Tuesday, 30 October 2007

I smell a rat...

A recent article in The Guardian, highlighted the complex balance between consumer branding, city facing corporate names and the intracacies and vulnerabilities within brand architectures. Consider these two statements, only lines apart in the article: 

”...a major fall in group profits at Rentokil Initial as the support services group saw a slump in its school meals business.” 

“However, the flooding this summer has forced thousands of rats above the surface of the nation’s streets, leading to an increase in demand for Rentokil pest control.” 

Do you think the rats running around the kitchen had anything to do with the slump in demand? 

Unfortunately for Rentokil Initial – the corporate name – the fact that their school meals division has a delightfully wholesome and idyllic name – Eden – presumably to help distance them from in the first place Initial – the division of Rentokil Initial where they sit – primarily known for cleaning services (not that appetising) and secondly from Rentokil (pest control – definitely stomach churning) – seemed to pass by the Guardian journalist, Terry Macalister, entirely. He probably felt, if he was aware of it at all, that it was irrelevant to the point of his business article. 

However, as we know, customers have a nasty habit of not staying in their nicely defined ‘target audience’ group. Some rascal who may well be interested in business, say someone perhaps working, also has children who may well attend school. This inconvenient consumer already fits into the two audience categories of business and parent, not unconcerned with the quality and efficacy of his/her child’s school lunch. 

The headline I think, as headlines are, was designed to catch the attention of this two-headed reader, “TV chef plays role in Rentokil meals slump.” Incontrovertably linking pure Rentokil with school meals, and bringing in the TV viewer/Jamie Oliver fan too. Well, there always was a dodgy apple in the Garden of Eden – a lovely name can’t hide your connections. Maybe time for a rethink of either the company name or the services they get into.