The Call of Brand Stewardship
Respect the foundation of your brand and the sanctity of its brand experience.
A few days ago, a very cool creative chief I have had the pleasure to get to know sent over the J. Walter Thompson template for a Creative Brief.
We are working with a high tech engineering client.
The J. Walter Thompson Creative Brief posts a copyright from 1989.
It asks core questions about “who are we talking to?” to “what aspect of the brand personality should the advertising express?”
Back in 1989 I was working for an ad agency with offices in New York and some key markets in the Southeast.
I was serving in the role of head of Brand Planning & Consumer Voice.
The line I used over and over and over in the Creative Briefs I put together was “don’t tell the customer about how the clients make the brands, but instead tell the audience group about the customer’s brand experience.”
So here we sit today in 2023 and sights are already focused for many on 2024 forward.
Millennials working in the ad agencies are in some ways “has-beens” already.
Agencies embraced the Millennials as the “digital warriors” who would move the creative from “mass media” to individual “one-on-one” relationship-building tech communications.
The Millennials left in the agencies are now declaring that AI will take over the world next and it will be AI that will write copy in the future.
This past week Interpublic Group and Dentsu International declared their first quarter 2023 earnings and their CEOs made commentary about where they saw ad agencies heading in the next year.
The commentary was limited.
Neither of the commentaries made mention of “digital” or “social” media.
Most of the commentary was about the delivery of client service and execution of what “brand management strategically set as direction for their brands.”
As I have stated before, the vast majority of conventional ad agencies are out to make their clients smile and not out to ignite customers to emotionally seek out those client brands.
The agencies continue to fear challenging what those clients dictate is their “brand message.”
J. Walter Thompson was a brave agency back in the late 1980s.
God love the next wave of hires at the agencies… a mix of Tweeners and GenZers.
Yes, the Millennials were the initial users of Social Media but the Tweeners never knew life existed before social, mobile and texting.
Take those Smart Phones away from a GenZers and they shift into a wave of panic attack!
This next wave of hires is quickly driving “brand strategy” with more value placed on how to shorten brand names or just use the brand name initials because its easier to text than spelling out the full name.
When I went to visit a couple of the Interpublic Group websites, I was struck that at least one brave “brand strategist” posted a blog about how C-level brand leadership is hell-bent to out-due their competitors by laying claim to the most “creative” story that they can tell about their brand.
If you ever doubted that tech leadership was left-brain dependent, just watch a few of the high tech ads running right now and you will still be asking “what the heck are they advertising” after you see the ad even 4–5 times.
Respect the foundation of the brand and the sanctity of its brand experience.
MBAs love the left-brain rational expression of a brand deliverable and let’s play that out for a moment.
When I secured my MBA, most of the cases used in marketing classes where anchored around P&G Brands or Coke or General Mills or Unilever.
As much as Tide might have the cleaning power to also say clean out a sink, Tide was a detergent clothes cleaning brand. Tide was not a floor and toilet cleaning brand — all areas where P&G had brand equity.
Burger King is anchored around a Burger. Dominos Pizza is anchored around Pizza. Kentucky Fried Chicken is anchored around Chicken. Arby’s is anchored around roast beef.
But wait a minute, how do we explain Burger King marketing a new taco offering?
And why is Domino’s telling me about a pizza of potato nuggets and even featuring it in a story line about how French fries are just not served crispy any more? What the heck equity does Domino’s have in potatoe fries?
Kentucky Fried Chicken is advertising new mini burgers.
And the leadership at Arby’s has run out of their ADHD meds and is launching everything from fish nuggets to breakfast burritos.
In the early days of my career, I worked as an account planner with the creatives who developed Wendy’s famous “Where’s the Beef?” Campaign.
We championed and used the Creative Brief and defining what we termed then as the USP of the Brand Experience — the Unique Selling Point.
Wendy’s brand platform was anchored around hand-formed burgers. Not cheesier pizza or fluffier biscuits or spicy tacos.
Which now takes us all the way back to why I post this Blog.
Those in marketing and advertising today should sign a commitment of stewardship when taking on a brand job assignment to defend and preserve the brand’s USP, positioning platform and Emotional Ignition Point or EIP.
Are brands doing it and not only still there, but excelling in share and sales?
Apple. Coke. American Express. Jeep. Tide. Reeces. AirBnB. Google. Target.
And the list goes on.
As business moves forward into post-Pandemic times so many of us in business need to take those refresher courses about what the heck is the mission behind brand strategy, brand management, brand marketing and brand stewardship.
Can creative function in it?
And its what drives me each day when I get up and take on the challenges in an evolving marketplace!