When Your Brand Tells My Story – P&O’s 175th Anniversary

About four years ago I started looking at the future of brands. I wanted to explore in a series of articles what I felt was coming down the track – and to think through the implications from a branding point of view. I decided back then, that there were five key aspects that marketers would need to address:

  1. Play – how do we bring a sense of playfulness and engagement to brands – particularly in the “digital” space
  2. Micro – understanding the power of small interactions and the way these customer interactions crush the slow moving “big idea”
  3. Performance – what does it mean for a brand to “live” in a digitally-connected, always-on world
  4. Content – how content is at the heart of your brand (whether you know it or like it – or not)
  5. You – the personal dimension of branding – and what I now call “the social way”

Interestingly, I still hold these elements in my mind when I look through various campaigns and digital programs that flash across my various screens. And for better or worse, most advertising or the digital equivalent leaves me cold, detached, emotionally vacant. Every now and then I do, however, see cause for hope.

The P&O microsite celebrating 175 years of cruising history is one such ray of hope. There’s a touch of playfulness (and even some elements of the P-L-A-Y content model), micro interactions in the form of passenger stories and images, the potential for commentary and interaction, and a nice easy-to-use microsite.

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But this is still seems to be a brand under management rather than a truly “social brand”. Surely there are thousands of stories of P&O passengers that have already been shared on social sites like Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr or YouTube – could it have been possible to tap into what already exists? Perhaps orchestrating the permissions etc was beyond scope or budget … and yet, I wonder how a more open platform might have seen the number of submissions leap ahead – or generate more buzz around what is a great storytelling idea.


Contrast this, for example, to vibrant immediacy of the visual storytelling offered by This is Sydney Now. Drawing on the Instagram API, it shows in real time what is being tagged and shared on that photography-inspired platform. It’s voyeuristic, messy and highly addictive. To have your photo appear, all you need to do is to take a photo on a smartphone and include the geo-tag location information (a simple on/off option in the Instagram app).

Now imagine if there was 175 years of that sort of storytelling available? Now that would be a story to blow your mind.