Chapter 9 : brand UMBRELLA CONNECTIONS
Every manager wants to meet performance goals set by the company (s)he works for. Moreover, every manager wants to be seen by peers, bosses and subordinates to be doing the right thing. But, do those who organise the roles and responsibilities of brand managers take account of these basic human motivations? Who helps whom when it is time to implement new practices across the whole organisational process of branding? We will keep on asking these questions in the remainder of this book.
|The threat of overbranding
By overbranding I mean that until a few years ago, particularly if you were an fmcg company - foods, toiletries things like that - the way to develop markets was within country and within product category. So you had a different brand in each country and product category and that was the level at which brands were operated. But now business competition is going truly international; most brands have become so fragmented that they really do not have any share of voice in the global public's minds; so the result is that having hundreds and hundreds of separate brand channels actually puts the company at disadvantage.
The real key is the legacy and history of how brands have been managed in the 1970s and 1980s. Many companies are now saddled in the 1990s with huge portfolios of small minority brands which do not justify themselves and are not supportable economically in the current communications environment nor on any future competitive scenarios. Extracts from BBC for Business video "Branding - The Marketing Advantage"
In the previous chapter we suggested that winning brand organisations will pioneer internal teamworking cultures so that brand processes flow reassuringly as smart service relationships with consumers and customers. The revolutionary topic of this chapter is at once more simple and more complex. Most of the literature and inherited conventional wisdom from the era of classic brand management used a vocabulary of marketing that was all about targeting at and propositioning to consumers. A proper frame for thinking about powerful umbrella branding turns many conventional rules of thumb outside in. Out goes the selling proposition, in comes sustainable marketing of a leader's purpose. Instead of being conditioned to respond like targets, a different world of consumer interpretations evolves with perceptions of all the valuable "connections" which a smart brand relationship cultivates.
Strong umbrella brands need to embody top level values like delightful service process, world-leading competence and trust guaranteed by the corporate reputation. This poses extraordinary challenges for those companies which need to changeover from a history of investing in product-based brand equity to higher level equity platforms for brand organisation.
Structurally this chapter begins with a short history of what mental baggage marketing people no longer need to carry. Then we start to catalogue how umbrella brand campaigns help consumers to make connections with smart relationships of a longer, deeper and broader sort than a locally presented product brand.
Unfortunately, we now have to recognise an episode in marketing history where many marketing and advertising people have set to sea - like the owl and the pussy cat of Edward Lear - in a beautiful pea green boat. One which is now sailing into history and must therefore be quickly jettisoned by those who want to enjoy the future of brand organisation.
Most of the terms of reference for brand positioning trace back to the seventies when Americans Trout and Ries (T&R) popularised a theory of positioning consumers' minds that was anchored almost exclusively in the brand's first power base of 'value'. Their schooling emphasised that effective product positionings required a different brand for every product. Moreover, T&R castigated the mere thought of umbrella branding across product or national territories (of consumers' minds) as a corporate sickness. In effect, T&R positioned positioning to delight managers of the short-term.
I first started researching umbrella brands seriously ten years ago. The Japanese office of a leading fmcg multinational had not been making any headway with product brands and was prepared to tear up T&R's approach to positioning. In Japanese markets, product sub-brands were the lowest form of brand with Japanese consumers wanting to know what quality of corporate guarantee was on the line whenever they chose a product. In positioning umbrella brands in consumers minds', we started to discover that in addition to the product positionings of T&R, it was necessary to invest in an inventory of identities (enabling consumers to recall, wear and recognise the umbrella brand in as many ways as possible - see Chapter 2) and an integrating brand essence (which works as an emotional platform, service vision or corporate guarantee connecting up a wide range of products - see chapter 1).
In the nineties, one of the biggest problems facing international consumer goods companies is the ownership of too many fragmented product brands whose marketing budgets just do not have minimum critical mass. You might have thought that the positioning school of T&R would already be defunct. Yet recently, while working for the same multinational but a different national office, their advertising agency's local account executive made a cautionary presentation on the dangers of line extending drawing totally on the T&R syllabus. Moreover, I have become accustomed to the sad fact that the T&R gospel of the more brands the better has often suited marketing clients (eg the more brand managers the better) and their agencies (because umbrella branding can expose how poorly many agencies cater for the vital branding need of integrated communications - eg identities created by packaging design and advertising should always be a unifying source of a brand's impact).Chris Macrae, personal diary entry, 1994
From an umbrella frame of reference, which all brand organisations now need to keep thinking about, we suggest retaining what you wish from the classic T&R school of positioning as a framework for sub-branding. Product sub-brands will always have impact in those contexts where the name of the game is to position consumer minds within product categories or segments thereof. But each of these is by definition a highly fragmented channel of communication whose scale as a marketing platform is no longer a brand strategy in itself except possibly in very big product categories. And consumers who become used to umbrella brands are smart enough to perceive their values play at higher levels. Consequently, many consumers have leaped ahead of marketers in looking down on brand values conceived only in product positioning terms.
Brand Architecture works by linking up high and low levels of branding. High level brands play by new rules as banners reflecting corporate leadership. If you need a slogan to popularise this, try out that of Haim Oren of Israeli ad agency Kesher-Barel : "there is Positioning if you want product sub-brands, and there is now Compositioning for Company brands - integrated messages for organisations whose intent is to lead added value across a sphere of business."
Brand Architectural knowhow requires new explorations of marketing thinking in two ways which we need to learn as rapidly as possible:
·what new rules of the game do umbrella brands play by to communicate connecting messages? - a topic for the remainder of this chapter
·where does brand architecture lead to organisationally and strategically? - a topic which we address from Chapter 11 onwards
Cataloguing the new rules of umbrella branding
We suggest compiling a catalogue of game rules beginning with what can be seen to be newly working in umbrella form. We then add in some practitioner guidelines which have been issued to contrast good umbrella branding practice with one-product brand rules of thumb. We conclude with some questions - including offbeat ones - which illustrate why we recommend brainstorming the increasing variety of advantages which umbrella branders are inventing.
Table 1 provides an example of a brand organisation which has recently discovered its own way of working umbrella branding. We, as consumers, know that we have recently seen Nivea extend itself successfully from primarily the reference point as the good ordinary skin cream to almost anything Nivea wants to be in skin care and neighbouring categories. We know that the essence of trust in Nivea still feels the same as it always has. Umbrella branding cataloguers can debate all the key moves that Nivea has organised round, some of which you might wish to edit by taking Table 1 as a starting point. Table 2 provides a similar analysis, but for a highly contrasting situation : the reengineering of Gillette's Brand Architecture. ( We should note here - as throughout our illustrative strategic analyses in this book - the table has been compiled by people who have not worked on the nominated brand. As reasonably informed interpreters of umbrella brand language, these brand critiques feel right as far as they go but we are not in the business of giving away a company's state secrets).
|•Transition from long-established image of Nivea Cream's trusted value for money and understated but uniquely identifiable royal blue pack to cosmetic and treatment ranges including many high added value applications of female moisturisers/skin care products
Nivea, circa 1990, has extraordinarily loyal consumer franchise founded on cream's properties as:
reference point for skin care (mother of all creams before high fashion/science products targeted this area)
trusted (simple value choice)
impactful ownership of royal blue livery
BUT underexploited occasions of Nivea usage due to founding product's modestly presented simplicity and singular form
Each high added value fashion line appears in own advertising commercial; usually several of these run concurrently; rotations of campaigns also aim to match seasonal needs (eg sun care). Very successful in translating the following message : if Nivea has for so long been depended on for its expertise in producing the reference point product in ordinary creams, then it should now be only natural to look to Nivea as the first source for high added value variants of skin care products
·Sub-branded ranges have evolved Eg Nivea "Visage"
·Adverts are usually executed as an essay in blue
·Sub-branded technologies are word-of-mouthed in women's magazines
| KEY MOVES
Leveraging extension potential of extraordinarily powerful brand equity due to the following combination:
·unique essence due to heritage values of reference product as trustworthy, simple, valued, consistent, caring through generations, the global standard
·developing awareness trigger in consumers' minds as the consistent leader of skin care's "mental bridge" between products chosen for cosmetic values and those chosen for treatment values
|GILLETTEUS & Europe
|•Transition from fragmented, local and low added value "best-selling" product brands to international company lifestyle brand "GILLETTE"
•GILLETTE company brand to be used as the master brand in a double-branding leadership strategy planned in the following way:
- GILLETTE to have meaning relevant to being number 1 across all target markets (categories and countries); flagship product sub-brands to be aspirational leaders of categories crafted to give 2 newsworthy means of added value linkage:
•continuing "news" campaigns of company brand and product sub-brand could enhance each other•additional "news" coming from campaign rotation of sub-brands while retaining Gillette as core
Gillette, mid 1980s, has history of largest volume shares in global markets but fragmented and low added value positions.There were no linkages across markets other than "subtracting value" through communications as cheap, blue and plastic
•Cancelled system of local advertising budgets allocated to campaigns on best selling local product brands. (This had developed over time into fragmented and value-but-not quality positions)
•Execution of New Umbrella Format:
| KEY MOVES
"Double-Branding" - company umbrella branding (lifestyle) and aspirational product sub-brands add value to each other
·product sub-brands presented as newsworthy with leading features in their category
·company brand is kept as the connecting centrepiece while campaigns for product sub-brands are rotated
·actual best-selling Gillette products feed off the news/fashion created by Gillette and its flagship sub-brands in spite of being absent from advertising
·other elements of Gillette's identity system recycle Gillette's history of communications/design properties - eg blue is now the spotlight colour under which Gillette's close-of-ad logo is highlighted
Copy Department Guidelines
From a small straw poll of copy departments - at manufacturers and advertising agents -conducted in 1994, fully analysed guidelines for umbrella branding appeared lacking. There were some general impressions:
·It is thought that it is often difficult for a tv spot to feature more than one core product (or category) at a time. One solution is to integrate, eg press advertising, which is thought better for carrying range messages. Another solution is to execute two or more product tv advertising campaigns in the brand's name concurrently (sometimes as spots sharing the same commercial break)
·There is considerable debate as to best practice when extending a brand which has hitherto primarily been associated with one product. Partly, this may relate to the large number of attempts which have been made without properly re-examining what the brand's future essence should mean. In terms of copy instructions, some companies insist that if a well known brand is to be extended, the new product must appear early in the tv ad on the grounds that consumers will not be attending/expecting a new product at the end of an ad for a brand whose existing product is well known. However, not all mood campaign formats can begin with the new product in the opening seconds : an alternative solution is to feature press ads or PR designed to introduce the product news and inviting consumers to watch out for more on the tv.
Guidelines such as these illustrate that to be effective umbrella brand advertising needs to be orchestrated in context specific ways. Detailed learning is needed to make the most of integrated presentation of variables such as : form of media, number of concurrent campaigns, products featured. But the curious umbrella brand organisation widens the debate even further.
Brainstorming offbeat questions on umbrella brand organisation
In the last couple of years, we have met a lot of marketing directors where conversations have turned to "Oh - I did not know other people were also asking themselves that kind of question". Communicating with umbrella brands is still a new art for most of us, and we do recommend brainstorming some of the "management of execution" issues with other practitioners from non-competitive product fields. Examples of brainstorming questions which are listed below. Questions do need to be raised and debated before an organisation can make the most intelligent use of umbrella brands.
·Are the products which you sell the most of ( or profit the most from ) the same as those which are your best image-making flagships? If not, what implications does this have for which products you budget for in allocating resources to advertising of sub-brands? Moreover, how should you rotate advertising campaigns of sub-brands to represent leadership across your total sphere of business? Should calendar or other theming of consumer diaries take precedence over product specific messages?
·Will parts of the company's umbrella brand architecture be reinforced by flagship products which the organisation cannot make itself but should licence out? Are there other partnership strategies you should form to encourage companies to work within the added value chain of your umbrella branding instead of competing against it?
·Are you making the most of "double-branding" linkages (eg Gillette-Sensor) where two or more levels of brand hierarchy both gain from being connected up to each other? At a global level, is it possible to imagine a consumer-facing organisation competing for the future without at least one quasi-corporate brand directed from the top of the organisation's brand architecture?
·If you are getting less and less bang for your promotional bucks : where is the source of the problem:
- creativity of execution
- format of execution
- media used
- brand architecture (eg too many brands)
-some combination of these
·Can you still afford the philosophy that it is OK if some of your brands are competing against each other?
·If you were to start all over, first with one brand as a company banner what would that be? Then what other high level brands would you maintain? How do the brands' values work to represent your core competences and core businesses?
· Your competitors are playing by some new umbrella branding rules, but what are the implications of this for you? Do you know any longer where your next competitor may come from : eg some new brand partnership, or a traditional competitor but with a newly evolving brand architecture?
Brand organisations now have a lot to be curious about in terms of "connecting up" umbrella branding. In terms of external media investments, connecting up involves:
·knowing what higher level values work best for umbrella brands
·integrating forms and timing of media used
·maintaining a brand architecture where increasingly linkages need to be made between brands where:
-tactical impacts may still be conveyed by positioning sub-brands
-but increasingly the primary foci of your brand equity needs to be changed to higher level banner brands which represent brand organisations to consumer and customer
These are important questions to bring out in the open. Answers should be iteratively rather than definitively sought. Ultimately, they need to be diagnosed as part of the wider framework issues of branding process - introduced in terms of teamworking in Chapter 8 and developed more fully in architectural terms in Chapters 11 to 14.
You may also find that some of Brand Chartering's earlier chapters, eg Essence and Identity, take on renewed importance now that we have started to explore the leadership meanings of umbrella brand organisation.