Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone

Article excerpt

Last week an unlikely story began to unfold regarding the British Airways' London Eye. The South Bank Centre (SBC), which owns part of the land on which the 135m-high wheel is anchored, had attempted to increase the pounds 65,000 a year rent paid to it by the owners of the Eye.

Scurrilous stories began to circulate in the media. Lord Hollick, head of SBC, wanted a 1500% increase on the amount and would force the Eye to close unless his demands were met. One report suggested that the French intended to buy the disused Eye and ship it to Paris, where

it would be re-erected and used as a centrepiece for the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

By the end of last week sanity had gradually returned to the nation's capital. The whole episode had been a vastly exaggerated media circus full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Well, not quite.

Over the past 10 days something amazing has happened to the London Eye.

The threat to it, albeit fictional, has forced us to reassess the attraction culturally.

Over recent days we have learned that the Eye is 30m higher than the previous tallest wheel in Japan, and that by carrying more than 4m tourists each year, it is London's biggest-paying attraction.

We also learned that the Conservative opposition rated the Eye so highly that without it, London could not hope to win the Olympics in 2012 and that the Mayor of London believed the Eye had 'captured the imagination of people around the world and reinforced the image of London as a contemporary city'.

This is all in great contrast to the widespread rejection of the Eye in 2000 when it opened. The very same Conservative Party referred to it then as a 'white elephant'.

Even in the intervening years, as acceptance of the Eye has grown, the British public has hardly forged a strong relationship with the giant wheel on the South Bank.

The past 10 days have allowed us to learn something, not only about the London Eye, but also about marketing. It is one of the discipline's great paradoxes, but when you deprive, or threaten to deprive, a market of a product, it often responds far more favourably than when you provide it in maximal amounts. …

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