Leave analysis to the experts

Management consultancies are becoming increasingly involved in the marketing process but are they equipped to weigh up the performance of brands and ads?

In the search for new sources of revenue, management consultancies are increasingly offering advice on the disciplines of marketing and advertising. In particular, they are attempting to transform themselves into experts in brand management and evaluation.

The trend is becoming particularly prevalent in Germany where advertising trade magazine W&V recently highlighted the Boston Consulting Group’s efforts to offer a package of “total brand management” as a typical case. BCG’s service is said to comprise two specific mechanisms – “marketing value analysis”, in which marketing effectiveness is measured against cost, and a review of brand performance under the title “brand portfolio analysis”.

This threat to the industry status quo from outside consultancies, and the agency reaction towards it, is reminiscent of the decision by Coca-Cola in September 1991 to hire Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a talent agency whose traditional focus was on

the entertainment industry, to help develop global marketing strategies. The appointment was seen as a direct challenge to the agency system, and the threat posed by management consultants today is regarded as the unwelcome involvement of outside opportunists.

One of the more compelling arguments against the use of management consultancies as advisors on marketing and brand evaluation is that such companies invariably lack the expertise and communications experience required to evaluate and refine campaign effectiveness. Because management consultants are wholly oriented towards hard facts they are more than likely to underestimate the value of a brand. Often, they do not understand its essence or know how to measure it.

It is also important to remember that management consultants tend to work on a project basis, by contrast with advertising agencies which build long-

term relationships with their clients and live or die by the quality of the communications advice they give. The consultant moves on, the agency has to stand by its advice.

Yet despite the shortcomings of management consultants, it is quite clear that many agencies are failing to recognise the importance today’s clients place upon marketing intelligence and brand evaluation as the fundamental basis for developing advertising that is relevant and effective. It is this failure that has opened the door to the consultants.

The launch of any new product tends to shake up the market, putting established brands on their toes – and management consultancy involvement in the marketing communications arena is no exception. Its interest in the brand evaluation process is a clear signal to

agencies. They should ensure they are genuinely delivering the marketing intelligence and insights that have become an indispensable part of any effective communications process.

John Shannon is president of Grey International.