Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eye candy branding where process trumps empathy

When branding is demoted to becoming a “tick in the box” marketing task you know things are going badly wrong. I have just read a couple of articles that present different of explanations of what’s wrong with today’s branding and brand management.

The “Beyond Mad Men” article in brandchannel proposes the argument that today’s brand management isn’t a million miles away from the world portrayed in the TV series Mad Men. As a great fan of the series I think that the advertising industry is now a secondary to the personal sagas of the employees. Other than the contempt that agencies have for their clients I don’t see too many similarities to today’s agencies.

McKinsey takes a different line of argument. In classical McKinsey style it has lots of nice charts.
The article “A new world for brand managers” argues that CPG companies have created fragmented, overlapping structures that have tied up brand and category managers and others in key coordinating roles, crimping their vitality and value creation potential.
This chart gives an interesting insight (click on the image to see an enlarged version of the chart). Today’s brand managers have lots (maybe too many) technical and functional skills and not enough communicating and direction setting ability. That has a big ring of truth. This is summed up with the: “don’t bother me with the brand strategy argument I need to implement a social networking thingimijig.”

This brings me to the logo of Wiltshire council. I live in Wiltshire which is a really nice English county. Recently I needed to communicate with the council “Where everybody matters” and discovered it employs a “black hole” principle to residents’ communications (i.e. communications go in but nothing comes out). In all honesty, I doubt if Wiltshire is any worse than other public sector organisations where the term “customer service” is a politically incorrect phrase and never discussed – certainly not implemented.

At some point in time, somebody in the council must have gone through the process of ‘branding’ and out popped the pleasant green logo and the meaningless term “where everybody matters”. My fear is that there are more private sector companies than we would like to admit that employ this simplistic/mechanistic approach to branding. Somehow I reckon Don Draper would have come up with something a tad more inventive and meaningful. Dick Stroud

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