Our Take On: The Demise of Brand-Building

This is a terribly written article. The writer wanders instead of making his point. Though when he finally makes it, it’s a big one. Unfortunately, after getting a grip on his purpose in the next-to-last paragraph, he falls short of explaining why investing in your brand is so critical. Despite its shortcomings we’re presenting this article anyway because, well, we violently agree with it. Recently we dealt with a client whose executives neglected to invest in their brand for only a year, and the results were not pretty.

You can read the article below, or on MediaPost.

The Demise Of Brand-Building

By Maarten Albarda, April 4, 2016

It is clear that the world of marketing has changed, is changing and will continue to change — a lot!

And one of the challenges of change is to filter what is happening now from what is important. This is a challenge we face in our everyday lives (I want to check “Clash of Clans” now, but getting my weekly MediaPost contribution written is important!). It is a challenge we — people in the marketing ecosystem — face all the time.

I was doing research into understanding how marketing briefings have evolved. I wanted to understand what goals and issues marketers today think are important, versus in the past.

I found plenty of interesting data points. It’s fair to say that until perhaps 10 years ago (or less), marketers focused most of their efforts on initiatives that drove sales and/or built the brand. They used metrics like purchase intent, purchase frequency, and typical brand love measures such as “favorite brand” or “the brand I always buy.” This was then translated into number of weeks “active” (typically the number of weeks with TV support), and a reach/frequency/GRP number per week (again, typically TV numbers).

One thing has not changed, and that is that we still use “sales” as our top priority. And rightly so. As David Ogilvy said: “The purpose of advertising is to sell.”

But everything we do in marketing to get to that sale has changed. Gone are (and should be) the days that we used TV activity and weight as the proxy to show we are “active” in marketing.

But in the hoopla that is modern marketing, it appears that brand-building is taking a bit of a back seat. And when I say “back seat,” I mean it’s becoming less and less of a priority. And when I say “less,” I mean it now ranks dead-last, according to a CMO survey from September of last year.

Sure, that data is six months old, but you’re not going to tell me that these numbers have shifted so immensely since the data came out that its findings are no longer true. According to the survey of 255 senior U.S. marketers, their top priorities for the next 12 months ranked as follows:

1. Superior product quality.
2. Excellent service.
3. Trusting relationship.
4. Low price.
5. Superior innovation.
6. Brand.

Out of six priorities, the brand came sixth. And to make matters worse, those same marketers were asked to rank each item in terms of first, second or third priority. And guess what, not only did “brand” lag as sixth overall, it also gained its largest share as third priority. So it came last, and last again in terms of priorities.

I worry about this. In today’s overstimulated, ADD world, your “brand” is incredibly important. I think you need more “brand” than ever. Successful companies understand this and significantly invest in branding. Just think of Apple, Starbucks, Campbell Soup, Virgin and Uber. I am sure you can name plenty more brands that take their heritage and brand DNA serious. I bet none of them are car companies (with the exception of Tesla? Or is the brand actually Elon Musk?).

So what is your brand-building strategy? And where does its importance rank for the next 12 months?