Brands must build a famous reputation

The story that Heinz has suspended its marketing budgets while it absorbs HP has prompted all sorts of speculation about the end of broadcast media as we know it and evidence of recession (MW last week). And, as reported in Marketing Week’s leader, this is not the first time that Heinz has done this. Interesting too that it happens in the week that ITV launched its Fame DVD; an initiative designed to provide clients with greater confidence – and evidence – that public reputation is worth building.

All this is fine if confidence is high. The problem is that with little growth in the economy, retention rather than growth becomes the dominant issue. Many clients believe that retention, so closely aligned with loyalty, is better defended through direct channels of communication. But it is an error to think of the relationship between brand owner and consumer as a direct one. It is a three-way relationship between brand owner, consumer and the public.

What is not explicit in the ITV research, but shown in DDB’s Brand Capital study, is that the strength of loyalty is directly and exponentially linked to public popularity. Whether brands are consumed by a minority or are truly mass-market in appeal, their strength comes from their shared public reputation.

This is an uncomfortable truth for the direct marketer, concerned only with buyers. It means wastage is good.

Fame is a key part of all the greatest brands’ success. And it can’t be built or even defended in narrowcast media. You need the non-buying public to believe too.

Julian Calderara

Chief executive

Burkitt DDB

London EC1

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