If your brand were a person, what would the upshot be?

Later this week, I’ll be hosting a workshop for the Chartered Institute of Marketing in London on the ways in which marketing communication is changing. It’s a chance to give professionals in the field an overview of new media and techniques. Everything, in fact, from blogging and podcasting through to guerrilla advertising and alternate reality gaming. Should be fun.

While preparing material for the course, I chanced upon a brand called Upshot Energy – an American drink that packs a lot of power in a small bottle. Upshot have been doing quite a number of interesting things recently, including miniature rock concerts where they crammed a band into a tiny lorry and took them out on the road. Lots of energy, you see, in a small space. Passers-by could watch the musicians perform through glass panels.

Even more interesting is Upshot’s appropriation of myspace.com. Of course, they aren’t the first business to have seen the potential of so-called social media, but their page at www.myspace.com/upshotenergy is interesting on two levels. First, they’ve very successfully adapted to the milieu of the myspace crowd through their extravagant and garish approach to graphic design. Just as importantly, however, they’ve also managed to create a personality for themselves. They unashamedly declare themselves to be a 25-year-old female living in Santa Cruz. Just the kind of person, I would hazard a guess, who typifies their key target audience.

This reminds me of the kinds of questions that get asked at focus groups. If this car were a celebrity, which celebrity would they be? If this celebrity were a car, what kind of car would they be? Brain teasers like this are beloved of agency planners and market researchers as they often reveal surprising things that will never come out in a straightforward discussion. Usually you find out quite unpleasant things that you’d rather not have heard. What Upshot are, in effect, saying is that brands can actually become people on the web. All they have to do is act like an individual rather than a product or a business.

We discover that Upshot would love to meet Mini-Me from Austin Powers and trade blows with martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Her star sign is Cancer and she describes herself as a swinger. All in all, she has a more rounded personality than many of her fellow myspace contributors and you can’t help feeling that it would be nice to meet up with her sometime real soon.

Hey, maybe next time I’m over in Monterey Bay? It would be like so cool to call Upshot up and head to The Wharf and like chill together.

© Phil Woodford, 2007. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford lectures in advertising at the University of Westminster in London and teaches copywriting and creative writing at University of the Arts London. www.philwoodford.com