Personalisation is the quest of the moment for so many marketers, with 70% of executives interviewed by Forrester saying it is now of strategic importance to their business. (What may surprise you, as it did me, is how generalised so much marketing still is.)
Every company that rebrands does so with high hopes. Their expectation is of course that this will mark a new chapter in the life of the business. Given how much is being invested, that seems more than a reasonable goal on their part. But is it realistic? How much change can a company expect to see through a rebrand, and where? This article by Laurent Muzellec and Mary Lambkin from some years back lays out some evergreen principles and reminds us that no two rebrands are the same in terms of the results they generate.
As John Hagel has observed, the middle market is dying as market dynamics radicalise. At one end, the sectors that are scaling continue to expand footprint and influence; at the other, the long tail stretches further as the market fragments into more and more bit players fighting for a percentum of market share. This dissolution of the middle ground as a viable competitive position leaves most brands with five growth options in my opinion: three are about growing bigger; two suggest growing smaller (but heightening profit as you do so). Here’s how I map the options:
Recently Jan Rijkenberg raised some interesting points in an article (thanks Jeremy) in which he questioned the importance, indeed the relevance, of underpinning individual brands with the identities of their corporate owners. It does brands no favours, he suggests, to collectivise them as part of the bigger entity. In so doing, he maintains, they lose their individuality and therefore their specific appeal.
Just as brands reflect the business they are part of, so they must systemically modify how they operate to reflect technological and systemic changes in the business.
It’s tempting to see a struggling brand or business as one mass of people, and to believe that underperformance is spread evenly across the organisation. That’s seldom the case.
How fast do you want to grow? Even the question is loaded. At a time when rapid seems to be the only desirable speed for everything, it’s easy to believe that foot-to-the-floor is the only pace in town.
Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) haven’t had it this good for some time. As Jack Trout observed the average tenure not so long ago stood at less than two years. Now it’s close to double that. The reasons why things got so bad, according to Trout, could be attributed to both internal and external forces. Internally, politics and competing functions combined to make it tough to get and keep the resources that CMOs needed to do an effective job. Externally, prima donna agencies with a hotline to the CEO also caused problems. Not helped, he says, by the fact that in most organisations the CEO is the ultimate CMO. The decisions they make essentially provide the marketing team with their licence to operate.
When Rosser Reeves first proposed the Unique Selling Proposition many decades ago now, the world was a very different place. Products still had the potential to actually be different, advertising was largely confined to mainstream channels and brands were, for the most part, identifiers. But with the evolution of best-practice manufacturing, the fragmentation of channels and the increasing development of brands as monikers for consumer lifestyle, I can’t help wondering whether the USP is now redundant.
P&G’s decision to formally end the era of “marketing” at the company and make the shift to brand management may accelerate what amounts to much more than a title change for marketers generally. To me, it could point to a fundamental re-examination of the role of the people responsible for brands.