Giuliani’s brand problem

Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani has a brand problem: he is perceived as being mean.

“Rudy Giuliani’s temperament is well known in New York. He’s quick to anger, an egomaniac, very stubborn, throws tantrums and is generally, well, mean. Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter: ‘His ridiculously thin skin and mile-wide mean streak were not allegations made by whiners and political opponents. They were traits widely known to his supporters.’” (http://www.rmchronicle.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1138)

Right now, what’s saving him is the collective memory of Giuliani on 9/11: ashen through the streets of New York City, uttering brave and reassuring words.

But there is a darker underside to the candidate: “Many probably now regret their decision (to elect Giuliani) after seeing Giuliani's mean-spirited assaults on the poor and on freedoms guaranteed by the bill of rights during his term in office.” (http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2006/05/11/giuliani-time/)

And again:

“Giuliani was mean enough to be New York’s greatest mayor. Is he too mean to be president?” (http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YWFmYTc2MzEzM2U2OTQ3NjVkNTRjMjEyOWJlMTVjYzg=)

The irony of it is that if you read Giuliani’s book Leadership, you begin to understand that what comes across as meanness may actually be a steely rationale behind his governance strategy. He is willing to make the tough choices needed to make a city (country) work and he has the numbers to back up his strategies.

Nevertheless, he can’t be elected if he is perceived as mean. And the problem is, he looks mean too. Time for some major image upgrades, especially if he is going to run against Hillary. She, I’m sure, can be mean when she takes off the gloves, but her image is that of a composed centrist above all. Right now, he is simply no match for her.

Brand metrics -– when to bother and why

I have been thinking about brand metrics for awhile now, as numbers help to demonstrate the value of a brand to the organization, but in my experience are seldom actually used. A couple of questions arise around the concept of brand metrics:

  1. What is most important to measure?
  2. Do people use brand metrics?
  3. What happens if you don’t measure?
  4. Are the advanced brand measurement techniques you read about really worthwhile or just a lot of gobbledygook designed to make someone look smart?

Let’s take these one at a time.

1. What is most important to measure? According to Prophet Brand Strategy, it is only important to measure things that help you make strategic business decisions. (http://www.prophet.com/downloads/articles/Brand%20MetricsReprint.pdf) So for example, a certain retailer wanted to upgrade their image from low-end to high-end so that they could sell more high-margin goods. Therefore, they instituted a measure called “basket composition,” basically measuring what percentage of each sale had been composed of high-margin items.

The connection between brand and basket composition is simple and causative. You change the image of the retailer, the consumer is more willing to purchase high-margin items. But it’s not always so easy to determine the connection between brand and business results. For a government agency, for example, increased retention might be one goal of an internal brand initiative. However, that brand initiative will likely be bundled with increased benefits from Human Resources. So if turnover is reduced, it is difficult to say how much the brand contributed to it vs. how much the HR factor did. In that case, what do you measure? Perhaps you go back to awareness (asking about the ability to recall key brand messages) and impact (literally asking the extent to which branding messages have affected the desire to look for a job elsewhere).

It goes without saying that if you're not making strategic business decisions that involve the brand (which is possible), you don't need to measure anything except perhaps awareness, because that affects everything else.

2. Do people use brand metrics?

Some have pooh-poohed awareness (http://chiefmarketer.com/crm_loop/roi/brand_metrics_track/), saying things like “If awareness is your be-all and end-all, you’ve got a long way to go,” but I think that is definitely the place to start, especially given that so few companies measure any aspect of brand at all. As Prophet notes, its “2002 Best Practices study showed that only one-third of the 90 companies surveyed in 2001 measure the performance of their brands.” Similarly, Chief Marketer states that VisionEdge Marketing found the exact same thing: “two-thirds of all marketers do not include metrics in their marketing plans.”

I am personally not surprised that so few companies use brand metrics, because it is difficult to definitively relate brand realities to business outcomes. Also, many marketing decisions are based on whim, intuition, gut instinct, etc. and not measurable business arguments. Finally, organizations can tend to do marketing/branding because everyone else does, and there may not ultimately be pressure on the marketing director to show results.

3. What happens if you don’t measure?

Sometimes, nothing bad will happen. But other times, if you don’t measure, you are in danger of having two things happen to you, as Chief Marketer notes. The first is that your marketing budget may be used as a “slush fund” for executives who need to get budget money from somewhere. The second is that you may be fired for failing to demonstrate bottom-line results.

So even though it may be difficult, you’ve got to measure something, and that something has to connect with business objectives. I say, start with awareness. Then find a way to connect it to a business result. This means coming up with the right cause-effect relationship, the right survey questions, and the right target population to ask those questions to.

4. Are the advanced brand measurement techniques you read about really worthwhile or just a lot of gobbledygook designed to make someone look smart?

I do think that frequently, advanced techniques are designed to make someone look smart and are not really useful for the average marketer. A helpful article in this area, by Prophet Brand Strategy, is called “Brand Metrics: Gauging and Linking Brands with Business Performance.” (http://www.prophet.com/downloads/articles/MunozBrandMetrics.pdf) I like the way they advocate the following: “Metrics should be: simple to use…meaningful…actionable…repeatable…time-bound.” (SMART)

  • They explain that the measures should be simple because you want to spend your time managing the brand, not measuring it. Overly complicated measurements are a total waste of time.
  • They should be meaningful in that they tie the brand to a business result.
  • They should be actionable in that you can do something about them (make a business decision).
  • They should be repeatable to ensure consistency in measurement.
  • And finally, they should be time-bound in that you can take the pulse of the brand and compare it to other brands and the competition regularly.

To get just the right metric, one that meets all of these criteria, takes a lot of thinking and you might even want to hire a consultancy to help. At the same time, I still say that awareness is not a bad place to start…it is how you carry it forward and create cause and effect relationships that makes the biggest difference. Ultimately, of course, the measure is sales volume: is brand awareness leading you to move the merchandise? (Of course that metric is not useful for everyone, if for example you are in a nonprofit or government agency setting.)

Of course, we haven't even gotten into the discussion of whether measures mean anything, because you may not be able to trust what survey respondents tell you. But that is a discussion for another day.

Social Marketing is a Scam

The book Social Marketing: Why Should the Devil Have All The Best Tunes? by Gerard Hastings is all about the notion that traditional marketing concepts can and should be applied to promoting socially desirable behavior. This is called “social marketing.” The book has a laundry list of case studies on everything from cancer prevention to safe driving to junk food advertising, racism, suicide, obesity, diabetes and more.

My question is, why do we need the term “social marketing” at all? Marketing is marketing, whether you’re selling soap or reduced fat consumption.

The author writes that “social marketing is not just valuable—it is a matter of life and death.” (p. 4) Well, social marketing may be powerful. But in the end it’s just the same thing as marketing itself. This word “social” makes it sound like something different, but it’s not.

If you ask me, I think someone developed the term “social marketing” as just another way to sell books. But what’s really offensive about it is that the discipline seeks some kind of moral high ground, when it’s doing the same thing as every marketer does. The author writes: “These twin notions of both learning from and scrutinizing commercial marketing are encapsulated in the concept of social marketing.” I don’t see any scrutiny going on in the critical sense; rather the traditional marketing discipline is being looked at to see how its principles and practices can be applied to drive systemic social change.

And I have to say that I find it troubling, this term called “social” marketing. As if one can uncritically accept any and all agendas for social change as positive. For although the causes described in the book are generally undebatable in terms of their contribution to a better world, I think there is a fine line between promoting a better world and promoting one’s political or personal agenda for that world. Take obesity for example. In promoting a world where overweight is vilified, aren’t we also driving people toward eating disorders who may otherwise have been satisfied with living at a slightly higher weight than is usual? Or on a related note, fat consumption. There are arguments to be made on both sides of the coin, that fat is good and bad for you. Or how about sugar-free medicine? The social marketing case being made in the book is that eliminating sugar in medicine is an uncritically positive move, but some would argue that sugar substitutes are dangerous and should not be used. So we need to be careful about who gets to define what “social marketing” is—and that seems to me to be a somewhat political matter.

In the end, marketing is marketing and branding is branding. Let’s focus on the discipline and making it better, not on the idea of whose marketing agenda is “right” and “good.” If we have to use another term for "social marketing," I vastly prefer "cause marketing" as this term doesn't imply the rightness of the cause.

Branding -- always a team effort

Branding should never be a solo exercise, for the following reasons:
  1. It requires the commitment of all parties in order to work—not only the parties involved in the branding process, but also those involved in delivering the brand—the frontline employee.
  2. It requires a deep understanding of the competitive position of the organization—and obtaining that knowledge should ideally result from intensive research and discussion with both internal and external stakeholders.
  3. It is extraordinarily rare that one person has the breadth of vision and depth of operational knowledge required to truly instill the brand.

At the same time, someone has to champion the brand and drive it throughout the organization. That is why the best operational structure for a brand is the chief branding officer (solo artist) + the brand council (team). The chief branding officer is:

“responsible for creating and strengthing brand names, and drawing real and measurable value out of them. This often involves not just product positioning, targeted marketing, but the identification of the components of a product or service that differentate a business from their competitors. Most CBOs work hand-in-hand with the head(s) of Marketing and Sales” (http://www.chiefofficer.com/faq.php)

The brand council is the team counterpart to the chief branding officer. See below:

“If the company is going to orientated (sic) itself around an 'on-brand' ideology, cross functional teams are essential. These teams, consisting of staff members from across the internal hierarchy, are the only method through which to place the brand itself at the heart of the business. 'Our experience has shown that the creation of a company brand council, consisting of staff members from all levels, is critical,' says Spark. 'This council can cut through internal dynamics and power plays inherent in any organisation and focus on the health, relevance and role of the brand itself within the company.'” (http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/12/6072.html)

I know I talk a lot about brand councils, but they really are critical to the success of the brand. The brand cannot belong to the public relations/marketing communications department alone. It must belong to the entire organization. And for that to happen, a team must form to take the brand forward, even if it is led by an individual whose entire job is to shepherd the brand.

Parent brand and baby brand, part 2 -- finding the right balance

Recently I posited (http://blumenthalonbranding.blogspot.com/2007/09/branding-is-war-confront-enemy-hint-its.html) that “every organization is at war with its parent brand, if there is one. This is because, unless it is extraordinarily strategic-minded, the parent tends to have a sort of identity conflict and to want to take credit for the achievements of the child brand, or at the very least is conflicted about setting the child brand free to mark its achievements on its own.”

The implication is that it is always legitimate for the child brand to establish its own identity. However, this is not always the case. There is at least one instance when a baby brand should stay close to the fold of a parent brand: When the unity of the parent brand is at stake. That is, if the baby brand’s having its own identity will threaten the parent brand’s unity, there is a problem.

One solution to this dilemma is to fold the baby brand back into the parent brand (renaming it, at least partially). The benefit is to flow brand equity from the baby brand back into the parent brand. The risk is that brand equity will flow out of the baby brand, but not flow into the parent brand – with the result that there are two flattened brands.

If it is not possible or desirable to fold the baby brand back into the parent brand, the parent brand should indeed let the baby brand go and surround it with “siblings”—related subbrands that can establish a kind of “melting pot” family for the parent brand. E.g., Coca-Cola has not only its namesake cola brand, but also Minute Maid juice, Powerade, Nestea (with Nestle), Fruitopia, and Dasani (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Coca-Cola_Company). All of these subbrands have their own identities, but all of them are also known to be related to each other as part of the Coca-Cola family.

In general, although there are baby brands that supersede their parents and deserve to have their own spotlight, it is not desirable for a master brand to have a proliferation of subbrands—unless each subbrand contributes something concrete and valuable to the master brand portfolio. If the master brand does not exert control over its baby brands, it will be overrun with divisions and offices each wanting to brand their own activities, each leaching equity from the master brand probably before being ready to exist on its own.

So it is a careful balance that has to be struck between parent brand and baby brand—proceed with caution.

Part 1 of Parent brand vs. baby brand is here: http://blumenthalonbranding.blogspot.com/2007/08/parent-brand-and-baby-brand.html


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