Chapter 4 - brand FUTURE NEWS
Robert Woodruff was Coca-Cola's great brand leader for much of the twentieth century. He had a special way with slogans. He focused the company's investment philosophy by declaring that managers must always ensure that Coca-Cola was "within arm's reach of desire". He foresaw this as a vital core competence in serving the impulsive, ie personally urgent, consumer need of refreshment that soft drinks cater to.
For Woodruff, advertising tag lines and slogans were more than mere consumer messages. They were deployed to turn his business visions for Coca-Cola into perceptions which became realities. Long before Coca-Cola was a truly international brand, Woodruff organised pride in the slogan that Coca-Cola was "the most friendly drink in the world". But the way Woodruff worked things, even greater leadership acts were to become embodied in an apparently more humble slogan "the pause that refreshes".
This advertising slogan was first used in the 1920s to put the brand into the diary of every American worker - whereas Europeans might have tea or coffee breaks, Woodruff institutionalised the idea that American workers should have Coca-Cola breaks. This national interpretation of Coca-Cola's meaning became so common that, just as Americans were preparing to enter World War 2, Woodruff lobbied the US War Office until the generals were persuaded that the essential meaning of Coca-Cola's slogan was a vital answer to "the extreme fatigues of battle". Coca-Cola thereby became the GIs mascot with the US War Office subsidising investments in Coca-Cola's manufacturing and distribution facilities to ensure the mission that wherever American GIs went, Coca-Cola would be there for them.
There is no strategic substitute for empowerment at the centre of brand control of people who:
·are passionate about product, and the service dimensions it can represent now, or for the future
·understand the concept of market exploration of global and local consumer needs
(Eg explore the subtlety of notions such as : people do not buy products, they buy solutions to a problem however fleetingly conceived. By moving into this realm of the imagination, it quickly becomes evident that buying decisions are triggered by global and local cultural interpretations which a brand must tenderly respect. And yet it must take the symbolic lead not the cultural lag)
·know how to interconnect the essence of the brand's past history of friendship with the future focus of products and services which the branded company foresees. This is the way to ensure that core products perpetuate a brand's marketing pathway. And through this process the company earns the right to keep on focusing its core competences so as to keep turning the perception of brand leadership into objective reality. Leadership is concerned with always being the reference point against which every would-be competitor gets judged.
Today more than ever, the soul of most world class brands resides in an organisation's service motivations and its core competences. It's worth repeating here one paragraph from an early review of the BBC for Business video "Branding - the Marketing Advantage". It encapsulates 90 minutes of footage of how marketing practitioners in the 1990s justify their right to brand:
"Both product quality and creative communications are important, but they are only temporary manifestations of branding. The really vital brand is one whose organising culture loves its end-consumers so much that all employees run and win marketing's equivalent of an Olympic marathon, only to pick themselves up as they cross the winning line in eager preparation for the next marathon. All this because of sheer pride not only in serving goods but what's really best for consumers - the leader who delights all customers by consistently setting new world records on quality and value".
Brand Charterers - and all great instinctive teamworkers on branding processes - see a duty to make the future happen in their brands' presence by asking such questions as:
·What sorts of products/services will our brand have or need to represent to be valued as a leader in a few year's time?
·What do we need to "do now" to accelerate the future?
·Who will we really be competing against and who do we want as partners to make the most of our added value chain?
·What fundamental discontinuities and changes will we need to leverage?
·How does all of this translate into the messages we need to communicate now?
In best practice form, the process of branding is an organisational instrument for "editing the future" from a true perspective of leadership. It creates and communicates an organisation-wide will to sustain a focused combination of core competences in order to deliver unique value. Try out a simple brainstorming exercise. What are the essential qualities of brand leadership which can unite all of a brand's audiences (beginning with the 3 C's : consumers, company employees, customers (in-between employees and end-consumers)? Simple things like:
·Focused direction of a leader - a brand organisation proud of where it has come from and where it is going to, but not arrogant in exaggerating its worth
·A company with an indomitable spirit in pursuit of achieving world records (quality/value)
·An identity which is unforgettable and easy to relate to
·A totality which feels worthy of trust
Add to this a second exercise. Imagine that you are a journalist interviewing a company's people in an attempt to evaluate its claims to be a world class brand. What organisational body language tells you whether brand leadership is real? Examples:
·real "buzz" and pride amongst employees
·consistently aligned motivation/vision is expressed by everyone you talk to
·evidence that customer service trend measurements are as much apart of the operating culture as financial performance measures
Built-in to the framework of Brand Chartering is a "living script" philosophy. By this we mean that persistent cross-checking of leadership purpose is a key organisational process for adding value. Two of the most important dimensions of brand leadership editing involve:
·envisioning a spectrum of future time horizons - the "then" and the "now"
Later chapters, eg chapter 8, make a particular point of cross-checking views of a brand held by people in a company's different departments and regional offices. We place particular emphasis on this because in our interviews with Japanese business people the most common advantage cited for companies of Japanese origin revolves round that of "internal marketing communications". We use this phrase instead of the simpler one of "consensus" because we now have a lot of evidence that scripting a brand organisation's "internal marketing communications" can be an even more complex challenge than that of its "external marketing communications". This is especially the case in companies which wish to take advantage of change. As we will see in Chapters 11 to 14, once companies rid themselves of the inertias of classic brand management systems, the growth opportunities of brand leadership are exciting to behold. This helps to explains why strong organisational leaders are those who instil a joy of change culture.
In order to ensure that Brand Charters possess actionable clarity regarding future time horizons, we take every opportunity to ask questions like:
·Where does this brand as leader need to be in 5 years time? And to achieve this what must you do now?
·Where does this brand as leader need to be in 3 years time? And to achieve this what must you do now?
We deliberately repeat these questions for different future time horizons to understand extent of brand vision, consensus on brand vision, the urgency and depth of practical details that must be prioritised for the "then" and "now" of brand leadership to intersect.
At the same time, other "do now" questions can be asked : eg to lead with this brand's essence in five years time, what sorts of potential partners should start to be sought now? It is important to clarify action-plans not just within the company but also in terms of networking. An increasing number of corporate processes, eg research and development, cannot be performed to world class standards by one company on its own. In other words, it is vital that an organisation foresees clear boundaries between what its core competences are not, as well as what they are. Meanwhile, proper leadership of the brand's added value chain may require "networking in" some skills that the company does not own, as well as leveraging those which it is excellent at.
In cross-checking the Charter as a living script, we will see that "do nows" may be prompted for specific depth at every "branding junction", ie through the particular focus which each chapter of this book provides. For practice - and because this is the first time that we have introduced the future dynamic fully - let's quickly revisit earlier chapters from a future-orientated perspective.
Chapter 1 - Brand Essence : because essence should be the core connecting message, it is vital to drive out any uncertainties people may have about future changes to a brand's essence. For example, if the view of brand essence for leadership in five years time is thought to be very different from today's brand essence:
1) verbalise the essence of today and the future
2) check to see whether a different verbalisation could connect the two
3) if real differences persist, recognise that this is a branding discontinuity which must be addressed as a strategic priority. An organisational consensus must be achieved on the real causes of this discontinuity, and then plans must be rehearsed as to what will be the best means to break the discontinuity to consumers in the most coherent way. In principle, you must find a communications mechanism which enables consumers to: ·interpret what they used to value in the old essence through the new essence
·feel that the leadership move you have made is in a direction they support
Discussing how competitive and environmental change drivers will create leadership challenges for you to overcome is also an essential part of editing a brand's living script.
|Iterative interpreting of a brand's essential future |
Looking forward and you actually do need to go out to the future and have a look at a few alternative futures and work backwards and see your current brand, what it stands for, what it means, how that stacks up against alternative futures - if you can do that then you actually have a chance of managing the brand successfully to get the future you want.
Chris Mole in the BBC for Business video "Branding - the Marketing Advantage"
Chapter 2 - Brand Identity : identity's multifaceted nature makes it one of the most dynamic mechanisms of the brand. Consequently, identifiers are usually the ally of brand news, and from time to time new identifiers may be invested in to be the messengers to the consumer of a changing aspect of the brand. However, there is a lot of execution leverage to be won or lost by timing how you phase identifiers in and out so as to help the consumer interpret brand news in the most pleasingly consistent manner.
Chapter 3 - Brand Heritage/Friendship : the following example indicates why this branding junction should constantly be cross-edited to create future values (in spite of what may at first reading seem to be a conflict of temporal terminology).
|Crafting the multi-faceted personality of Levi's|
Until quite recently, a view prevailed that brand campaigns achieved the most impact by being one dimensional. At the extreme the brand was still conceptualised as a product that was best supported by a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This did have the virtue of management simplicity, but truly powerful brand organisations now direct personalities with more intriguing breadth and depth.
Whilst Levi's has always thought of its friendship with consumers in more broadly empathic terms than purists of the USP school, it is only as the great Levis 501 campaigns have blossomed since the late 1980s that the brand has fully visualised the multifaceted personality it wants to be. Looked at from the consumer viewpoint, Levi's is now offering an a la carte menu of feelings which you may select to wear or to keep in your wardrobe. As the figure below shows, Levi's now has seven dominant character traits. No advertisement can meaningfully portray all of these. So in keeping the Levi's personality fresh and appealing as a youth brand, Levi's marketers and advertising agency Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty keep on choosing a "do now" selection of traits to be embedded in the next commercial in the epic Levi's 501 Serial.
|Figure 1 : Levi's Personality traits (rows) triggered by commercials in the campaign series (columns)|
Be passionate about creating news in the image and product/service reality of the brand. Use this to focus marketing of your added value pathway.
Know that true brand leaders are never afraid to accelerate change. This is the spirit needed to outrun every competitor.
Ask everyone who serves the brand to envision the "then and now" of where you want to be. Create an organisation that foresees competitive and partnership scenarios and takes advantage of changing conventional rules. In the midst of this, keep the faith with the brand's essential meaning:
·as a communicator both internally and externally
·as a creative fountain of knowhow
Turn the process of branding into an organisational instrument for editing the future. Encourage communal curiosity with "do now questions" - eg Do we agree where we want the brand to be in 3 years' time ? How do you interpret what you need to "do now" for us all to achieve this?
Develop a living script which can be acted on as a user-friendly road map highlighting topline news. Go for a one-page script not a bureaucratic tome.
Enjoy living the script as a teamworking community which knows why and how it is dedicated to leading its sphere of business to win for the consumer