Brands in the News

A Branding Lesson from France

17 Apr 2013  

This week France provided a very important branding lesson: full disclosure is not the best way to build a strong brand.

After a rather embarrassing political scandal, France’s top political leaders released financial statements detailing all their assets. The reports are remarkable. You can read them here:

Stephane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, for example, reports that he has two houses, one with a value of 150,000 € and another with a value of 250,000 €. He also has a life insurance policy with a value of 29,000 €, a BMW motorcycle he bought in 2001 worth 300 € and a Renault Clio that he purchased in 1994 with no value at all.

Is this a best practice? Should we all follow suit and publish our financial information?


This information damages everyone’s brand. It certainly won’t enhance the stature of government leaders in France. If you have a lot of money you seem out of touch. Why should some fat cat be setting policy for the country?

If you don’t have much money you look underpaid and unsuccessful. Why should someone who hasn’t managed their finances well be setting policy for the country?

You can’t win. Disclosing this information doesn’t enhance anyone’ brand.

Some things are better left unsaid.

For individuals, this is certainly true. You don’t want to reveal all your financial information. You also don’t want to air all your views on social policy or your siblings. Shedding all your clothes in public is not a good idea, either.

This is also true for brands; some information is best kept private. Should you publish all of your customer complaints? No. Should you release your latest competitive analysis? No. Should you tell people every time you change a product formulation to reduce costs? No. Must you announce every change to your pricing strategy? No.

Marketers have to walk a fine line. It is important to be open with customers; people like to feel connected with a brand. But this should only go so far.

As the French showed this week, more transparency is not always better.

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The sad events in Boston are tragic and puzzling. As a marketer, I’m always interested in behavior. Why do people act the way they do? What is the motivation? What are the benefits?

The odd part of the Boston tragedy is that the motivation is totally unclear at this point. Why would someone do that? What is the point? I hope we figure it out soon; the first step in preventing future attacks is uncovering the motivations.

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This Saturday I’m speaking on the topic of Super Bowl advertising at Northwestern University’s “Day with Northwestern.” The program is for Northwestern alumni and the general public. It should be an entertaining event.

1 Response

  1. davetuchler says:

    Re: Boston – – national attention would seem to be the prime motivator; once the culprit is identified their cause will likely share a brief spotlight. Not physical suicide but the closest thing to it.

    Separately, of course Lululemon is another example of the dangers of too much transparency.

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