Beware the CMO who changes the brand strategy | DMA

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Beware the CMO who changes the brand strategy


Picture the scene – a new Chief Marketing Officer arrives in post with a mandate to drive the numbers. So far nothing contentious here.

An output of this objective is likely to be a desire to increase the relevance of the brand and to broaden its appeal delivering higher recall and top box consideration. One of the first things that that person will do is review the existing agency relationships they have. The likely end game being an unveiling of a new brand identity that goes out on television and in other media.

If you were looking at this set of events with a glass that was half full, you would say that this direction and desire to change is driven by the need for the company to grow, to be relevant in a changing world, to attract new value pools that will boost the bottom line, to galvanize staff to create a common identity, to fight new entrants as barriers to entry are cut. If, however, you were looking with a glass that was half empty/ from a cynical view point you may argue that this is purely a vanity exercise designed to be a CV driver allowing said individual (& CEO) to show their wares around the Marketing community, invites to Cannes and further afield and being quoted in the Marketing trade press.

Companies up and down the land develop new brand strategies annually – new tag lines and brand pillars that all propositions sit behind – at O2, they ranged from ‘We’re better, connected’, to ‘Fresh Thinking, New possibilities’, ‘More for You’, ‘Be more dog’….the list goes on – all this and in the last 10 years. All strategies led to changes to the TV advertising, creating new characters/ new look and feel/ new messages – everything from bearded fawns talking inside your mind, to cats that wanted to be dogs and now phones that come alive when you are at dinner with a loved one. Each won plenty of awards globally and grabbed many column inches but brand and top box consideration stayed in similar positions.

All of the strategies made sense in their own way but forgot one very important person - the customer.

The majority of customers like consistency, they like the fact that Coronation Street goes out at 7.30pm every week day; that Heinz Baked Beans still produces the same recipe that they have for 144 years; that John Lewis have run their ‘never knowingly undersold’ promise since 1925 and that BBC 5 Live runs the same music at 5pm every Saturday before the classified football results are read out.

Consistency may be boring and not the shiny new thing that CMOs get turned on by but repetition, repetition, repetition is the key when driving brand recall and top box consideration. You need to give customers the chance to see the changes & live them rather than be continually refreshing.

Sure there are the small (and growing) number of more expectant customers (many within the Marketing industry themselves) – customers who are always looking for new and exciting stories but this vocal group is still very small in comparison to the masses – the masses who like a brand to be a warm comfort blanket around their shoulders, an old friend who is always there, someone who can just lift their spirits with a theme tune alone.

So next time someone new comes into the Marketing space and starts to draw up plans to review the agency relationships – ask the following questions:-

  • Is there really a problem that needs fixing?
  • Is there a clear customer need that isn't being addressed?
  • Can't we mold what we have today and expand?
  • Or (God forbid) whether this is just a way to make an individual more notorious within the Marketing fraternity

In my experience, the desire for change will be driven by the vanity of the recruit in the majority of instances. Watch out, your customers are still playing catch-up!

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