City & Gild: Is baring all bad for your brand?

Last week I found myself on a short-haul flight to Sweden, and forced to break with my long held belief that travel should be conducted in total silence when the person sat beside me tried to strike up conversation.

Now my normal mode on these occasions is to smile politely, shrug my shoulders as though I don'€™t speak their language but wished I did, and then slip my noise-cancelling headphones on. However, it quickly became apparent this person was not a good flyer (may have been the economy seat &€“ the recession has hit us all), so I humoured him and the conversation flowed. Until he felt it necessary to tell me all about his many medical conditions, at which point I was left cursing myself for breaking my rule, and wishing for turbulence or an emergency landing, in fact anything that would stop this fellow from offloading his personal information onto me.

Unfortunately for me, strapped in at 30,000ft, there was no way of escaping, except into my mind, where it struck me that, in this age of Twitter, Pinterest and selfies, the desire to bare all has gone mainstream. And brands are not immune to this either.

For example, I watched in mild horror the Channel Four documentary Inside Rolls-Royce. I couldn't understand for the life of me what on earth the esteemed manufacturer thought it had to gain by telling the public all about itself in a form of modern confessional. We all know its legendary attention to detail, so showing us that doesn'€™t alter our opinion. But seeing its people running around the showrooms with their shirts hanging out and serving lottery winners with more money than taste merely makes me want to buy a Bentley instead (as though that was ever an option).

I want Rolls-Royce to be like a serene swan floating on the Queen'€™s moat. The fact that its legs might be kicking frantically underneath is neither our concern nor interest. The loudest thing it should make is its dashboard clock. Not noisy TV shows.

It is the same with BBC 2'€™s A Very British Airline. As with Rolls, I have both a personal and professional interest in the BA brand, but I really don't need to know how its staff propped up dead people in their seats when they expired mid-flight. We all know the food is reheated, but do we really need to be reminded of this fact as we manfully struggle to plough our way through its chicken or fish?

To my way of thinking, unless you need to reinforce a lost value, or build new ones, then it is probably best to leave revealing too much about yourself to Big Brother contestants, and instead, travel quietly. I only wish the person in seat 18E thought the same.

Andrew Mulholland is the managing director of strategic branding consultancy The Gild, www.the-gild.com