Without a guardian brands lose their way

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Somewhere among its values and personality, your brand has a soul. A living, breathing organism with limitless ability to grow your business. It’s up to you as marketing director, to guard and protect that soul.

At times that might mean you presenting a compelling case against a tempting commercial opportunity. In doing that tough job of convincing others, sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose. Such is life or rather, such is business. What is essential is that you are seen as ready to have that internal conversation. Your colleagues must come to understand two key things: the brand is a longer term and potentially more valuable asset than any given deal or business tactic; you understand the brand and the customer’s view of that brand better than anyone else in the organisation.

I couldn’t help but agree with Mark Ritson’s latest thoughts on branding, in particular his assessment that British Airways’ planned relaunch of its marketing and brand strategy will be doomed if it goes ahead before the carrier has recruited a head of marketing to lead it.

Ritson draws focus upon just two case studies (British Airways and BP) in highlighting a common misunderstanding of branding. We have published countless examples of marketing roles being scrapped with the brand management responsibility of a company left to a commercial or sales department. The frustrating decline of qualified brand responsibility within organisations makes long-term damage a certainty.

An example: a friend bought a holiday last year from Sovereign Luxury Holidays, part of the TUI stable alongside more mass-market brands First Choice and Thomson. He and his wife were offered some ’special’ excursions by their ’personal concierge’, a 24-hour service afforded to Sovereign customers in place of the traditional holiday rep. They were persuaded to part with considerable money in booking three exquisite-sounding trips that, they discovered on arrival at the first, were also available to local First Choice and Thomson holiday makers. That trip saw them crowded into jeeps “like cattle” and taken on what sounded a very poor ’tour’ of local amenities such as a local motorway service station with a small swimming pool.

Their Sovereign Luxury ’brand’ experience was soured further when they later complained to their concierge. The ’exclusive’ Sovereign 24-hour concierge unhappily admitted that she was meanwhile also servicing many hundreds of Thomson and First Choice customers across the area as their holiday rep. She told my friend that many of the services she offered were the same no matter what brand she was representing. The only difference would be the colour of the scarf she wore during her meetings.

This sounds like an organisation that doesn’t understand or perhaps care for the soul of each brand or its customers. It may come as no surprise to you that TUI scrapped its lead marketing role last summer.

Mark Choueke, Editor

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