In 1934, the young Rosser Reeves left his small town home in Danville, Virginia for the bright lights of New York City, following his dream of working as an advertising copywriter.
Within a few years he had landed a plum job at the Ted Bates Advertising Agency and by 1950 he was vice-president and head of copy, rising to chairman of the board in 1955.
Then in 1961 he published his first book 'Reality of Advertising', a large portion of which was devoted to Reeves' principal legacy (and the 'secret' to the phenomenal success of Bates in the 50's), the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Brand valuations are bullshit, according to Mark Ritson, associate
professor at the Melbourne Business School. And he told an audience at
the Festival of Marketing just why this was so, outlining three "sins"
committed by those whose business it is to come up with them.
First up was variation: how is it possible, he asked, that they can value the same brands so differently – not just a few millions either way but billions of dollars. There were "outrageous differences", he declared, offering up the examples of Apple and Visa. While the three leading brand valuation businesses – Interbrand, BrandZ and Brand Finance – all agreed that Apple was the world's biggest brand, Brand Z's valuation of $247bn was almost twice that Brand Finance's $128bn. The difference of $119bn was, said an incredulous Ritson, equivalent to the GDP of Belarus. And when it came to Visa, BrandZ's valuation was 15 times greater than that of Interbrand.
There's an infamous principle at Google to 'do no evil'. Now, you can argue whether or not they live up to this, but there's no doubt they have done a better job at it than Volkswagen. Years of blood, sweat and tears and millions of dollars in marketing spend convincing us that this was a brand that understood us and was on our side undone in an act of deliberate corporate malfeasance or an accident in the lab. Either way, asking people to wait as they 'remedy this issue' (as they asked on their US Twitter account) suggests a remarkable misunderstanding of the issue.
Brands, excuse the pun, are the engines of business today. As Andrew Winston pointed out in a recent Harvard Business Review article, "decades ago, a company's market value was nearly equivalent to its tangible assets – buildings, machinery, materials, financial capital, and so on. In 1975, intangible assets were just 17% of the market value of the S&P 500. But today, those proportions are flipped: intangible assets now make up 84% of the market value of the S&P 500". That intangible value is primarily the brand and is what has been dramatically downgraded by the market since the story broke (some estimate a loss of $10 billion in brand value at the time of writing).
I recently read The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley, and was struck by the following passage:
"Evolution is far more common and far more influential than most people recognise. It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes…The ways in which these streams of human culture flow is … undirected, emergent and driven by natural selection among competing ideas" (my italics)
Over the past few years, my company has been trying to identify factors which fuel the spread of ideas, and why some succeed, while others fail. Here are some of the insights and hypotheses we want to share:
I once met someone from an IT company who had been present at several advertising pitches. By and large he was impressed. In countless ways - the pitch theatre, the audio-visual displays, the presentation skills - he had found what the agencies did extraordinarily impressive; much more exotic and polished than anything he had seen before.
"But," he went on, "every agency made the same terrible mistake."
"Go on then..."
"You all sold what you had to offer as an improvement - a bonus; a nice thing to do which would be good for business."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Well, in the IT business, only in the direst cases would we ever attempt to sell positives. It's a really difficult sell. Every business has plenty of ideas for 'nice things to do' already, and you're just competing with them in offering what they see as a cute optional extra; a 'nice to have' - a flagpole, a fountain in reception. In IT we don't sell positives - we sell the absence of negatives. We don't say 'if you do this it will be nice'. We simply say 'if you don't do this it will be bad - or even catastrophic'. Once you can see the horror in their eyes, the sale is already made."
There's a lot of talk about the 'new normal' in China. And with the slowdown now percolating every corner of Chinese life, one is left with a palpable sense that, from consumers, the 'new normal' calls for 'more value'.
There was a time, several years ago amid the double-digit growth era, when the deep frugality of Chineseness almost gave way to financial flippancy. People were so confident of the future that the cost of things was rendered not unimportant, but less relevant. When everything is going up, what matters is what it will be worth, not what it costs now.
With steadily declining GDP growth rates and two severe down-jolts in the Shanghai share market, the value 'reflex' is back in the forefront of the Chinese mind. And in the context of the highly anticipated 'rerise' of China, it makes for unusual headlines.
"Our customers want to know who is Apple and what is it that we stand for – where do we fit in this world.
…and what we are about isn't making boxes for people to get their jobs done – although we do that well, better than anybody in some cases.
But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core – its core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better."
The words above were used in a speech given by Steve Jobs to his employees after his 1997 return to Apple.
Mr. Jobs' carefully selected words suggest he wasn't trying to reinvent Apple, he was simply pushing it back to its core. And the history demonstrates how Apple forever changed the way people communicate, entertain themselves, even the way they absorb information. The application of Steve Jobs belief moved Apple from $3 billion at the start of 1997 to $350 billion by 2011.
I suspect that our industry is going through the same confusion, as Apple was during 1985 to 1997 (the period Apple spent without Steve Jobs and the beliefs he practised).
We have lost sense of direction and suffering from identity crisis.
This post is by Antonio Nunez, an author, speaker and brand strategist with 25 years experience in the communication industry antonionunez.com.
Brand Planners. User Experience Planners. Shopper Planners. Digital Planners. Social media planners. Content Planners. Channel Planners. You-name-it planners. Many big agencies' strategic departments resemble a scary Tower of Babel: flooded with data, confronted by hyper specialized jargons and unable to create unifying brand metrics. They work at turtle pace and are fragmented by narrow discipline-oriented points of view.
Many creative teams complain about having to pay the toll in this situation. They are forced to spend more time trying to find an overarching theme for campaigns, which means less time to craft their storytelling productions. Many marketers too. They are left to build their brands relying almost solely on brand personality and tone of voice consistency. Their brands can't generate true meaningful conversations, relying on a collection of key visuals or on superficial anecdotes to influence consumers' perceptions. Those brands end-up lacking purpose and a distinctive point of view.
If only young Chinese women had taken to sports with the same enthusiasm as they have for public square dancing, China's sport brands would have saved themselves a lot of heartache and been a lot more successful in inspiring participation. Given the success of Sport England's 'This Girl Can', the question has to be asked 'are China's girls really different from those of the West or are China's sports brands just not getting it?'
Somehow, China's girls have no problem in finding the right excuse to put off the idea of playing sport. They will tell you that they are still 'young and healthy' and 'don't need sport', or 'they are too busy', or, perhaps more honestly, that they just don't want to look like a sweaty rat.
Although it keeps fiddling with its global strategy, Adidas China has held the same line on sport and women for 10 years now. Its strategy has been to position sport for women as a social activity, as seen in recent campaigns – 'In the name of Sisterhood' and 'With sisters, nothing is impossible…'. In the eyes of Adidas, social connection trumps the person performance imperative – a 'sports light' experience that owes more to Sex and the City than a City Fun Run.
This post is by Luca Massaro, managing director of WePlay.
It is no secret that sports events give brands a huge platform to advertise. We only have to look at the Superbowl back in February and the 2014 FIFA World Cup to see the vast amounts of money that sponsors and those brands wanting to 'ambush' spend on being a part of the conversation.
In a gap year between the men's FIFA World Cup and next year's UEFA European Cup, it may be assumed that there aren't many sporting talking points in between. However, the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada has become something of a major point of engagement for fans and brands this summer.
With the recent success of campaigns such as Sport England's "This Girl Can" and the women's England football team claiming their place in the semi-finals, interest in women's sport is rapidly growing. According to FIFA, the Women's World Cup will reach around 30 million female football players and more than 300 million fans worldwide, while the BBC is broadcasting every game for the first time. The growing interest in women's football since the first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, is clearly presenting a big opportunity for brands. Here we look at some the brands already tapping into this growing trend.