PR, over more than a century, made SKF reliability experts. In the future they will probably be known as condition monitoring experts, due to the amount of brand value management they’ve done on that topic. But they’ve got to put a lot of work in over a long period of time.

The advice to take from all this is that if you want to be perceived as a butterfly, it needs to be part of a long term PR strategy and you need to aim for that from the beginning. Otherwise you might end up as a moth.

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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.

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