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Saturday, December 31, 1988

 Rethinking brand management: the role of “brand chartering??

Chris Macrae, Mark David Uncles
The Authors
Chris Macrae, Price Waterhouse Coopers 1989-1997, BBC- Branding -Market Advantage,  Leo Burnett Brand Consultancy and Senior Visiting Fellow Bradford Management Centre, Bradford, UK, Enterprise IG WPP
Mark David Uncles, University of New South Wales and Bradford Management Centre, Bradford, UK
Acknowledgements
Our original experience in using brand chartering comes from work undertaken with World Class Branding Network, Leo Burnett Brand Consultancy, Coopers & Lybrand, and Bradford Management Centre. Additionally Chris Macrae through 1980s helped MIT/Harvard professors Silk/Urban (inventors of Express software) complete the first worldwide innovation databank with million plus hours of interview data- Chris was primarily responsible for Asian cases (My life's work privilege 60 visits to Asia researching peoples community needs). 
We are indebted to these organizations, and their clients, for their support and assistance.
Abstract
1990s: Brand managers face many challenges (including questions of brand strength, world-class culture, “glocal?? branding, seeded marketing channels, “service smart?? integration, brand architecture and brand organizing). A framework is presented for thinking about the challenges and how to deal with them. This process, called “brand chartering??, has three principal elements: creating and communicating the brand, managing the brand organization, and directing and structuring the brand. Illustrates how this framework is of help in management practice and shows how it can be used as a stool for organizational learning.
Article Type: Research paperKeyword(s): Brand chartering; Brand management; Organizational learning; Product strategy.Content Indicators: Research Implication - ** Practice Implication - ** Originality - ** Readability - **
Journal of Product & Brand ManagementVolume 6 Number 1 1997 pp. 64-77Copyright © MCB UP Ltd ISSN 1061-0421 . Book with Economist Intelligence Unit - Brand Chartering Handbook, Chris Macrae

The purposes of this article are threefold: first, to highlight some of the pressures facing those who are charged with the management of brands; second, to suggest a framework for thinking about these challenges and how to deal with them (“brand chartering”); and third, to illustrate how this framework is of help in management practice.

The tough world of brand management

Six years can be a long time in branding: 1988 was commemorated as the year of the brand (John Mickletwait/Chris Macrae); by 1994 times had changed to the extent that meditating over the death of the brand manager (Matthew Bishop/Chris Macrae) had become commonplace (Economist, 1988, 1994). What had happened over this period?

The symbolism of Marlboro Friday ensured that 1993 was the year when everyone started to question the added value of brands (Fortune, 1993). Brands might be regarded as valuable intangible assets, but - like all assets - their value could fall as well as rise. “Goodwill” could be lost as well gained. Ironically, Marlboro’s main marketing platform (as opposed to tobacco the product) did not really deserve this inquisition, but go into any supermarket today and see how many one-product brands are trying to retail at over 250 percent of the generic product price. Which if those brand's corporations need that budget to innovate for the customer?

Many business peoples are  led now have questions the valuation or health of brands, and to wonder whether certain companies had too many fragmented brands (a problem of brand proliferation), or not enough (giving rise to fears of inadequate market exposure). But perhaps the real lesson of the Marlboro experience was to highlight the fact that “world number ones” are coming under scrutiny as never before (de Jonquieres, 1993; Macrae 1994a, 1994b). The problems facing Marlboro (or the problems that were capturing the imagination of commentators) had become a matter of global interest and debate.

The following year was when various companies with world-class intentions - including Coca-Cola, Unilever and Intel - showed themselves to have communications processes that were some way short of strategically integrated or forward thinking “1994 will go down as the year when the gloves came off in international businesses”, declared an editorial in the Financial Times (1994a), “the fact is that markets for goods and services are becoming fiercer as they become global”.

Suddenly another world number one, Coca-Cola, was being humbled in the UK by an extraordinary line-up of competitors - Virgin, major supermarket chains, Cott, Royal Crown and Loblaw’s - many of which were working together through partnerships and very close trading relationships. After this event, few managers were prepared to deny that somebody somewhere could do a “Cott-Virgin” attack on at least one of their major businesses.

Internally, divisions of a company like Unilever have looked less than smart in learning to connect up the functions on which their integrated global branding processes depend. Recent marketing struggles such as the “soap war” over Unilever’s Power detergent, and the dispute between Intel and IBM, offer broader lessons for the brand manager. One interpretation was that these companies concentrated too much on competitive strategy and not enough on partnership strategy. Back in the 1980s Drucker (1982) started promoting the idea that companies would increasingly need to partner one another to take advantage of the way international businesses were becoming “glocal” (i.e. global and local simultaneously). But it was another ten years before many brand managers started to think in these terms.

Financial journalists have drawn attention to three general lessons from these events (Financial Times, 1994a, 1994b):

  • Global marketing is extremely challenging. To launch a brand more or less simultaneously across a continent, or the world (as is increasingly the trend in consumer markets), demands that companies attain levels of flexibility and focus that few have yet achieved. If something goes wrong in one national market, the chances are that the problem will spread rapidly, as Unilever has found to its cost.
  • Technology can be a marketing curse as well as a blessing. Companies seize on technological innovations in an attempt to develop unique selling propositions. Yet unless they subject their new products to the most rigorous testing - looking, as Unilever patently did not in the case of Power detergents, for flaws that a ruthless competitor might expose - the innovation might easily backfire. Even where technology is the only obvious selling point, as with Pentium chips, there is a risk that over-ambitious marketing claims, without adequate information, will simply confuse the consumer. How many PC users had worried about possible flaws in the inner workings of their computers until Intel started publicizing Pentium? How many users of soap powder noticed that washing damaged their clothes before Power came along?
  • Companies can no longer hide behind the carefully manipulated image of their product brands. Even giants like Unilever and P&G have learned that they must explain themselves and their activities more effectively to consumers and a wider public. Through multimedia and interactive global communications information is now widely available. Consumers appear to be more demanding than ever before and competitors are more ruthless.

Our own assessment from talking with management is that there are at least seven “brand change agendas” which are currently dominating thinking:



Brand strength

How to measure the strength of a brand, both financially and strategically? How to narrow the gap that often appears to exist between marketing and financial measures of strength? How to align measurement timeframes with performance timeframes? How to walk through future scenarios - from steady-state conditions to major discontinuities that are set to undermine or threaten the brand? How to leverage any “equity” that might be vested in the brand - through brand extension, product innovation, the creation of additional customer value, etc.? How to set priorities among these different options?



World-class culture

Getting to be the world number one - steady organic growth versus dramatic leaps forward. How to sustain this position, in the medium term at least. Having the right to lead, by providing vision and by being innovative. Creating a corporate environment which gives you room for maneuver and where you can set the agenda. Removing internal barriers and procedures which inhibit the development of a world-class culture.



“Glocal” branding

Balancing the demands of headquarters with those of local managers. Taking full advantage of local expertise, knowledge and information, without compromising global ambitions. Aiming to be a global player, while being attuned to local market conditions and while acknowledging the expertise of local managers. How the global model of brand management differs from local practices and norms.

The need to establish marketing partnerships and networks to take advantage of local and international knowledge, expertise and foresight. Creating flexible and adaptable organizations that can respond to opportunities, wherever they might appear.

Having real added value to offer consumers - locally and internationally. How to beat well-targetted indigenous brands, or partner them.



Seeded marketing channels

Inspired and creative ways of “getting goods to market”. Targetting opinion leaders and early adopters prior to the use of mass marketing communications. Effective use of direct communications in conjunction with mass media advertising and mass distribution. The development and exploitation of new means of communication and new channels of distribution - from interactive media to buying clubs, joint ventures and co-development of new channels.



“Service smart” integration

Maintaining relationships with consumers - for instance, by trying to bring about a lifetime focus, by introducing two-way feedback loops, by using more direct communication tools. Also, ensuring that employees see the importance of customer relations. Motivating and rewarding those employees who take heed of this. Creating a virtuous circle whereby “smart service” results in sales/margin growth, which in turn funds “smarter service” and which gives rise to “customer delight”.



Brand architecture

How best to configure a portfolio of brands. Whether to opt for a product branding strategy, or develop umbrella brands, or rely on corporate/banner branding. Culling or refocussing brands where there has been excessive proliferation. Emphasizing the corporate brand as an expression of the organization’s vision, mission, and values. How to exploit corporate reputation. Providing direction from the top. Having new rules for external and internal brand management. Brand partnership strategies and co-branding - architectures that build bridges between organizations and that re-define markets.



Brand organizing

Use of chartering (described below) or equivalent processes for teamworking. Integration of strategies across functional areas and across divisions. How to get the best from brands and other intangibles, bearing in mind the core competences of the organization and its personnel. CEO-led responsibility for brand organization. How to implement necessary changes and minimize unnecessary disruption. Ongoing monitoring and review processes - moving toward a culture that values organizational learning.

Managers who fail to appreciate the significance of these agendas are in danger of going to the wall. As Hamel and Prahalad (1994) have stressed, companies can no longer afford to invest heavily in branding processes unless corresponding implications for decision making by executives are fully understood. This suggests that there will be no place in the future for companies which isolate executive decision making on corporate strategy from their investment in brands, nor for those which fail to anticipate which organizational and environmental factors will have the most impact on the branded business. The McKinsey Quarterly has advanced similar arguments - world-class companies must “earn the right to brand”, they ought to think more strategically, and responsibility for brand management should shift up the organizational hierarchy (George, et al. 1994).

These experiences bring into sharp relief the pressures facing brand managers in recent times. For this reason we see this as an opportune time to reexamine where the classical theory and organizational practice of brand management is up to the job of competing for the future, and where it fails. This continues the debate kindled by Low and Fullerton (1994) in their authoritative evaluation of the brand manager system and by other observers of the system (Brady and Davis, 1993; Coopers & Lybrand, 1993; Shocker et al., 1994; Uncles, 1995; Webster, 1992).



Brand chartering

Given the brand change agenda listed above, it would seem that a more holistic approach to brand management is needed than hitherto. This is easier said than done, but we suggest one way to approach this is through “brand chartering” (Macrae, 1996a; Mitchell, 1996; Rubinstein, 1995). This process encourages managers to think about different aspects of brand management, helps them isolate major problems, and indicates where action needs to be taken.

Three principal processes are identified: first, creating and communicating the brand; second, managing the brand organization; and third, directing and structuring the brand. Within each of these processes there are five themes, or vantage points, which encourage you to think creatively about your brands and their management. This framework is called the “brand chartering thoughtpad” (Figure 1).

The first process looks at creating and communicating the brand. It involves thinking about how certain products, services and organizations can be branded so that they offer value to consumers and customers, as well as bringing in a return for the brand owner. This, in turn, means understanding the essence, identity and heritage of brands - as communicated by brand owners and as perceived by buyers. The dual focus on internal and external aspects of brand management has led to a wealth of academic research in this area (notably Aaker, 1996 and Kapferer, 1992).



Brand essence

What is the core of the brand? What binds the whole brand together? What are the salient attributes of the brand and do you have them in abundance? To what extent are they sustainable?

The essence of Comfort fabric conditioner is softness (“softness is a thing called Comfort”); Lenor also talks of softness, but it alludes to freshness and a pleasing aroma as well. These attributes help to define Comfort and Lenor in what is basically an undifferentiated market. The worry for their owners is that these attributes are tenuous, and are only sustained by heavy expenditure on advertising. The brands survive, but not without own labels encroaching on their turf.

Similarly, the beer market is replete with brands that show few distinctive features - Castlemaine XXXX, Fosters, Carlsberg, Carling. There are exceptions. Boddingtons is distinctively “cool, creamy and pure” - an essence that might at first seem more appropriate for Philadelphia cream cheese than a Mancunian bitter. As a premium lager, Stella Artois has created a very different kind of essence - it sees itself as the lager that is “reassuringly expensive”.

Defining the essence of a service business can be equally difficult. Most banks and building societies, for instance, offer similar products and there is little to tell them apart - except their size and presence on the high street. In the 1980s Halifax Building Society discovered that its essence was perceived to be “bigness” - was this truly distinctive, was this sustainable given the reshaping of financial markets, was this enough for an organization in the process of turning itself from a mutual building society to a broadly-based financial services company? The Halifax “X” campaigns (“get a little Xtra help”) have attempted to create an essence that goes beyond bigness.

Perhaps smaller players have an advantage here; they can offer a more distinctive image to the world. The ethical stance of Co-op Bank is a case in point, (IPA, 1995), but most so-called niche players remain small and the Co-op Bank is no exception.

Most telling of all is what would people - consumers, channel customers, company employees - miss if the brand did not exist? Merger activity shows that we have the ability to adapt, and forget, very quickly. The N&P brand has been subsumed within Abbey National without a sense of national loss. Access - whose “flexible friend” advertising has been prominent for a decade - is fading fast as we turn to Mastercard.



Identity

What signs and symbols do consumers recognize in the brand? Which of these uniquely remind people of the brand?

See the keystone and “57 varieties” and we all know the product is from Heinz. See the “golden arches” and we all think of McDonald’s. See a red triangle and the hallmark of Bass comes to mind. These signs and symbols are recognized with ease. Uniqueness, however, can be elusive - it is hard to achieve and even harder to protect and sustain. As Coca-Cola found when faced with an onslaught from lookalike cans. Pepsi’s radical response was to violate the category norms by turning blue.

Even where there are recognizable signs and symbols, are they being leveraged? Is the symbolism being extended geographically and across industries? Or is it anchored to a narrow single-market product platform? Gold Blend offers an example of what can be achieved - the “sophisticated romance” theme has been used in the UK, the USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Chile, France and Australia - all essentially using the same “mini-soap-opera” idea to give the brand an identity.

Conversely, what is not core? What is redundant? Is the Bambi on a bottle of Babycham core or noncore? Presumably the beefeater on Beefeater is core, but is that equally true of the monk on bottles of Frangelica? Do we even recall the N&P bee now that there is no N&P building society? Heinz, on entering the Russian market, has retained the keystone symbol, but left off references to “57 Varieties” - Russian consumers would not know how to decode the symbolism.

If the signs and symbols are being leveraged, do they support the core brand or is the process of leveraging the identity in danger of causing damage?



Heritage

What carries over from past relationships with consumers? What is the impact of heritage on the current and future prospects of specific brands? For some it means familiarity and trust - Uncle Toby’s cereals, Green Giant peas, Marlboro man - but for others it is faded glory - Atora suet for instance. Some brands astutely combine heritage with freshness. The smart blue bottles of Harvey’s Bristol Cream convey a sense of modernity while alluding to the heritage of blue glass making in Bristol.

That heritage can be a double-edged sword is confirmed by the fact there is no one-to-one relationship between brand longevity and market performance. Colgate toothpaste is almost 70 years old in the UK market, but Euthymol has been around even longer (since 1898) - the former has a 1 percent share, the latter a 22 percent share. Other long-standing brands have fared differently. Once-popular Close-Up is no longer sold in the UK. Gibbs SR - which had a 16 percent share in the 1960s - had only a 4 percent share by the early 1990s (Ehrenberg, et al., 1994).

How do these connections between products and consumers become part of the social and cultural fabric? Some of the most powerful meanings may not even appear to be connected to brands. Why are diamonds (instead of some other substances) so widely recognized as an essential symbol of marriage? Because of convention, but also because De Beers has consistently marketed them as such. Indeed, their global advertising has had to come to terms with the fact that the convention is not present in many markets, especially in Asia. Why is champagne the drink for celebrations? Because the champagne houses in Reims cooperated to embody this symbolic meaning in their product.

As these examples show, to a degree “heritage” is created, or manufactured. Occasionally this is explicit. The Independent newspaper had the feel of a long-established broadsheet in its very first issue. Phileas Fogg wrote history onto their product descriptions and packaging. Carr’s biscuits have rediscovered their origins and now proudly share the story with consumers.



Future news

What has to be done to keep the brand newsworthy or, at the very least, to ensure consumer awareness? What sorts of products/services are we hoping to create for five to ten years hence, and how can we brand these?

This is not simply about changing the advertising jingle. The product itself must stay fresh. Most established toothpaste brands have evolved through a variety of newsworthy innovations - the introduction of fluoride, an emphasis on gum protection and tarter control, new caps and new tubes, and the rediscovery of bicarbonate toothpaste. These innovations have been necessary, if only to ensure the survival of brands in the face of me-toos, lookalikes and own labels.

The story is the same across product categories. There is a continual need to innovate, freshen and enliven brands, if only to keep one step ahead of own labels. In the fabric conditioner market refill packs gave an advantage for a while. The ground then shifted to line extensions. Lenor, in the late 1980s, was second player in the UK market - it then launched three new “freshness” line extensions - to their existing Spring line was added Summer, Alpine and Tropical. This provided news and helped Lenor secure a position in what had become a mature and saturated market.

The rush to theme pubs - Firkin, Bulldog, Irish, Aussie - is motivated by the same concerns: the desire to innovate, the wish for something fresh, and the search for news.



Performance measurement

How do we measure our essence, identity and heritage? How do we set goals and measure these? How do we know we have achieved our ambitions?

All of our activities take place within a competitive arena, so how do our communications compare? In practice it is hard to stand out from the crowd - the norm appears to be competitive parity (Ehrenberg and Uncles, 1996). Those who do break away from the crowd - and survive - are invariably pursued by a host of imitators. When K Cider was launched onto the UK market it was hailed as the first of its kind - the bottle shape and texture was unique, the strength was high and the quantity was short - now, ten years on, designer ciders, beers and lagers are commonplace and this sub-market bears all the hallmarks of competitive parity. Under these conditions we have to be very careful what we mean by performance measurement.

The second aspect of brand chartering relates to a set of issues to do with managing the brand organization. Decision making, often under pressure for urgent action, needs to balance short-term and long-term perspectives, and have a consistency of purpose. Organizational issues are to the fore, as acknowledged by at least some marketers (e.g. Low and Fullerton, 1994; Knox, 1994).



Master briefing

Media are changing - traditional media are fragmenting, new media are emerging (cable, satellite, Internet/WWW, sponsorship deals, loyalty schemes, database marketing). How do we choose among such abundant forms of media? How do we ensure consistency across these media? What jobs are the different media channels doing? How do we bring about global consistency in our messages? Are the communications messages sufficiently flexible for both local and global markets?

Dramatically, Britvic’s sparking orange drink, Tango, has created a name for itself through powerful media advertising (including shock-tactic DRTV - Direct Response Television - campaigns), graphics on the can, and Internet/WWW presence. But what happens now that Tango is moving into Continental Europe - can they adopt the same strategy in the Spanish and Italian markets, say? Is the imagery relevant in other cultures? Are the media appropriate?



Quality and value

How do we achieve consistency in the perception of our quality and value-for-money? Is the balance between quality and value right? What could undermine this balance? What would be the impact of major discontinuities - such as a price war, a technological breakthrough, or a sharp rise in supplier costs? How is consistency to be achieved in service organizations where the human element is crucial yet highly variable?

Here is how Sim Kay Wee of Singapore Airlines puts it: 

The most important thing about training is that you don’t just focus on technical training, but on the softer aspects too. For example, you can train a stewardess to pour a cup of coffee for a passenger. The technical aspects of that are to make sure it doesn’t spill, the cup is in the right position and all that. But we add to that soft training which is about attitude: a warmth, a friendliness, the anticipation behind pouring that cup of coffee (BBC, 1995).

A further challenge is to achieve consistency across a variety of products and services - a challenge faced by organizations like M&S which have an equal commitment to clothes and food retailing, and who have a high street presence in such disparate locations as Keighley, central London and Hong Kong. Also, where the retail chain is large it is impossible to renew all the physical fabric at once, so customers are presented with a patchwork of the new and old. International expansion gives rise to further problems - not least the fact that completely separate companies may share similar brand names - for instance, both Safeway and Woolworth are organizationally distinct in the UK, the US and Australian markets.



Team networking

Is every department contributing to the success of the brand? Are experts sharing their experience and knowledge, or are they operating from functional bunkers? What would enhance teamwork?

The issue here takes us beyond teamworking - which is now commonplace within leading companies - to team networking. That is, employees from different offices or companies working as partners in developing added-value chains of business at global and local levels. How, for example, will partners of General Magic - including Apple, AT&T, Motorola, Philips and several Japanese firms - organize their network of employee relationships? How will the team be led? At the very least there must be mutual respect, a willingness to learn from one another, and an ability to synthesize the knowledge of different experts. This is how communications processes become more than the sum of their parts.



Umbrella connections

Are we making full use of umbrella and banner brands? Are we essentially managing a variety of product brands (as in Unilever and P&G) or a portfolio that aggregates into a coherent corporate brand (as 3M is attempting to do)? Do marketing managers understand how the “rules of targeting” must be balanced by the “rules of connecting”?

Nivea is famous as a soothing/caring skin cream. In the 1990s its potential as an umbrella brand was realized for the first time, notably for a wide range of high added-value skin-care products and sub-branded ranges such as Nivea “Visage”. The distinctive characteristics of Nivea were retained - simplicity, purity, royal blue-and-white livery - while extensions were made into skin care and neighbouring categories.

McVities faced a very different situation. It already had a range of brands. Here the task was to use umbrella branding as a way to provide some glue - to have the consumer realize that Taxi comes from the same reliable stable as Penguin. Similar motives underlay moves by 3M to consolidate and rationalize their brand portfolio around the 3M banner (BBC, 1995; Uncles, et al., 1995).



Performance measurement

We have to go beyond conventional measures of brand performance - market share, consumer attitudes, customer loyalty, financial valuation - to consider management per se. But how exactly do we measure quality, value-for-money, effective use of media, information flows across the organization, etc.? How do we set goals and measure these? If teamwork is a goal, how do we appraise managers for their contribution in the medium term as well as the short term? How do we know we have achieved our ambitions?

The third group of questions relate to directing and structuring the brand. This demands that attention be paid to corporate leadership, core competences, and organization-wide abilities, as well as having the willingness to learn how to take advantage of change (Hamel and Prahalad, 1994; Macrae, 1996a).



Brand architect

What is the role of your brand within the brand architecture? What architecture is best for your business? Should you operate at a corporate, sub-brand or product level? Car manufacturers continually face the dilemma of how far to push brand marketing. Renault is recognized as a corporate brand, the Clio is advertised as a distinct brand within the portfolio, but this does not extend to individual models. Is this an appropriate architecture? Given the time-critical nature of new car sales, and the importance of newness, can we really call Clio a brand?

How does your architecture compare with that of competitors? Is it suitably flexible to lead your sphere of business, whatever types of world-class competition emerge over the next few years? Which employees may feel threatened if you change your brand architecture? How might their fears be allayed?



Strategy architect

Do you have the right core competences to manage your brand in the desired way? How does this fit with your overall corporate competences? Who will be your competitors - past, existing and future? Who will be your partners? What strategic alliances, partnerships and networks should you enter into?

Who threatens traditional financial services companies in today’s marketplace? Is it the building societies, as they abandon their mutuality status, or global credit card operators like Mastercard, Visa and American Express, or perhaps Virgin’s moves in PEPs and life products are a greater threat. Will strategic alliances ensure the survival of more traditional companies, such as the twinning of M&S and Norwich Union, and of NatWest and Tesco, or does this simply turn banks into own label suppliers? The paradox of competition and simultaneous partnership is evident.

What if you are a public service broadcaster - BBC, PSB, or ABC - who are your competitors and prospective partners? There are plenty of strategic options: Murdoch’s Sky TV, Turner’s CNN, Asia’s Zee TV; also AT&T, BT, Cable & Wireless; possibly Microsoft. Perhaps new strategic alliances are the way forward - BBC, Open University, and the National Geographic. What we are seeing here is amoeba-like growth as the interests of broadcasters, telecoms operators and communications companies coalesce (Lynch and Lundquist, 1996). Questions of this kind are increasingly having to be addressed by all types of organization, not just those working in technologically advanced areas.



Organizing architect

Are the links between your mission/culture/values dovetailed with your brand? There is a need for broadly consistent messages and a need to be organized for this, but how does this fit with your culture? Have you fully explored partnership strategies as well as competitive strategies?



Drama of leadership

Is the task of brand management motivating enough? Does everyone in the business team understand what is trying to be achieved and what needs to be done? There needs to be a clear sense of direction and purpose, but then who is responsible for the brand’s goals - junior single-product managers or senior general managers? Indeed, who owns the brand - the manufacturer, the trade, the advertising agency, the consumer - or is it more appropriate to see these as stakeholders, any one of whom might provide leadership?

Strong brands are not only managed, they are always led. They cultivate a sense of purpose within the organization, especially among those charged with directing the brand and among those who present the public face of the brand. In a typical service organization, if your sales assistants and counter-clerks are unaware of the branding message (or uninspired by it) your customers are unlikely to second-guess the message - essence, identity, heritage and future news will fall by the wayside. Renewed interest in employee branding and internal marketing by PepsiCo, Courage and the Halifax illustrates how companies are taking this issue to heart.



Performance measurement

In addition to questions raised earlier, how are these processes implemented to bring about the desired effects? How are priorities set? Are world-class organizations setting the right goals - should they be cost-cutting or value-adding? Are measures of team performance well aligned with specific goals for the brand?

How are measurement tools to be modified, given the shift in branding responsibilities up the organizational hierarchy?



Brand chartering in action

Although the 15 vantage points are interesting to explore in their own right, brand chartering really comes into its own when: first, connexions are made between the different elements, and, second, this is undertaken within the context of organizational learning. Specifically, in order to improve the process of brand management, executives are encouraged to explore “brand junctions” and then write a “living script” for their brands.

Connexions between the different elements open up new vistas, which can give rise to new ways of looking at old problems and point to new creative solutions. Within the context of organizational learning, the aim is to encourage teamwork, usually in workshops.

One typical workshop exercise asks managers to do the following. Consider your biggest branding problem today. Navigate over the boxes on the brand chartering thoughtpad (Figure 1), using a tick, cross or question mark to indicate where your opportunities and problems lie. Ask somebody else to navigate the same thoughtpad, or ask all members of the marketing team to undertake the exercise. You may deduce from their differences of opinion that the problems are mainly organizational. This might be seen as problematic because sustainable brand teamworking will involve time and effort. People will have to be drawn out of their departmental silos and hierarchical closets. Nevertheless, most branding problems today are within the power of their organizations to solve.

The advantage of using brand chartering in this way, rather than as a personal checklist, is that it encourages the whole marketing team to see branding as an integrated and innovative business process. In the absence of such teamwork the process of brand management is likely to fragment, leaving individuals with isolated insights, unrelated sources of added value, poor conceptualization of the critical challenges facing brands, and piecemeal and reactive responses to new threats.

Our catalogue of experiences in using brand chartering is varied already. Some executives have been happy to seek internal consensus on the brand process by considering one vantage point at a time. Typically, they start with brand essence or brand identity. Others have given us briefs which are far more strategic than we expected, but only after they have been introduced to the main elements of directing and structuring the brand. In one case, we were asked to reduce a portfolio of 15 brands down to three, and then generate “living scripts” for the three survivors. That required a lot of corporate learning, and a considerable amount of facilitation time.

Once a suitable structural format for chartering has been decided, questions and answers can fly quick and fast. But only if the organization is prepared to work outside traditional functional areas and if it is willing to encourage networking among its staff. This is by no means a new message - it is the basis of much of the thinking on organizational learning (Senge, 1990) - but hitherto it has run counter to the structures and procedures of conventional (tactical) brand management.

Earlier we noted Unilever’s problems in 1994. By way of illustration we return to this example, specifically the controversy surrounding Persil Power. This brand, with a manganese accelerator, was claimed to be the outcome of a core strategic investment, but the launch soon turned sour once it became apparent that the new brand wore out fabrics (at a faster rate than existing detergents). There were several black spots on the thoughtpad:

  • Future news. By 1987 it was clear to most people working in the detergents industry that the next great technological breakthrough would be a micro powder. Kao Corporation had just launched a micro powder in Japan called Attack which took up four times less space than competing products. It had taken under a year to overthrow Japan’s previous market leader. The world-class potential was evident - retailers saw an advantage in needing less shelf space, and consumers found smaller packs easier to carry home and thought them more environmentally friendly. Innovation was critical to future success in this category, so understanding Attack’s product form was at the top of the agenda for any world class competitor.
  • Team networking. Unilever’s explanation for having to reformulate Persil Power within weeks of the European launch was that a mistake had occurred somewhere between research and marketing. It seemed that in the critical period prior to the launch the flow of information between departments had been deficient.
  • Strategy and organization. Unilever were expected to take a view on the future and ensure that everybody in the organization rallied behind this view. The PR rhetoric implied that this had been achieved - in the words of Unilever’s Andrew Seth: “This is the biggest step I can remember in the last 30 years. Persil is the heart and soul of the Lever business, and this is the powder of tomorrow”. But it seems that in practice strategy and organization were misaligned. Future news was clear-cut but team networking was deficient.

Had there been integrated teamworking, the risks associated with some of the organizational black spots could have been reduced. As it was, Unilever’s co-chairman, Sir Michael Perry, was forced to conclude that this incident was “The greatest marketing setback we have seen”. From our perspective, brand chartering helped to clarify where the opportunities and black spots lay, and pointed to where action needed to be taken.

For your organization the black spots may be totally different. Your brands may have no technical deficiencies, but perhaps they lack character and the packaging and advertising lacks imagination - in which case the relevant questions are to do with brand essence, identity and the master briefing. Perhaps the tactical nature of traditional brand management is stifling enterprise and innovation. Maybe the problem is the struggle over resources that follows in the wake of fragmented brand proliferation - with each manager fighting for a share of the marketing cake. How these issues are addressed also may depend on whether you start from the standpoint of a large unitary organization (British Gas, BBC, British Airways), or a multi-divisional, multinational, multi-product company (P&G, Allied Domecq, Bass, Grand Metropolitan) - in this way we see how brand architecture is inextricably linked with strategic architecture.



Brand chartering in a dynamic world

What is the future potential of brand chartering? The framework is already being used in executive workshops and in more formal educational contexts (such as with Masters students working on branding case studies). Most recently we have explored the potential of Internet/WWW applications (Macrae, 1996b; MELNET, 1996). MELNET, the Web site, is organized around the brand change agenda and the chartering thoughtpad. It has been written to have many features of a facilitator - questions are asked, key references are summarized, further sources of information are quoted. While distance learning of this type cannot replace the spontaneity and drama of a workshop, it certainly encourages users to think through their own brand-related problems and challenges.

We also feel that brand chartering - in general - develops several themes addressed in other papers in this special issue (de Chernatony, 1996; Knox, 1996; Uncles, 1996). For instance, de Chernatony uses taxonomies, administered to each and every member of a brand team, to elicit their perceptions, generate discussion, and move towards a more coherent view of the brand and of the challenges facing managers. This is close in spirit to our approach, although characteristically brand chartering is more open-ended and to a far greater extent it interconnects with all other core business processes.

Ultimately the aim is to help brand managers. The chartering framework brings together disparate themes and gives some coherence to the swirl of issues, pressures, problems and opportunities facing management. It offers a more holistic approach. Along the way we may obtain a better understanding of the processes involved and be more prepared for future challenges.





Figure 1 Brand chartering thoughtpad

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