British Gas tapped into a rich vein by choosing a goldfish icon for its credit card. As any sharp marketer will tell you, after so many egocentric years, we’re emerging into an age of sensitivity, and spirituality is a part of that. The conference platforms are groaning with folk turning us on to youth culture and all that that means for the dawning of a new age – viz MTV’s Worm 2 conference last week – and, as predicted by commercial soothsayers, interest in ancient self-realisation philosophies is at a high.
What better symbol therefore than the goldfish with its oriental connotations of peace and harmony, even if it is for a plastic discount card?
What a pity, however, that Wolff Olins didn’t employ sensitivity in its trawl for ideas. The fact that research shows the Goldfish identity doesn’t clash with any of the competition doesn’t make the result squeaky clean. To have so blatantly angled for an icon used elsewhere by one of the consultancy’s founders and to have replicated Michael Wolff’s identity for Addison so literally is at best unimaginative. Using a shark might at least have shown a bit of wit and would have been a darned sight more ethical.
We can expect more of this as the marketers set to work packaging anything with commercial potential. We already have Britain the brand, needing desperately to reposition itself, we’re told, if it is to entertain any hope of becoming a market leader. Our politicians seem keen to swap integrity for image. And even that great cultural icon, film-maker Sir David Puttnam, seemed comfortable bracketing branding with culture last week when he spoke to a design audience – a stance that indicates his Sixties ad agency experience hasn’t left him.
But can the stuff of life be as easily branded as a credit card – and can we really expect a wholesome marque to create a feelgood factor around what might be an otherwise dubious product? Let’s hope not, but it’ll be interesting to see where the Bovis hummingbird’s off-spring lands.