Article for Marketing Magazine - Aug 2009


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Article submitted by David Warwick as published in Marketing Magazine - August 2009 edition, page 50 and 51. Piece is about the blending or personal and corporate brands, issues and dynamics.

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Article for Marketing Magazine - Aug 2009

  1. 1. 050 MEDIA & ADVERTISING FACE OF THE BRAND David Warwick is director of Melbourne design and brand agency Smart Works and head of strategy for digital agency Komosion. David is also chair of Content Management Professionals in Australia,, Twitter: @drwarwick. BLURRED IDENTITY David Warwick explains the risks and rewards of branding a corporate figurehead. H “ The market arpo is more than Oprah personifies Bonds, Magda Szubanski launched spelt backwards. Harpo is a Jetstar and provides a human face for Jenny corporate success story, with reality, for better or Craig and Shane Warne will always be turnover exceeding US$300 million and employing more worse, is that these remembered for Advanced Hair and his part in an ill-fated Quit Smoking campaign. than 400 staff (as of 2007). The Harpo brand corporate brands are Brands are, after all, a mental synopsis and the public persona of Oprah Winfrey are almost inseparable – like the wordplay, they personalised by their not dissimilar in operation to stereotypes or theoretical models, all filtering down mirror each other. The Oprah/Harpo nexus is far from unique. Many other corporations are strongly identifiable through the personal brand of their doyen. Understanding this duality is moguls. ” On the next rung are corporations with pow- erful charismatic leadership, corporate and complexity to convenient shorthand. The best brands are memorable, simple, longlasting, shared and, of course, personally accessible. If humans understand anything, it is other humans. The act of attributing human form or even more important in the digital age of personal brands that while not inseparable qualities to non-human entities is well-studied connection and more of us are experiencing are heavily intertwined. The names Bill Gates, in the humanities and clearly demonstrated a morphing of our personal and corporate Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch and in cultural mythology. We want to think of brand. Richard Pratt trigger neural pathways for most organisations and products in human terms of us that include Microsoft, Apple, Berkshire and what easier way to do this than by identi- CORPORATE FIGUREHEAD BRAND Hathaway, News Corp and Visy respectively. fying directly with another human being? LANDSCAPE The market reality, for better or worse, is that Microsoft is looking to Jerry Seinfeld to Other flagships in the class of figurehead these corporate brands are personalised by their lift its corporate persona in response to the brands include Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, moguls. Our business news is all the more pow- success of the ‘I’m a PC Guy’ ads by Apple. growing since the ’70s, and Martha Stewart erful and accessible for its humanisation. Less savoury or in vogue organisations with her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, turn to philanthropy, hoping to present the which survived the highly publicised trial, WHY CORPORATE BRAND company as caring and community-minded conviction and short incarceration of its PERSONALISATION? through brand association. Thankfully this founder for lying and obstructing justice. It comes as no surprise that both the dynamic works, otherwise benevolent fund- In Australia, Dick Smith (the company) has individual and corporation can easily adopt ing may be mortally wounded. Personally, spent 29 years, since its purchase by Wool- a conjoined model, complete with its inbuilt I am gratified that Hyundai sees a positive worths, moving beyond its founder’s legacy efficiency. A stock in trade for advertising is brand benefit from sponsoring the Carlton and personal brand union. the personalisation of brands – Pat Rafter AFL club. MARKETING AUGUST 2009 30119_50-51_warwick.indd 050 2009/07/08 09:07:46
  2. 2. FACE OF THE BRAND MEDIA & ADVERTISING 051 A BRAND SHARED Positive humanising of a corporate brand is no doubt beneficial. The application of human traits is taken to one level by adver- tising, another by powerful and charismatic leadership and further again in the case of our inseparable conjoined twins. Like conjoined twins, the separation of personal and corpo- rate brands can be painful and even terminal. When Martha Stewart went to trial, the press asked whether the corporate entity could survive. The business did survive, but was heavily impacted by the fall from grace of its human brand repository. Leaving aside align- ment and credibility, it is an unfortunate truth that a person and a corporation have different temporal paths – put simply, we die, we age and we have changing needs. The Disney empire suffered severely after Walt Disney died in 1966. Some brands are better aligned to particular demograph- ics and it may become increasingly difficult for Sir Richard Branson to epitomise youth, adventure and a sense of anti-establishment thinking as time marches on. The question of interconnection and constructed, turns out to be equally Sometimes it is simply about change – dependency between corporate and personal manufactured or misaligned. Dick Smith’s departure from the company brands should at least be a matter for The proliferation of digital social media bearing his name was problematic for both. consideration in the development of and the corresponding fragmentation of Three decades later the company has been corporate and marketing strategy. audience are driving organisations to find able to re-personalise the brand around the Some businesses have tried by design other vehicles for their message and, at idea of technical expertise with a ‘Talk to the or accident to manufacture a hybrid. Max the same time, consumers are looking for Techxperts’ campaign. For Apple and Pixar, Brenner Chocolate is growing internation- increasing richness and appropriateness of there is the question of Steve Jobs’ poor health ally and has a strong personalised brand. Max material across all channels. Broadcast style and, regardless of his recovery, a corporate life Brenner, however, is really Oded Brenner and content does not fit well within the social without his involvement. Max Fichtman. The latter is no longer involved media space and other active online channels. Whether the issues are addressed now or and, perhaps luckily, it is Brenner that has the The operational temptation is to promote in the future, each of these companies with physical resemblance to the company’s illus- the figurehead as the corporate social voice, the innate expectation of remaining a ‘going trated brand. Although this is not an extreme highlighting the issue of crossover personal concern’ will face a period of transition. case or hidden corporate knowledge, it does and corporate branding. In this environment, In the most severe cases, organisations not beg the question: how does a synthetic person two issues sit in counterpoint, the first is scale prepared for the departure of their celebrity make a public appearance in support of the and the second is authenticity. crutch may experience what amounts to a corporate brand when they don’t in fact exist? Organisations ‘burst the social bubble’ brand vacuum. the moment consumers realise the message AUTHENTICITY DEMANDED is not authentic. For a corporation, the PERSONALITY BRANDING IN YOUR When Shane Warne tells us, “Advanced Hair, reward arrives from scale-based delivery, BUSINESS yeah, yeah!”, we know we are being manipu- something that makes authentic person-to- Whole industries display a crossover between lated. On one level, we accept the subterfuge person communication problematic. The corporate and personal branding. Advertising of celebrity endorsement because it fits within answer may not be the same in all situations; agencies, legal practitioners and all manner one of the established norms of broadcast however, many authentic voices representing of professional consultancies find it both communication. the organisation, within a clear engagement convenient and natural to build their brand In the broadcast world, we may aspire, model, may work more effectively and be far around their founder, partners or public identify or empathise, always accepting that superior to building a celebrity leader who leaders. In many respects, this is easier than some fiction is part of the cut-through. We are can never deal directly with the issue of scale. using a brand name devoid of immediate significantly less forgiving when a corporate Customers and staff speaking for the personal connection. figurehead, held out as authentic and self- organisation? What a brave new world. M MARKETING AUGUST 2009 30119_50-51_warwick.indd 051 2009/07/08 16:12:47