The real news on brands
It’s our duty to make them matter
Chief Strategy Officer
Ogilvy & Mather
Do people still care about brands? Apparently not. Brands are an endangered species these days, if a lot of the stuff I’m reading is true.
In the land of big data and programmatic targeting, brands are as relevant and useful as gas-lamp lighters and Millennium Bug consultants; doomed by the way of the many things before them, overtaken by the relentless march of technology-driven progress.
There is one fundamental problem with this narrative. It is #fakenews, in the worst possible way.
In fact, brands have never been more relevant. Brands have never been more useful. Brands have never actually been more vital to consumers. As marketing and communications professionals, it is our DUTY to make brands matter.
The people who tell you brands are dead are the same people who told you TV was dead (TV still accounted of over 75 percent of all UK video viewing in 2016), or that the big ideas were dead (eh???), or the internet was dead. They will tell you anything is dead apart from the latest faddish thing they’re trying to sell you which is (surprise, surprise) very much alive.
But where is my proof that brands are more vital than ever in 2017, and that it’s our duty to protect and promote them?
Firstly, if you look at any measure of brands that matters or has purpose (start with BrandZ™), then they’ll show you that brands that stand for something in the eyes of consumers massively outperform the stock market. In an increasingly complicated world, brands are vital for consumers as guides. Brands act as beacons of certainty, in every sector and for every age of user.
I hear often about businesses in the new “gig economy”, such as Uber, Deliveroo, and Airbnb, being the reason that brands are dead. Think about that for a second. Why are such businesses so successful in their sector? Yes, you guessed it, BRAND. And when did PurpleBricks and Just Eat start to properly take off after years of messing about in the direct response and digital space? The answer is when they started investing in their BRAND. The largest-spending names in TV advertising in the UK throughout 2016 were the online businesses – spending a staggering £639 million between them (up 8 percent year-on-year). Who were two of the largest investors in traditional TV advertising (remember: that’s dead too, apparently) in the UK in 2016? They were Facebook and Google – the owners of the three largest online channels in the world. And why did they invest so much in their brand? Because they understand that in the world of complexity, establishing the emotional power of your brand is the most important action you can take.
Brands matter. Brands have never mattered more. Just look at the most well-known brand in the world right now – Donald Trump. Brand was ALL Trump held in the 2016 election cycle. No long list of key selling points or a well-thought-through manifesto. He merely went for it. Awareness, salience, ubiquity, simplicity. He showed that in a massively complicated digital world full of new logos and names, brand is all that matters. Targeting and data are both necessary and effective, but it starts with people knowing who you are and making an emotional connection. It always did, it always will. Make brands great again!
The way you really make brands matter is to make them matter over time. Some companies plan for years ahead, some for each quarter and others plan for right now. The best companies, as GE’s Jack Welch once said, plan for all three. Mr Welch knew what he was on about, so we tend to listen to him here at Ogilvy.
We say that it is our duty to make brands matter. We do it through creating enduring platforms, like Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”, and engaging programmes, such as “A Taste Supreme” for 1664. Then we work out how to stay relevant with day-to-day pulses (think here of “Outrage is Not Enough”, for Amnesty International) to ensure our brands remain close to consumers’ hearts in the new digital reality.
The communications part of this task is the same as it has always been – to create socially relevant creative work. The type of work that generates or joins a conversation that is bigger than communications, or advertising, or marketing.
Brands do matter. They will always matter. It’s our job to make sure that the ones we are privileged enough to be trusted with, matter more than the rest.