Sunday, August 17, 2008

Branding? Bank on the Given, the Known, the Recognizable

Click here to refresh your memory about Corleone, Sicily... Click here to see what it looks like today...

The story of one town's efforts came across my Google Alert this week from Even the Godfather's town is trying to figure out an identity.

Branding consultant passes up this small town assignment.

Maybe we should keep our name after all.

CORLEONE, SICILY, Dec. 16, 2003. This is the kind of rebranding story that could only happen in Italy. Corleone, a hill town south of Palermo, is the hometown of some famous real-life organized crime bosses, including Salvatore Riina, who ruled the Mafia until his arrest ten years ago. He's serving time for the 1993 bombings of the Uffizi, which killed five and injured 29, as well as for car bombings that same year in Milan and Rome. His heir-apparent, Bernardo Provenzano, also from Corleone, has been eluding Italian police for the last four decades.

According to some observers, Toto Riina made the characters in Mario Puzo's Godfather novels look like choir boys. But now, Antonio Di Lorenzo, a lawyer in Corleone, is collecting signatures for a referendum to change the town's name, claiming that the town's connection with the fictional Mafia family in Puzo's books and Francis Ford Coppola's movies is "an historic illness we have to cure."

But Di Lorenzo and the mayor of Corleone are not on the same page. Di Lorenzo wants the town to revert to the name it had hundreds of years ago, when it was called Cuor di Leone, or Lion's Heart. Mayor Nicolo Nicolosi thinks a name change would be "total rubbish."

Di Lorenzo says things are so bad that couples come from as far as Denmark just so they can say they got married in a Mafia town. "As an honest citizen, I can't tolerate this kind of stuff." And the mayor says that things are so good that couples come from as far as Denmark just so they can say they got married in a Mafia town.

The name may be good for business, too. Pippo Cipriani, a local official, didn't need any corporate branding advice. He was quoted as saying, "It's useless to deny that Corleone is a very powerful name, so we're in the process of registering it." The Corleone brand will be used for a line of dairy products from the town's creamery, which is in the process of being privatized.

Marketing Tip: If you don't like the brand and can't change it, then make some lemonade - and some cold hard cash! Seize the opportunity to build upon that which is well-known.

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