Hugo’s alive and kicking: Ford Fiesta’s art extravaganza

A year on from publishing "Where's the Sausage?" (WTS?), a fictional book about the bull**** and buzzwords of branding, and every week brings a real-life example of marketing just as crazy as those launched by Hugo Gaines.

Hugo is the marketing director of Simpton's Sausages who is obsessed with emotion (sizzle) at the expense of product benefits (sausage). One of his antics is Pizzart, where young artists create works to be exhibited at The Tate Modern then used on Simpton's new chilled pizzas. The pizzas are me-too products, with no added value, but a hefty price premium. To pay for the nice box.
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Daft right?

Well, I got a "blogger exclusive" email last Friday, giving me a sneak preview of a scarily similar art event by that acclaimed exponent of the avant garde, the Ford Fiesta. To quote from the email "It's a unique European collaborative art project, in which the public are invited to co-create an unparalleled collection of images that capture the essence of 'now'."

Now, full marks for using all the toys in the social media playroom:
– Art students have submitted works that depict their own interpretation of 'now'
– The public are invited to submit their own interpretations of 'now' on Flickr
– There is a Facebook page
– And a blog to tie it all together
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Nice work by all the agencies. BUT the question it begs of course is … what the bloody hell has this got to do with a Ford Fiesta?! And who in their right mind would want to sign up to a Ford Fiesta page on Facebook or Flickr?

Come on, look at it. Its a perfectly nice looking small car. But its a Ford, and Ford = functional and good value. It aint ever going to be a "badge brand", one where slapping down your car keys on the table is an act of showing off and saying who you are.

Where social media and art-related projects are linked to the brand, then they can work well. Fun-loving and friendly innocent get kids to design their kids smoothie packs, and fashionable shoe brand Converse invite young people to post videos on their site. But where the idea has no link to the brand, which feels like the Ford Fiesta and The Art of Now, then it becomes what we call "Sponsored entertainment". Paid for by the brand, but with limited benefit for the brand.

The basic rules of branding have not been re-written by the new media now available, as Ford Fiesta's art project show. You still need to really understand your brand, and use it as inspiration for relevant and ownable activities. If you don't, you risk "doing a Hugo".