The Mediatel Newsline Brand of the Year

17 Dec 2018  |  John Lowery 
The Mediatel Newsline Brand of the Year

A drive through France inspires John Lowery’s nomination

The votes are in and, yes, it’s Facebook.

Had you there, didn’t I.

Probably not.

The facilitation of election meddling, data breaches, dubious (to say the least) tax ‘arrangements’, consideration of selling personal data and continued strangulation of traditional news media might possibly rule Facebook out of any list of Brands of the Year (apart, obviously, from the one penned by The Zuck).

Having vented, Facebook did have a role in the creation of my nomination for the Brand of the Year, because Facebook was where hypnotherapist Jacline Mouraud initially posted her hypnotic rant about the proposed fuel tax funding the swimming pool and crockery-related indulgences of President Emmanuel Macron and the rest of the Parisian elite .

(This being Facebook, it didn’t take long before the Russians started meddling and stirring up violence but please set that aside for a moment. And set aside too, the ever-changing demands of Les Gilets Jaunes – there were 3 to begin with and 25 in the latest ‘manifesto’.)

Like everyone, I’ve read, seen and heard a good deal about Les Gilets Jaunes over the last few weeks. In what’s left of our post-Zuck news media, images of this nature have been commonplace:

But nothing prepared me for the experience of driving through Southwest France last week.

As I left the airport in my hire car I started to notice Les Gilets Jaunes; not just in the form of Toulousains surrounding bonfires at the roundabouts; not just in the form of the AutoRoute being closed, meaning I had to take a 40km detour through the villages and back lanes of Tarn-et-Garonne; not just in the constant references to the movement on radio Canal Sud; but instead in the simplest, most powerful branding device I have ever encountered.

There’s Nike’s Swoosh, Marlboro’s Chevron, Coca Cola’s Dynamic Ribbon, McDonald’s Golden Arches, Chanel’s interlocking Cs, etc., etc.

All brilliant but think of the billions of dollars invested and the decades it took to give those logos their meaning.

In other spheres there’s the Red Cross, the Hammer and Sickle, the anarchist A, the White Helmets, the WWF Panda and Amnesty International’s Candle.

None of them can hold any kind of candle to Les Gilets Jaunes.

The gilet jaune burns itself into your visual cortex.

There are statues displaying the gilet:

Speed cameras are wearing it:

Homes have been decorated with it:

Football teams have changed their strips in support:

Dogs have donned it:

Unsurprisingly, the oh-so-courant, fashion industry has latched on:

Infographics are using it:

Spend three mins on the internet and you’ll find they’ve subverted almost everything imaginable:

But the true genius manifests itself here:

By law, the French are required to carry a gilet jaune in their vehicles. Normally it’s tucked away in the boot or the glove box.

You don’t need to paint lies on the side of a bus, purchase smoke bombs, create a flag, invest in copyright law, spend millions on broadcast advertising or even buy a computer; rather, by the simple act of extricating your gilet jaune and stuffing it above the binnacle, you’re supporting the movement.

I’d estimate 25% of the cars I saw during 500km of driving were displaying the gilet.

This movement has taken a matter of weeks and a total of zero Euros to gain the kind of momentum and meaning that no brand could dream of.

Macron has been forced to offer up €15bn, including a tax-free Christmas bonus, an increase in the minimum wage and pension relief. He’s proposed three months of negotiations with Les Gilets Jaunes. The movement has spread to Belgium, Netherlands, the European Parliament in Strasbourg (where the Italian Angelo Ciocca brandished a gilet) and as far away as Egypt.

The French have an expression jusqu’au-boutisme. It roughly translates as ‘pressing on to the bitter end’.

I would therefore advise any of you planning on visiting their nation over the next few weeks to extract your gilet jaune from the glove box and display it in your car window. I found that helped me negotiate my way around the burning tyres.

Leave a comment

Thank you for your comment - a copy has now been sent to the Mediatel Newsline team who will review it shortly. Please note that the editor may edit your comment before publication.

JohnLowery, Consultant, NA on 18 Dec 2018

I don't think we ever have 'control' over brand meaning - all we can do is nudge at it.

Look, for example, at how the VW logo got appropriated by the Beastie Boys and then drivers of Volkswagens all over the world found their badges had gone missing.

I'm not sure that had anything to do with 'If only everything was as reliable... '

gordoneuchler, head of planning, bbdo on 17 Dec 2018
“the simplest of branding devices have the ability to travel the furthest.
but there is a danger of losing control of their meaning. or is there a way to habe one without the other?”



Data from Mediatel Connected
Find out more about the UK's most comprehensive aggregator of media data.

Arrange a demo

Newsline Bulletins

Receive weekly round-ups of the latest comment, opinion and media news, direct to your inbox.

More Info