Consumers are the best judge of value

Every chief executive officer knows that a business does not exist without its consumers. Corporate value is not ultimately derived from great products and services, expert staff or shareholders – important as they all are – but from the consumers who choose to buy one brand over another.

So when reading Mark Ritson’s column last week – ‘Please make the brand value humiliation stop’ – I was not surprised to see him vent his frustration that brand valuation seems to be an inconsistent pursuit and it would be far more credible if there was one agreed approach. He has a point.

Despite, or perhaps because of, running a brand valuation business, there are three reasons why I can agree. Firstly, however detailed each analysis may be, it is always likely to deliver different valuations. Financial measures are taken at different times for different rankings and because they utilise highly volatile financial information, this creates a disparity – just look at the rollercoaster ride of share prices in banking and technology.

Secondly, I believe in that old dictum: “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” Value is a critical metric, and just because it is difficult to assess doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But we should remember that any valuation is just a point of view at a point in time. It may be beneficial to get consensus, but just because a number achieves this doesn’t make it right.

Thirdly, and most critically, no business that understands the importance of consumers should ever rely solely on analysis of financials to value its brand. They would be failing to take into account the most valuable asset of all: the emotional connection between a brand and its consumers. Consumers are the best arbiters of value.

At Millward Brown, measuring what consumers think about brands gives us the “secret sauce” of brand valuation. It is the most important part of our process because that is what marketing departments are responsible for. Bring commercial responsibility into marketing by all means – but unless marketing is the voice of the consumer inside a business, then it has no role. Our approach is rooted in real-life consumer perceptions and behaviours rather than the more questionable ‘expert opinion’ approach. By giving consumer perceptions equal weighting in the valuation of a brand, we also ensure that our valuations give a clearer and more accurate view of the trends that drive consumers’ preferences.

Nick Cooper, managing director, Millward Brown Optimor

Talent doesn’t always come with a degree

The growing cost of higher education has reignited the age-old debate about the value of a degree. “Higher education is not the only route to a marketing career.”

Ian Cranna, marketing director at Starbucks is right to say that “aptitude and not qualification is the key to a successful marketing career”. As we always say at the National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS), talent can come in many guises. Our partners across the industry who embrace diversity when hiring, say that demanding a degree can disqualify many who may excel in our industry. Such an attitude is clearly refreshing.

We’ve all heard the old anecdotes of the ’60s and ’70s about agencies discovering their next creative genius in the local pub. Whether apocryphal or not, they are a clear demonstration of a liberal attitude to talent. Clearly our industry is a very different today, but the proliferation of complex communications channels arguably requires a new skillset.

We need people who can get to grips with things like hacking culture, crowdsourcing and social media as well as the more traditional practices.

Lord Sugar made a very good point at a recent NABS-hosted Audience With event when he called for the return of formal apprenticeships with their on-the-job approach to learning.

Admittedly he was talking about the ‘forgotten 50 per cent’ of school leavers who don’t go on to further education, but his stance is relevant for our industry. A balance between apprentice and graduate schemes would ensure that any young person, whatever their means and education, has an opportunity to start their career in the industry.

At NABS we play an important role in supporting young talent via a whole host of initiatives including speed mentoring, career coaching, development and guidance and formal courses. We know that the best young talent can come in all shapes and sizes.

Zoë Osmond, chief executive officer, NABS

Passion feeds employees and new ideas

Your article on Frans Johansson’s ‘The Click Moment’ highlights the pivotal role innovation plays in successful businesses today. In such a competitive market, the belief that passion must be used as a fuel to drive forward successful ideas is one that must come from the inside out.

Brands need to realise that they can only turn ideas into reality once a culture of innovation is understood to be integral to the values of the organisation.

To successfully drive the business forward, all the organisation’s values need to be fully embraced internally.

Engaging employees in the brand needs to start at grassroots level; workers need to connect with the ethics and values of a company so that they can then accept, adopt and eventually promote these principles to wider audiences. ‘Click moments’ don’t have to occur once in a lifetime as long as every member of the team understands how the business can grow, adapt and improve.

It is important, therefore, that brands tap into these internal channels in order to sustain and drive innovation because, after all, if employees can’t buy it, they won’t be able to sell it!

Simon Kenwright, engagement director, Maverick

Mobile video gives brands an advantage

It was not surprising to read that mobile advertising has boomed in 2012; over half of the people in the UK own smartphones so the potential reach and scope for creativity is huge.

The spend on mobile advertising has doubled because brands have woken up to this channel and are now tapping into the engagement with consumers that it can provide.

Mobile video allows advertisers to stand out from the competition by presenting their brand messages in an engaging and dynamic way. With people spending so much time browsing on their mobiles, advertisers cannot afford to miss out on this potentially huge audience.

We expect mobile to continue to grow as it becomes a key device working alongside new and interactive innovations such as Smart TV, which are set to become increasingly popular.

Robert Guenther, director of mobile, smartclip

Brands can be globally local

While I agree that personalisation, localisation and trust must all be present in retail, these entities have an even more potent part to play in the bigger ecommerce playground.

Ecommerce is showing no sign of abating and it’s essential that brands adapt their strategy with smartphone and tablet in mind and work backwards from there.

These devices are giving brands a massive opportunity to leverage personalisation and localisation abroad too. The ‘anytime anywhere’ customer is 24/7 searching, reviewing, sharing, buying and they are expecting social, local means to get there online. Brands can be local to the world if they want to be.

Peter Veash, managing director, The BIO Agency



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