Brand Champions Assemble! Why your brand strategist and accountant should sit side by side at the round table of business
September 5, 2018
Teaching an old dog new tricks
Brand equity is an intangible asset that can be worth billions of dollars to a global corporation. But even for SMEs, brand equity should be an important part of your balance sheet.
The first chapter in my book, Rebranding Branding, is entitled ‘Why Brand Strategists Are as Important as Accountants’. I normally work with marketing managers and CMOs, and when they read this chapter they laugh, because they instantly understand the issue.
You see, the idea that brand strategy isn’t some fuzzy concept resonates universally with CMOs, who know that brand strategy is core to running all organisations optimally. Marketing people are brand evangelists, but their needs are often de-prioritised relative to traditional core business functions, such as accounting.
I wrote my book in part to help CMOs educate their internal stakeholders. I can’t tell you how many times marketing managers have approached me for work only to have their budget slashed by the CEO. These are CEOs who think nothing of spending six figures on a strategic planning report from one of the Big Four consulting firms, but won’t spend a fraction of that to survey their stakeholders or research their competition.
Often we pitch multiple streams of work and the CEO only implements the first, thinking a new style guide or website is enough.
And I’m not just speaking from my own experience. This is a common experience for most brand agencies, and for in-house marketing departments that do their own brand strategy.
It’s not voodoo!
CMOs need to find opportunities to educate their CFO, their CEO and the board around brand fundamentals and the importance of a brand focus to their future. They need to lead them through a process of thinking about their brand differently. They need to get them to be open to conversations about brand that challenge their pre-existing assumptions that it is voodoo, fuzzy, discretionary.
The real barrier is their attitude. They think, ‘Let’s do what we’ve always done before’, rather than declaring, ‘This year we need to invest in the brand because we’re losing customers and our competitors are spending more. We need to put branding on the radar.’
What is your competitive pressure?
We always encourage CMOs to pitch brand strategy investment with rigour and evidence, around actual business cases. And often we collaborate in that effort. For example, one of the biggest reasons for lacklustre financials is competitive pressure.
So we propose analysing the competition. And by this I mean not just looking at their profits and market share, but also at the public’s awareness of the competitor’s brand, whether their messaging is consistent, are they focused on their core business or are they chasing fireflies?
A CFO of a large hospitality group with restaurants all over Australia asked us to help them with their brand. When I asked why he had come to us, he said there had been issues in the newer restaurants not getting the numbers they needed, but the reason wasn’t on the balance sheet. It was a branding problem.
I find it encouraging to see more and more CFOs in our marketing meetings. The CMOs are using us to champion their mission to their internal stakeholders. Who is championing your mission?
If you don’t have a brand champion, or you’re a marketing manager who needs help making your case for an always-on brand strategy, reaching out to a brand agency that understands your business can be one of the best ways to improve your bottom line.