You’re the marketing manager of a confectionary company. Don’t ask me how you got there, it’s a very long, messy story. The big product you’ve been proudly taking to glorious heights is FAP – coined by you. You are yet to think of a clever way to explain it, FAP just is. Very karma. FAP’s a combination of vitamins, fruit-based complex sugars, more roughage than a pack of sultana bran and it tastes awful. For the first three seconds. Then it tastes like lemon acid. Then fresh, raw chilli – the little ones that burn. You run out of breath just as the Haighs chocolate hits your mouth and soothes you. Lasts at least 10 minutes. Sells better than ice-cream on a hot day. The board love you, especially now that Bolockson’s, the countries biggest manufacturer, has slapped 100 very large ones on the table to take FAP off their hands. They can all go to Vanuatu or Paris for a few years and exchange their tired wives for fresh ones.
You seem impressed, even excited for the first few minutes while the Bolockson’s CEO tells them/you of his plans. Then he talks about their brand strategy ….Bolockson’s FAP.
Your wild packaging, your electronic pointy wointy of sale. Your in-your-face 15 seconds TV ads. All your good work for the last 3 years. All now pushing Bolockson’s along with FAP. You could see your baby being strangled in front of your eyes, if it wasn’t for the tears…
Bolockson’s will take your prize possession and wrap their tired old brand images as close as they can get to your brand, to give good old Bolockson’s a bit of street cred. A bit of cool. Picture a seventy-year old in a hoodie. Your work, which has made what might have been nothing but a long line of food additive numbers into a moving emotional experience for millions of Australians (and with that fibre, one that moves their very bodies) is now the promotion vehicle for an ageing brand that can’t think of any easier way to boost its flagging share price.
The brand architecture they are proposing will destroy the cred of FAP and thus the brand itself. What is Brand Architecture exactly? It’s the priority given to the brands on a label or in other communications – Holden Commodore versus Commodore, by General Motors Holden.
This is a visual thing, plus a sequencing thing and it’s very much the domain of the designers and psychologists out there.
Marketers, the natural bosses of both these groups, need to take control and look at it from our personal point of view and that of our careers. Do you want to be the marketing manager of one of a hundred versions of the same brand – say like the girl/guy who manages Virgin Blue? Or do you want to be made a tad more famous by being the person who grew XYZ brand from nothing into a household name? My career? I’d choose the latter.
Why do companies structure brands in certain ways? They do it for consistency – you can grow a brand much faster if everything is co-ordinated. They do it to keep costs down – there’s often less overall money spent on marketing one main brand rather than four or five different brands. And they do it for political, money-making reasons.
At the core, brand architecture is about egos. Board’s, designer’s, printer’s, marketing manager’s egos. The rest is often interesting academic debate about relationships and complex psychology, but the real story is raw ego.
Brands create and stir more ego than any other thing in corporate land. Yes, your pay matters and your corner office with a view over the harbour is nice, but if you’ve managed to change the order of priorities so the Frito-Lay is in front of the word Chip and you at Frito-Lay therefore own the Chip, rather than the Chip owning Frito-Lay, you can sleep easy at night knowing your world is secure.
Which brings up the issue of ownership – intensely connected with architecture. Brands and who owns them can change priority for many reasons. These reasons usually relate to board’s strategic desires – do we flog em off? Do we acquire? Do we make us, our board and our logo, more important? Or do we boost the Solvol? They may help each other as supporting money spinners, detract from the mother ship if weak. They all need careful attention and the exercise is life or death for those who’s careers fly on them. ie. You.
A few items to consider
People have favourites. Make no mistake, many people in board land like the multi-brand approach like Unilever or the all together drive, like Nestle etc. Flexibility suffers when certain egos win. If you have a blinkered view of any landscape you do far worse than those with an open mind. Keep your’s that way too.
These things are often global. Try as you may to educate the powers above you that the Aussie market is different and that this is an icon brand, essential to our cultural heritage, if a big multi-national has bought it they will want to bring in into line with their overall brand architecture and frankly, stuff you and your brand’s needs. Think Vegemite, Holden, Tuckerbox Dog Food, the list is endless.
Adjustments can be detrimental to sales/values.
The public love consistency. So does your bottom line. Variation outside of brand territory is often short-term cash-flow death. Get back-up in stats, case studies etc. Protect yourself.
Corporate board versus marketing department
Most of the time this is the truth. Try as you might to explain things. But the good marketers get over this little hurdle like the troopers they are. The best Marketers? The board thinks everything is happening exactly according to their plans.
Most important thing is to look at it from the buyers/customers perspective. Many changes are made without reflective assessment of the long term benefit to channel partners, consumers, public.
Psychologist & designer dream
Not enough psychologists work with designers and not enough designers see psychologists.
Nestle – good or bad reputation?
Always check the effect of one name on another. You can’t mix chocolate with raw meat anymore than you can mix some brands with others – by mathematical definition, if you add one unpopular company, which may only appeal to 20% of the market, with another that only appeals to 15%, you suddenly potentially have those overlayed, which in any market means less customers. It’s not 35%. It’s often like 12%. Sometimes it grows both segments, which can be rather tasty, but please check the effect before punching the budget button. You are moving the cards around under a house of cards. It can help to shore things up, but it can also tumble.
Parent Company – the shadow or the whole brand
Sometimes the big company brand name is good – pulling sales through where a brand is not yet known, but often it doesn’t work so well – people may not like the main brand.
A multiple brand structure allows you to market a wide range of products/ services without the public thinking something strange is going on – you don’t think a soap manufacturer would be a good toothpaste maker, but Unilever is. Why would a potato chip maker be any good at soft drinks – but wasn’t Coke? The flexibility of owning many brands gives other advantages as well. You can sell them in a blink. Who makes Panadol today? Who did?
You can own products in many categories with credibility. Even many products within a category and no-one really cares much.
Some companies (Unilever, Fonterra, Coke etc.) gain huge shelf space in supermarkets as they have so many different, individually branded products. Customers just either don’t know or don’t care; they certainly mostly don’t realise they are buying soap from the same company that they are buying soft drink from. This can be a great method to gain large share with different target markets. How many other drink brands does Coke own? Fanta? Deep Spring? The list is endless. Is the buyer of Coke the same who buys Deep Spring? Sometimes, but not often.
Given you’re being asked to make decisions on Brand Architecture, how to do it well?
Check the board’s real desires
If you can get them to tell the truth, find out what their real thoughts are – do they want to sell off the brand as a stand-alone in the long run? Do they want to grow the business in total and flick it as a whole?
Know your business
I know it sounds ridiculous, but many people have never really worked out what business they’re in. Railway people thought they were in the train game, and left transport and logistics to others – you know the story. If you’re in FMCG and want to grow, you should own multiple brands. If you’ve got a sexy brand that translates across a lot of sectors – you could do a Virgin. Decide if you could go one direction or another at this stage.
Do the research
Double check the board’s desires against the market’s perceptions of the brand and the company. What if they all hate the parent company? Or what if the parent company will look silly selling this product?
These issues will influence how the product/brand gets positioned against the owner brand. Which should be more prominent? Should it be Nestle’s Quick? NesQuick, Quick by Nestles. Slow going I know, but sweet when you get it right. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Most of you will have suitable research already available or a supplier you can trust to undertake it. If neither, consider on-line for accurate feed-back on complex issues like brand priority trade offs and awareness/ attitudes to sub-brands (with the right product mix obviously). Web’s not so good for testing stuff sold to tradies who can’t read, let alone use the web. Could use SMS but, hey bro?
Please note few designers use research and usually insist that the public doesn’t understand the bigger picture, ie. the concepts will be wasted on them etc. This is total bullshit. They are just scared of having to change their dream and don’t know how to run a research exercise well.
Brief your designers
Designers flock to brand architectural jobs faster than flies to dog poo. I reckon you could whisper there was a big corporate architectural gig on while you were cleaning your teeth, ten metres down a deserted mine-shaft, and you’d have twenty teams of identical black-wearing serious types with cropped hair and thin square glasses texting you with deep questions about brand relationships in less time than it took to write this paragraph.
Therefore, give 3 or 4 teams a very tight brief and expect to get shocked by the costs. Know that they will try to change everything that isn’t nailed down and that may involve scratching the floorboards. It will definitely include the carpet. Know also they will want a cut of the total spend which could in itself turn into millions.
Choose the team you really, really want to spend many very long days with. I don’t mean the ones who take themselves seriously, ’cause life is way too short. I recommend choosing the ones who do very good work but who also have a similar sense of humour to you.
To keep costs and egos in place, pay them for their time only. Have a production team actually do the buying of all the new signage and packaging etc. This will save you some of those millions.
Ahhh, the word no-one wants to mention around this subject. Enough said.
All the desperate designers, agency suits, promo people, media tarts (all well recognised industry reference terms) will all want to pull the new baby in different directions because it’s in their interests to get you to spend as much as possible in their area. Too many cooks spoiling the broth. This squabbling will go on for as long as you let it. Be tough. Dictate who gets what and how much gets spent and if they argue too much, go silent for a week or two. That usually scares the hell out of them.
Get it on a chip
Insist early on developing a brand book they all have to stick to, so whatever has been decided gets run out by the operators (finished artists we used to call them when the word Bromide meant press ad, not just a chemical). Understand that a brand book/style guide, or whatever you want to call it, takes time to develop and must to a certain degree be flexible – it is impossible for a small team (everything in the world is done by small teams of 4-12 people and anybody who tells you different is lying. No-one can get a ‘team’ of 200 people to do anything) to think through all the ramifications, all the situations necessary for all the uses you may have. It should be a guide first and foremost and must be stronger in philosophy than anything else.
Do we have to?
Always ask is it necessary to do this bit? The public doesn’t care if your street sign in Niddree is a different colour blue to the business card. The designers will think it’s a huge sin, but frankly, that’s just a wank. Fix it one day when the sign has fallen over, but I guarantee by then there will have been six other business card versions and no-one but the design team front person will have given a fig.
Don’t rush, much
There are two schools of thought about this. One says do everything over night. I mean you do it over six months then change everything overnight. This is great for the design teams who have to work to all hours to do everything and make a fortune at it, but the stress on management, particularly you, is terrible. In some cases you simply can’t avoid it – say you run a bank and you have 1000 branches that really have to happen within a few days or you look silly – in that case you might roll it out by state and or by division – the rural division might change over in May, the public division in June. Regardless of what you’d like, an over rider will often be the pressing need to get as many examples done as fast as possible to get the message out with consistency.
Subtle or brave
Well-researched adjustments, where possible, are often handled with great care, possibly over several stages. There are times however when brutal change is the only logical/effective option. Never anything in between. Do either well and it’s a new car, few trips, better clothes. Nicer smiles in the lift.