Brand Union

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First question, “Do you have a brand?”  Most marketers will answer yes.

Second questions, “Do you have a brand strategy?”  Those same people are likely to pause then offer a less-than-emphatic yes.

Third question, “Can you articulate your brand strategy?”  This is where the homina-homina kicks in.

It’s a simple fact that most brand practitioners (meaning client side marketing or brand managers) have brands but not a tight articulation of strategy. Most agencies (ad, digital, PR, direct) also don’t follow a tight articulation of brand strategy — because one doesn’t exist. Brand strategy is the least scientific business tool in commerce. It’s an ideal. Not a framework.

Brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging; all three of which are marketing’s domain. Actual brand strategy framework is one claim, three proof planks.

Ask Interbrand, Landor, Future Brand, Siegel+Gale, Lippincott, Brand Union and Wolff Olins what their framework for brand strategy is and all you get is talk, process and case studies. They are long on smart people, insights, approaches, logos and style guides, but no framework. No “business-winning” binary (on or off) approach to building a brand.

When you have a framework that shows when work is on strategy or off strategy, you have found the brand building grail.



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I was at a meeting yesterday with someone who used to work in marketing at neurosurgical practice in the NY area. She told how this band of brain surgeons decided they needed a new logo and spent $350,000 for it – using a smart boutique in NYC. For years, I’ve been saying that new logos and names cost about $250,000 from the big guys. The Landors. The Interbrands. The Brand Unions. I guess I’ll have to revise my data upward. The storyteller was flabbergasted that a new mark could cost so much.

Naming and design are big business. Especially for companies with deep pockets. A large health system in the midst of a name change recently explained the new name this way “It’s a beacon of our future. It’s unique, simple and approachable and better defines who we are and where we are going.”

New logo design and naming need to have a marketing objective. A measurable objective. If you are going to change your name or your mark, start with a brand brief. Something that gives direction to designers and creative people. Something that gives approvers a reason to approve. Strategy starts with words on paper. I’ll trade you two simples and one approachable for a brand strategy with a measureable objective.



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I am on a quest to figure out what part of the US GDP is spent on marketing. The current US GDP according to the World Bank website is $15.6 trillion. Healthcare in America is estimated to be about 18% of the GDP and my gut is telling me dollars spent on market are probably in the same ballpark.

GDP is defined as the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products” so one might say since marketing comprise all four Ps, product being one, that all of GDP is marketing, but let’s use What’s the Idea? math and remove the cost of producing goods from the equation.

So what are we counting? Research and development of new products. Headcount of people in all marketing services; within the company and vendor.  All out of pocket for advertising, promotion, PR, research, sales, channel, web and service. Based on my seriously fuzzy math, let’s say we are spending $2.8 trillion in marketing sans production.  That’s some cheddar.

Of that amount, what percent do you think is spent creating an organizing principle that guides marketing? That allows employees and consumers to learn the unique value of a brand…and articulate it with meaningful language. Not taglines like “Chase what matters.”

The answer is not much. 

Were we to take all the revenue of companies like Interbrand, Landor, Brand Union and Siegel+Gale and brand planning practices at agencies, we would find that it amounts to a milli-portion of the total. So we’re building brand with lots of people, lots of tools, lots of services and very, very little strategy. I’m having a brain freeze and not even eating ice cream. Peace.

PS.  Getting to actual spending numbers would be a great econometric project for a business school student. 


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