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21 October 2017 : Pica #015

Angela and the essence of a brand.

A brand is a small shard that reflects a much larger thing.

“Ask for Angela” is not a brand but it reminds us what a brand should be.

Kudos to Hayley Child. She is the Sexual Violence and Substance Misuse Strategy Coordinator for Lincolnshire County Council. In 2016 she devised a brilliantly simple idea that helps people who, while on a date, feel unsafe. 'Ask for Angela' is a code phrase that allows anyone to quickly and discreetly ask bar staff for help in the places that adhere to the system. What started as a poster displayed in the women’s toilets and a simple intervention protocol for bar staff in a handful of establishments in the Midlands has quickly spread around the world.
While reading about ‘Ask for Angela’ I realised that it has the attributes of a great brand. Allow me to elaborate.

‘Ask for Angela’ is a signifier.
In semiology ‘Ask for Angela’ is a signifier. It allows rapid and unobtrusive communication of the signified; ‘I’m in an uncomfortable maybe threatening situation and I need help’. When the speaker and the hearer both comprehend the relationship between the signifier and the signified the problem is expressed with just 12 letters. This economy of expression in communicating a concept is the prime function of a brand.

‘Ask for Angela’ fulfils a need.
The rapid and spontaneous adoption in many countries of ‘Ask for Angela’ is proof that, sadly, it does correspond to a need. Great brands satisfy existing needs or create a need they can satisfy. ‘Ask for Angela’ works because it is focused on a need and is true to it’s purpose.

‘Ask for Angela’ represents value.
The difference between ‘nice to have’ and ‘must have’ for a brand is the relationship between need and value. With ‘Ask for Angela’ all the stakeholders can share a common ‘anti-molesting’ value and see a personal advantage. The potential victim can quickly get assistance. The bar protects it’s patrons and projects a responsible image. The Council, who launched the initiative, protect their citizens.

For obvious reasons the code phrase ‘Ask for Angela’ changes as it is adopted in different languages, so it isn’t a global brand. But, it is a global concept that meets a need and represents value, so even if the signifier is always only local, in my opinion, it’s still a fine example of a great brand.


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