Monday, June 20, 2005

Pre-Branded and Post-Intelligence

This appeared on the Tom Peter’s Wire Service today. It’s from the Seattle “Post-Intelligencer” columnist, Bill Virgin. Great job title – shame about the column. See, I read it over and over again, and something’s just not right.

Bill seeks to establish, I think, that the traditional approaches to branding no longer work. But then he says that they do work. But only if you spend a lot of money. And only if you can stand out from the crowd. If it seems like he trying to have it both ways, well, he is. A couple of points.

“Microsoft, Costco, and Starbucks have achieved…international prominence, without benefit of a catchy slogan, a universally identifiable symbol or an anthropomorphic spokesanimal, to build awareness in consumers' minds.

So you no longer need to spend lots of money on your brand, right? No. Bill refutes this statement by discussing the power of the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the automatic audience association between the largest of horses and the weakest of beers. So he says that branding, of the kind where you are top of mind, is a powerful tool. And that having something warm and fuzzy is better than asking your consumer base where they want to go today (Antigua!).


"A powerful brand image can be expensive to establish, but once it's established, it can accomplish far more at less cost than expensive marketing campaigns for less well-known products or services.”

And therein lies the problem. The problem with that argument is that, sure, if you had an established brand, it would cost you less for an ad campaign for a new product than if you had raise brand awareness of your just-released “XYZ-Cola”. Tell me, though - anyone like to do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation on how much Coca-Cola has spent over their lifetime to get their brand top of mind?

In 2004 they spent $US 2.1 billion alone on advertising (Link to 2004 Financial Statement). I’ll bet you it’s a lot more than your XYZ campaign. And having the most well known brand in the world won’t save you anyway if your product is crap – New Coke, anyone?

So traditional branding is a good thing, but only if you already have a brand. And it seems that it really doesn't matter whether you have a logo or a horse. You just need dosh.

He is correct, though, when he writes that;

“…marketers can be expected to continue throwing ideas at consumers, hoping something sticks so deeply in the public consciousness that people recognize it...”

But that’s because Marketer’s aren’t, on the whole, very creative.


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