Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Cup Runneth Over

When I was a cub reporter, I learned one of my first lessons about brand management. I had written about a fire in the small southern Indiana town where I worked. I said the fire moved quickly after spreading to some “Styrofoam cups.”

Several weeks later I got a letter from the good folks at Styrofoam. (Those were the days before e-mail). They were more worried about damage to their brand than damage to the house. They informed me, ever so firmly, that Styrofoam doesn’t make cups. They recommended the alternative “plastic foam” in place of Styrofoam.

I didn’t print a retraction. However, more than 20 years later, I’m probably the only guy you know who calls those things “plastic foam” cups.

Styrofoam may not exist anymore for all I know. Or they may have branched out into cups by now. But I can’t take that chance. Even as I write “Styrofoam cup” in this post, I fear some Internet robot may find the phrase. A letter of admonishment won’t be far behind.

The point is this: You’ve got to be passionate for protecting your brand, even if it’s only with some cub reporter at some small newspaper in southern Indiana. After all, those cub reporters eventually become reporters at much larger papers. They may even become a PR guy.

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