Brand relevance is in the eye of the customer

What keeps chief marketing officers and senior marketers awake at night? Apart from digesting reports of the increasing economic upheavals across Europe and the rest of the world?

Branwell Johnson

In no particular order, it’s social marketing (including but not exclusively social media); the pressures of globalisation; and the need for “purposeful positioning”, according to a presentation at the ISBA annual conference last week.

That all sounds pretty reasonable and of obvious importance. But while the above list of concerns makes for interesting reading and debate, the key driver of all CMO decisions must be maintaining the relevance of the brand, its products and its services to the customer. Everything else is secondary to the existence of a reason for the customer to engage with the brand or make a purchase.

This issue of Marketing Week features two brands that have rapidly evolved their offering and marketing to stay relevant. We interview the Financial Times CMO Jocelyn Cripps who explains how the FT has moved to keep abreast of, if not anticipate, its readers’ needs and consumption habits.

Then Infiniti Red Bull head of marketing Dominik Mitsch explains what Red Bull has gained from its involvement with Formula 1. It’s been noted that Red Bull is now as much a content publisher as a purveyor of energy drinks – and its content is usually adrenalin-fuelled excitement.

A visit to the Red Bull UK website is akin to watching some of the more manic episodes of Top Gear. Harnessing all that excitement to the business of sales seems to have paid off for the brand – worldwide total unit sales were up 12.8 per cent in 2012 – and Red Bull has done well to find such a key insight into its customer base.

What links these strategies is knowledge of the customer and acting on that information. Handily, the latest CMO Strategy supplement is also available with an in-depth look at how marrying new technology and tried and trusted research techniques can provide valuable insights to drive growth.

It’s not easy to stay relevant and it’s too easy to get distracted in such a fast-moving business environment but the tools and techniques are available to help keep a focus. The ability to step back from day-to-day firefighting and take a broader perspective on the key mission is vital for a CMO. It just means carving out time to focus on relevancy and then having the will and mandate to act.