LONDON: The fashion for adding corporate branding to the campaigns of individual brands – pace Unilever and Procter & Gamble – runs counter to consumers' desire for brands offering a human dimension, a leading industry figure has argued.

Jan Rijkenberg, co-founder of the BSUR Group of creative branding and communication agencies, argues in the current issue of Admap that, amid all the talk about the need for brand authenticity, by adding corporate logos "it has all become a bit cold, distant and meaningless".

He suggests that while there are certain circumstances in which corporate branding may be necessary – as when Volkswagen took over SEAT and Skoda, two brands with weak connotations in terms of quality and reliability – the strategy is now being applied in a misguided attempt to bring order to internal confusion following a spate of mergers and acquisitions and the resulting "hotchpotch" of brands large companies now own.

Rijkenberg is scathing of the "beanbag sessions" of group therapy where boards of directors are invited to say whether they are more like a dolphin or a horse in an attempt to ascertain corporate values – "mostly worthless words" – which can then be thrust on the consumer.

If you must do it, keep these internal or direct them to shareholders, he says. It does no favours to brands to present them as a "piece of a corporate marketing pie".

On that point, he expresses amazement at how easily marketers "let the corporate sauce spread out over their precious brands". Why spend years developing unique personalities and building bonds with consumers only to then reveal those personalities aren't real but just a part of some corporate behemoth? 

And that in turn raises the question as to the effectiveness of the hundreds of millions spent on these brands. "Are their brands still so weak, or have they become so weak again, that they require the same endorsement that SEAT and Skoda required?" he asks.

"Thinking in a macro sense has engulfed the marketing discipline," he says. Corporate branding may be good for morale at HQ, but it overshadows individual brands.

Data sourced from Warc