Infusing business and brand strategies into account planning
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  • 1. Infusing business and brand strategies into account planning Rob Osler Landor Associates, Seattle, Washington, USA Keywords assurance that business and brand strategy Advertising agencies, Accounts, Introduction basics are being appropriately leveraged. Marketing strategy When thinking about the rise of account Abstract planning within advertising agencies I Account planning has established cannot help but draw an analogy with the Business strategy itself as a core competency of bursting of the Internet bubble that occurred many top advertising agencies. Business-level strategy refers to the plan of The role of account planner is a in the USA at the onset of the twenty-first action that strategic managers adopt for result of advertising agencies’ century. The common element was simply using a company’s resources and distinctive recognition that effective this: there are certain immutable laws in advertising demands the influence competencies to gain a competitive business that cannot be ignored. The Internet of consumer insights, competitive advantage over its rivals in a market or intelligence, and trends analysis. bubble reminded us that businesses require a industry (Hill and Jones, 2001). The impact of Yet, as necessary as the account profitable business model to survive, while planner’s strategic input is to the account planning reminds us that successful business strategy on account planning advertising placement and should be immediately obvious. In effect, the advertising is reliant on offering consumers creative output, it does not supply business strategy determines the offering(s) the prerequisite upstream something they value. Basic, yes, but that, in turn, become the brands that become strategic foundation that is advertising fundamentals are too often defined and delivered by business eclipsed by engineering know-how, the focus of the account planner’s work. To and brand strategy. Business genuinely understand an offering, one must entrepreneurial enthusiasm, corporate strategy must be accounted for to have insight into the genesis of that offering. ensure that a firm’s market hubris, media opportunities, or creative The business strategy provides those opportunities, brand opportunities, arrogance. Account planning delivers some insights. The process of developing a and core competencies are being degree of marketing basics back into the fully exploited in all marketing business strategy addresses three advertising development process. By activities. In turn, brand strategy fundamental questions: must be leveraged into the leveraging consumer insights, competitive 1 customers’ needs, or what is to be account planning process to audits, trends analysis, and industry and satisfied; ensure that a brand is optimally economic forecasting, account planning can represented within the brand 2 customer groups, or who is to be satisfied; help assure that advertising efforts are more portfolio, its positioning and supported, its values reflected, likely to achieve their objectives ± be they 3 distinctive competencies, or how and its personality celebrated in brand awareness, trial, or loyalty. Yet, as customer needs are to be satisfied (Abell, all marketing communications. critical as account planning is to assuring 1980). higher quality advertising, it is only a part of the necessary strategic work that must be Fast forward to envisioning a creative brief done to assure that the advertising ± as part and it is readily apparent how familiarity of the total brand communications program ± with the business strategy is instrumental to will help deliver the targeted improvements this key account planning deliverable; the in a client’s business performance. The creative brief, after all, demands a brief development of a sound brand articulation of these, among other, aspects of communications program begins with an the offering. examination of a firm’s business strategy, followed by the development of a Satisfying specific customer needs complementary brand strategy. Upon the Step one of business strategy forces the firm solid grounding of these fundamental to consider what particular consumer need it strategies, account planning can continue the intends to satisfy. Discovered through formal Marketing Intelligence & Planning brand development process with the marketing research, competitive analysis, 21/7 [2003] 435-439 # MCB UP Limited The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at [ISSN 0263-4503] [DOI 10.1108/02634500310504278 ] http://w ww .emeraldinsight.com/researchregister http://w w w .em eraldinsight.com /0263-4503.htm [ 435 ]
  • 2. Rob Osler keen observation, general business activities, profiling in order to properly segment its Infusing business and brand or a conversation overheard, identifying a audience. Among the potential customers for strategies into account specific customer need is where business IDX’s enterprise software solutions were planning strategy begins. Take Microsoft for example. CEOs, CFOs, CIOs. Chief medical officers Marketing Intelligence & Planning Through market observation and research, it (CMO), and physicians. Moreover, each 21/7 [2003] 435-439 identified a need among Mac computer users segment had a distinctive pyschographic to not only produce text documents, profile. While many buyer issues were spreadsheets, and presentations, but also to shared across titles, each title had one exchange those formatted communications primary concern or customer need that drove with people in the PC world. Avenue A, a their purchasing decision: digital marketing firm, observed a need the CEO was primarily concerned with among traditional advertising agencies to achieving business performance goals; manage, monitor, and measure the the CFO was primarily focused on effectiveness of its online advertising efforts. projections of ROI; Another software company, IDX recognized a the CIO was zeroed in on system growing need among clinicians to transmit performance; medical information quickly and securely the CMO was seeking assurance of across a healthcare enterprise. All three of physician adoption; and these companies began the business strategy the physicians were demanding ease of process with a clear focus on the customer use. need they intended to address. Recognizing the priority and profile of the It is critical that an account planner never targeted customer segments is critical to loses sight of the customer need that account planning’s influence over media motivated the offering’s creation in the first planning. Moreover, it tells the account place. This alone will help provide a clarity to planner which segments should be analyzed the purpose of advertising ± to communicate so efficient market research can be an available solution to a customer’s need. conducted that will enable the customer intelligence that account planners are relied Targeting precise customer segments upon to provide. Step two of business strategy involves segmenting the entire population of potential Satisfying needs through competitive customers into discrete customer groups by advantage psychographic or demographic profiles. The third and critical step to business Again take the example of Microsoft’s strategy development is to satisfy the identification of Mac users’ need for particular needs of the target audience computerized communications. Based on segments in some way that delivers psychographic profiling, two distinct perceived value to the market. It is generally customer groups emerged. These users were agreed that there are three basic approaches better understood by assessing their to convey and deliver value in order to psychographic makeup rather than their achieve some degree of competitive demographic characteristics. The first group advantage: was comprised of ``professionals’’, users that 1 Cost leadership: which relies on relied on their computers and software to operational efficiencies and scale. conduct either part-time or full-time work. 2 Differentiation: which creates a unique Their strong loyalty to the Mac platform and point of difference for the offering. their distrust of the motivations of Microsoft 3 Focus: which specializes the offering by largely defined the mindset of this group. The zeroing in on a precise market niche second group was comprised of ``casuals’’, (Porter, 1985). users that enjoyed their i-macs and i-books for their ease of use, color, and fun. Returning to our three examples, Microsoft’s Avenue A, on the other hand, discovered product offering for the Mac user segments that its potential customers were better would rely on differentiation since it was understood first by demographic profiling. unique its ubiquity and ability to Two distinct groups emerged. The first was interoperate with programs on the PC comprised of media executives at large platform. Avenue A would leverage a focus advertising agencies. The second was strategy by focusing on the niche of the comprised of marketing executives that measurement of internet advertising. IDX administrated the media planning and would combine the differentiation and focus buying function from within their own strategies by both introducing unique companies. product benefits and concentrating on a IDX found that it needed to weigh equally niche within the healthcare delivery process. both demographic and psychographic While none of our ongoing examples adopted [ 436 ]
  • 3. Rob Osler a cost leadership strategy, many leading activity of ensuring that the brand strategy is Infusing business and brand firms, such as Walmart, Southwest Airlines, optimally delivered through the advertising strategies into account and Saturn, can be looked to for channel. This is not to say that advertising planning demonstration of successful cost leadership agencies cannot form brand strategies for Marketing Intelligence & Planning strategies. their clients, but rather to point out that 21/7 [2003] 435-439 It must be said, that many firms will effective account planning must be preceded combine elements of each basic strategy to by a solid brand strategy. form a winning business strategy, as the There are four basic components to a brand example of IDX shows. As the business strategy: strategy is taking shape, the firm should 1 values of the brand; begin to think about the offering’s brand 2 personality of the brand; strategy to assure that its entrance and 3 positioning of the brand; and existence in the marketplace is given the best 4 brand architecture. chance for success. For the account planner, knowing the strategy the firm is using to Brand values attain its competitive advantage is The values of a brand are those immutable fundamental to understanding the business characteristics that provide consistency for dynamics that will impact the offering’s the brand’s behavior. The brand’s values, to business performance. be true values, must permeate the brand experience. For example, Microsoft values empowering people. In order to genuinely Brand strategy own this value, Microsoft must act on this value by empowering its own people as well A brand strategy can be thought of as the as its customers. Only with comprehensive translation of the business strategy for the adoption, can the value of people empowering marketplace. It defines the manner in which people become reflected in the Microsoft the offering will present itself to the brand. Returning to our other company marketplace, which will, in turn, influence examples, Avenue A values measurement, the way in which targeted customers think of while IDX values saving lives. (These are, of the offering ± creating the brand’s image. course, only one value of each of the This points to a critical definitional companies.) A company’s values will be a difference between a brand strategy and a great determiner of what is, and what is not, brand. A brand strategy defines how the firm the right tone and manner for one of its will present the offering. A brand is the brand’s communications. As such, it is result of the success of the brand strategy, imperative that the account planner defends determined by the marketplace. In other the brand’s values and is effective in words, while a firm controls the brand transferring those values to all stewards of strategy, it can only influence, but never the client’s brand within the agency’s walls. completely control the brand. Once the brand This single assurance would eliminate much is introduced into the marketplace, it is of the subjective debate that occurs among customers that will, in time, determine what account planners, media planners, account the brand truly stands for, whether they find managers, and creative directors about what it interesting, and whether it is so relevant to is appropriate for the brand. their lives to compel purchase and loyalty. It is this inability to control and account for the Brand personality brand that makes the activity of branding so Anthropomorphizing brands can be uncomfortable to many executives. dangerous by adding to the perception of Moreover, proving the branding activities branding being a soft, and sometimes, return on investment is also a troubled questionable activity. Games that pose endeavor (but that is a topic beyond the scope questions, such as ``What kind of animal is of this paper). your brand?’’, are not usually met with Too many executives, even marketers, overwhelming acceptance by busy equate branding to advertising. This executives. Yet, it is necessary to define the misconception does a great disservice to the few personality traits that will be imbued in strategic rigor of brand strategy. Advertising the brand to help compel interest among ± like public relations, corporate target audiences, differentiate it from communications, investor relations, competitive offerings, and create a unique customer service, sponsorship programs, brand identity in which equity can be employee training, and business to business created. communications ± are all channels in which Recently, a study examined 60 well-known to deliver the brand strategy. Account brands with distinct personalities. From that planning within an advertising agency is the examination emerged five personality [ 437 ]
  • 4. Rob Osler factors: sincerity, excitement, competence, brand message is grounded by the brand Infusing business and brand sophistication, and ruggedness (Aaker, 1995). positioning. Over time, and with consistent strategies into account What is most interesting about this finding is application, brand positioning becomes planning the power of the marketplace to distil a inextricably linked to the brand, creating an Marketing Intelligence & Planning multi-faceted, multi-dimensional brand immediate, favorable impression in the mind 21/7 [2003] 435-439 experience down to one of five personality of customers, as well as all other factors. Consider the brand of Microsoft; stakeholders. what personality factor best represents the In my observation, I believe too often a personality of Microsoft? I argue it is brand’s positioning is usurped by its competence. The personality factor of advertising campaign’s main idea. In other Avenue A could easily be argued to words, the advertising campaign overwhelms sophistication, as would that of IDX. It is the brand. The result are television remarkable how well this works: commercials, radio spots, and print ads that Sincerity: Allstate, Hallmark, and Readers’ may leave the consumer chuckling or Digest. startled or moved, but do not create Excitement: Virgin, Cingular, and Adidas. relevance and do not convey any compelling, Competence: Ford, Oracle, and Timex. differentiating benefit (the heart of a brand’s Sophistication: BMW, British Airlines, positioning) to the intended audience. As a and Goldman Sachs. preemptive rebuttal to those creative Ruggedness: diesel, CAT (Caterpillar), and directors who would say otherwise, honoring Timberland. a brand’s positioning in its advertising, or any other channel for that matter, is not Any brand management program will benefit tantamount to handcuffing creativity. As my from first identifying the personality factor own chief creative officer says: inherent in the brand and then defining the Adhering to a brand’s strategy is simply personality within that general trait. For defining the sand box. It is then up to those example, both Sony and Versace could well who work creatively on the brand to build be considered sophisticated, but in very castles within that box. different ways. Sony is sleek, intelligent, and All advertising agency creative briefs define contemporary ± if not futuristic ± while the main message to be communicated Versace is flamboyant, irreverent, and within the advertisement. It is not required youthful. With a personality profile that the main message always be lifted developed for the brand, the account planner, directly from the brand positioning, but it along with every other steward of the brand, does demand that every marketing across every communications channel, will communication help support the brand’s have a target to aim for in creating an positioning. Any communication that works appropriate tone for the brand’s advertising. counter to establishing the desired positioning for the brand must be deemed Brand positioning ``off-brand’’ and not permitted. It deserves Brand positioning defines the single most repeating that developing advertising that is compelling, differentiating, believable, and ``on brand’’ is not a matter of pro- or deliverable value the brand offers the anti-creative, but is rather only responsible targeted audience. It is also the most difficult marketing. element of the brand strategy to develop. The challenge with positioning is that forces the Brand architecture selection of one message to promote first and Architecture, in the branding context, is the foremost. Microsoft promotes the optimal organization of the brands in a firm’s ``realization of individual potential,’’ rather portfolio. Specifically, it seeks to create the than the expected: software, services, and best view of the company’s brands from the technologies for productivity. Avenue A perspective of the marketplace. Some brand promotes ``confidence in results’’ rather than portfolios employ what is called a master the simple ability to measure. IDX Systems brand strategy, which uses just one brand to promotes ``enhancing the patient represent all offerings across all categories. experience,’’ rather than a category Virgin is a good example of a brand statement of solutions for the efficient architecture that uses a master brand operation of healthcare provider strategy. Virgin is applied to airlines, record organizations. Each of these companies is stores, and the list goes on. Another brand using its brand to focus their message and architecture strategy is to use subbrands. create a competitive advantage. Regardless of This strategy heavily leverages the corporate the communication channel ± press release, or lead brand, but augments the lead brand investor call, PowerPoint sales presentation, name with a unique product brand name. brochure, or advertising ± the dominant There are seemingly countless examples of [ 438 ]
  • 5. Rob Osler this strategy. Du Pont is an excellent example Infusing business and brand of a global corporation using this Implications strategies into account architecture strategy, with a strong planning Account planning is an outgrowth of corporate endorsement. Just a few of advertising agencies’ recognition that both Marketing Intelligence & Planning Du Pont’s product offerings are Stainmaster, media and creative solutions demand a 21/7 [2003] 435-439 Kevlar, Lycra and Corian. Another global foundation of solid market intelligence. brand that uses this architecture, but with a According to the UK-based Account Planning softer corporate endorsement is Marriott. Group (a collection of approximately 700 Some of Marriott’s brands are: Courtyard, people who work in advertising account Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, and Spring Hill planning or related fields): Suites. Each brand’s identity is endorsed by It is the planner’s job to guide or facilitate this the Marriott brand by way of the Marriott process [a disciplined system for devising brand’s identity positioned in close communications/advertising/commercial proximity. Another brand architecture is the strategy and enhancing its ability to produce product brand strategy. This architecture outstanding creative solutions that will be prescribes many product brands, with no effective in the marketplace] via the astute overt corporate brand endorsement. General application of knowledge or consumer/ Motors is a good example of corporate using a market understanding (Baskin, 2001). product brand architecture, as it stretches its reach across the landscape with brands, such The next evolutionary step of account as Saab, Hummer, Chevrolet and Cadillac. planning should be to incorporate a firm’s The brand architecture that management business strategy and its brand’s brand decides to employ for its offerings will strategy to provide a foundation for determine where, and to what extent, brand marketing communications development, equity is accrued. Again, there are direct guide the work of account planning, and ramifications to account planning. If the better focus the media and creative efforts of brand being advertised is master-branded, it marketing communications professionals. must be considered that, regardless of the particular product or service involved, the References corporate brand is being represented. In such Aaker, J.L. (1995), ``Conceptualizing and cases, corporate brand strategy kicks in and measuring brand personality: a brand must be followed to ensure responsible personality scale’’, working paper, Stanford stewardship of the brand and effective build University. of equity. If some form of an endorsed Abell, D.F. (1980), Defining the Business: The product brand is at play, careful attention Starting-Point of Strategic Planning, must be given to balance the appropriate Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. relationship between the product brand’s Baskin, M. (2001), ``What is account planning? strategy and the endorsing corporate brand’s A revised millennium definition’’, available strategy in the advertisement. If a non- at: www.apg.org.uk endorsed product brand is being advertised, Hill, C.W.L. and Jones, G.R. (2001), Strategic the account planner need not be concerned Management Theory, Houghton-Mifflin with the corporate brand, and need only Company, Boston, MA. focus on assuring that the product brand’s Porter, M.E. (1985), Competitive Advantage: strategy is well represented in the Creating and Sustaining Superior communications program. Performance, Free Press, New York, NY. [ 439 ]