In light of attacks being made on multinational corporations and the publication of No Logo by Naomi Klein, brands have been taking a battering. So, how do you make a brand successful, and how do you maintain your brand in a positive light?
These questions and more were debated at the Brand Attack Forum, which took place last week at the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh. The debate, which was hosted by Kenny Harris of Headsurf, brought together a myriad of marketers, including Paula Ketterer, head of marketing at Scotmid, Ken Lindsay, director of brand heritage Allied Domecq, Alistair Cunningham at Interbrand, Sandra Burke, senior manager marketing and brand development at Scottish Enterprise, Jonathan Sands, chairman at Elmwood and Peter Simpson, commercial director at First Direct.
First to speak was Paula Ketterer. The Scotmid brand has gone through a number of changes, recently settling on an advertising campaign, involving a character called Nicola. As Ketterer explains, the customer needs to be able to identify the brand through a strong advertising figure: “A human personality trait achieves the need for a place in today’s market. The big brands are struggling, and cutting prices is not always the answer. People describe brands in human terms and therefore we needed to get a message across about our brand that would have some sort of impact. By using the character of Nicola in the advertising campaign we managed to put a face to the brand and use it as the “girl’s best friend”. In doing that, we produced an emotional response from our customers and we were able to build the brand up from there.”
For the next speaker, Ken Lindsay, his job promoting brand heritage at Allied Domecq sees him travelling worldwide in order to achieve his objective of having Ballantines whisky recognised on a global scale. “I travel to countries such as France, Poland and Scandinavia that have huge restrictions when it comes to advertising alcohol. My task is to try to persuade bar tenders and managers that the whisky that we are producing should be on their shelves. There is the opportunity and the challenge there to hand our messages direct to the customer and I think that we manage to do that. A recommendation of our whisky by a barman is second to none in promoting the goods. But these types of close relationships can have their disadvantages. We have to make sure that we are the number one choice not just because of favouritism by the people I’ve talked to about the brand, but because the brand stands up on its own.”
Alistair Cunningham of Interbrand then pointed out, while there has been widespread criticism of the idea of the brand, the world would be worse-off without it: “A world without brands would certainly be a far less colourful place. Brands are important for a number of reasons – it simplifies choice and means that we can avoid the inferior product. It means that there is more innovation and brands can stimulate intense competition. Brands can make companies accountable. The future for the brand is simple: there needs to be a clear vision with leader brands innovating and driving businesses forward.”
Following on from a quick question and answer session, the forum regrouped. Speaking first was Sandra Burke. Scottish Enterprise has gone through significant changes over the past few years, and has now aligned itself firmly in the mind’s eye as a more efficient brand. For Burke, this achievement has meant upheaval for the company: “The main question that we asked ourselves was ‘why do we need to brand?’ The biggest challenge was to try and change perceptions. We wanted to develop a long-term brand solution and discover a brand personality – a style guide for all of the agencies that come under the Scottish Enterprise umbrella.
“It was a painful process for us, but now we have a clear and consistent message that leaves a strong brand and message to deliver to the customer.”
Next, Jonathan Sands, chairman of design consultancy Elmwood, expunged his knowledge of the brand. For Sands, the idea of a brand is an extremely powerful connotation - one that he has worked hard on. “Times are changing and the pace of change has become quicker and more stressful. We redesigned the Carr’s biscuit many years ago, but the item is still on the shelf today, as the brand was effective. It didn’t matter that the product was going up five pence when we launched it while the biscuit had not changed. We simply made it stand out on the shelf. That is the power of a good brand. For brands to be effective they must be able to understand their attacker and what is bad. Brands aren’t made by what the company does well. Instead, they are made by what is done badly.”
The final speaker of the day was Peter Simpson. He summed up the forum by proclaiming a new way ahead for marketeers: “The brand itself should be in line with the consumers’ values and should not be changing constantly - stand behind your products. Follow the ‘4ps of marketing’ to drive the power of the brand home – deliver your Products, deal with your Problems, make it Personal, look after People.”
In this day and age, the brand, it would seem, is still king. But as all the speakers agreed - lose the confidence of your consumer and the brand will be ultimately worthless.