Phone Booth = Power Brand? 3 Marketing Lessons From an 86-Year Old Success Story

The red phone box is more than just a conversation piece. It’s an enduring treasure. Just imagine the streets of many cities without it.

Upon closer inspection, your marketing approach should mirror the continued success of the red phone box. In fact, there are three key marketing lessons we can learn from the red phone box approach to business.

A phone booth was once considered a modern convenience, but that isn’t the case anymore.

And while technology and cell phones have made the phone booth nearly extinct, the red phone boxes remain, often taking on new life in many diverse and exciting ways.

Why? It’s a testament to the power of an iconic and expansive brand.

First, a little background: The red telephone box, a public telephone kiosk designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924 is a familiar sight on the streets of the United Kingdom, Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar.

While the original started in Britain, red phone booths have also been spotted in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and Israel and in several states in the U.S.

According to the archives of British Telecom, in 1980 there were an estimated 80,000 red phone boxes throughout the United Kingdom. trans 3 Timeless Branding Lessons from the Red Phone Box

Clearly, the red phone box as a “power brand” has stood the test of time, something of a rarity today. So what can we learn from its success? Here are three “take it to the bank” takeaways…

Lesson #1: A superior brand builds an emotional connection
The red phone box was born of functional roots. Not only was it a phone booth, many boxes also dispensed stamps. And yet even as the use of phone booths waned, the red phone box has become a beloved part of both the culture and the landscape.

As such, when threatened with demolition, the populace rallied, sought and won many phone boxes being declared historical landmarks.

Conversely, if the red phone box were seen as representing a faceless telecom company, no such emotional connection would have been possible and the red phone boxes would have ended up in the trash heap years ago.

Lesson #2: A superior brand can overcome perceived (and real) obsolescence
Does anyone use a phone booth anymore? Especially since mobile phones are so common? So why are the red phone boxes still here? Here’s one reason why: because the brand was more powerful and enduring than the original function and purpose of the actual box to begin with.

The red box is seen as part of the cultural landscape. So while some boxes have been declared historical landmarks, others have evolved into Internet kiosks and one into a book exchange/mini-library.

In essence, the brand, representative of the red color, shape and crown, was deemed more valuable than the function it was originally intended for.

Lesson #3: A Superior brand can bridge geographical and cultural barriers
The countries and locales mentioned earlier in this article had a choice with their phone booths and boxes. They could have designed and painted them differently.

Yet, they choose the iconic red box. In so doing, the red phone box design bridged different languages, cultures and environments.

In fact, telephone kiosks are manufactured as flat-packs by commercial vendors and are shipped around the world for installation in such places as bars, restaurants and offices.

Obviously, these uses are not as functioning phone boxes and yet fully representative of the brand, its mystique and remarkable staying power.

What does this have to do with Online PR and Publicity?

Plenty. Especially if your product, service or company could benefit from accelerated visibility. Online PR and publicity is one of the most effective and credible methods to gain mindshare and visibility of your brand. And more.

And like the red phone box, Online PR and publicity can overcome geographical and cultural barriers, as well as help successfully define and differentiate your brand and positioning.

Again, what made the red phone box such a success was transforming the generic and common into a brand with personality. (Red is a color of action and attention – look no further than stop signs as to a reason why.)

For your purposes, it means your publicity needs to be story-driven. Always strive to craft the narrative that will win you positive publicity and exposure while building that connection with your audience. Following the three lessons mentioned in this article will help your marketing and Online PR rise above the competition.

Got PR 2.0? Visit for the latest Online PR tips, trends, tools and techniques – on a time budget. Marc Harty is an Online PR expert, professional speaker, Internet marketing strategist and CEO of MainTopic Media, Inc.

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