Greece’s problems and how gilded brands are hard to reverse

Never has the world been so close to total chaos as when on Wednesday Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou offered a referendum as to whether the Greek people would accept a bail out plan much to the disbelief of some European leaders.

Surprise, surprise, the next morning (just 20 minutes ago) he offered his resignation.

The thinking was that if the people accepted this referendum on harsh austerity measures it would end speculation and uncertainty about the will of the Greek people to get their economy on track. A nice token sign. However if they voted no, it could be a part of a cataclysmic pack of cards where Spain, Italy and even debt laden France would feel the effects for years to come as the world economy is thrown into a new level of disarray that would make the Lehman brothers collapse look like a minor glitch in the system.

So what exactly does this have to do with branding? After all this is an advertising blog? It is meant to touch on the fabric of commerce and art interlaced and bound together to sell merchandise.

Well for me the parallels between a brand and the Greek situation is an interesting comparison.

For one you can’t sell a trussed up pig and claim it’s a warhorse. Like Obama once espoused in regards to a different matter, you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Everyone knows that Greece high levels of debt can not be maintained and no amount of emotional rhetoric and symbolic gestures is going to make any difference.

Behind every successful product is a level of credibility needed and once that credibility has been broken it is very hard to fix the PR of the image with the public.

You can only use hocus pocus if a brand product or situation hasn’t yet been found out to be in a state of pandemonium.

I can remember New Zealand in the 1980s, people who wanted a desirable car that was perceived to be more glamorous and therefore more expensive was the Pontiac Le Mans. The French / American hybrid cross brand was appealing and from the get go people paid a premiun for them. No one knew they were just rebranded Daewoos (South Korean cars).

As long as the image hasn’t been shattered you can get away with blue murder with how you present a brand, or in Greece’s situation, a political problem.

But once striped of that veneer, once the public and critics start to see the truth, it’s very very hard to reapply lipstick to a pig without people seeing it as just a pig.

In short, Greece’s plans to show a stand of solidarity to the world will have little effect and change little with the political pundits of the world. All that is shown is the Prime Minister Of Greece has taken a chance with the world economy and for this he must pay with his political career.

Updated note: Since the publication of this entry, the referendum was canceled and Mr. Papandreou has agreed to stand aside following a new coalition government shakeup.

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