Branding Three dirTy LiTTLe Branding SecreTS by lcp19892


Three dirTy LiTTLe Branding SecreTS
Oh no – another white paper on brands and branding??

But everyone already knows how important it is to have a strong brand. And everyone knows how
important branding is.

So what’s new?

Actually, there are some dirty little secrets that need to be exposed in the world of brands and branding.
And it concerns the practitioners of brands and branding.

dirTy LiTTLe SecreT #1.
Many design studios, ad agencies and consulting firms take advantage of their clients.

They claim they can define your brand and execute it in branding. What you’ll actually get however will
often fall short of what was promised.

With design studios you’ll get a brand identity – a logo, logotype, type fonts, color palette and some really
spiffy collateral material and design templates.

Ad agencies love ads. They don’t know how to define brands but will say they do in order to make the ads
they love so much. Instead of getting a clearly defined brand, you’ll get an advertising execution that the
agency creative director swears “does a great job for the brand” while the strategy director turns a blind eye.

Consulting firms are often the worst. They know how to measure a brand at a point in time and they’ll
produce a very heavy and indigestible report. It’s called the “thud factor” or “passing the weight test”, and
it’s designed to impress the client and imbue the findings with unchallengeable authority. I call it the 666
approach: the project takes six months, the report weighs six pounds and the fees run into six figures.

Shamefully missing from all the above is a simple statement of what the brand stands for – the brand’s
essence. I’m not talking about core values, value drivers, product positioning or value proposition,
although all of these are important. I’m talking about brand essence - the brand’s DNA, its spirit, its heart
and soul – that’s meant to guide every business, marketing and communications strategy and decision-
making relating to that brand.

They’re forgetting that branding is more than an ad, a design or metrics. Branding is an organizational
principle that can bring cohesion to the diversity of a company’s activities and its people.

But despite not knowing how to define your brand, many design studios, ad agencies and consulting firms
continue to claim they do.

dirTy LiTTLe SecreT #2.
The few design studios, ad agencies and consulting firms that do understand brand essence (and there are
some that do) unfortunately often deliver flawed essences. Either too rational, or uninspiring, or generic/
undifferentiated, or too long/unmemorable (laundry lists are such a cop-out) or worse, something that
sums up where the brand is today rather than where it wants to be in the future.

Their cardinal sin is in failing to say that you really need a future brand essence – something that’s going
to last 5-10 years, something for the organization to reach for and align with. Part of the scam here is
that they want to repeat the project every couple of years and earn more money.

dirTy LiTTLe SecreT #3.
Brand consultants really are a mixed bag. With their Ph.D.’s in hindsight, they’ll pontificate what certain
(successful) brands did right and how other (ailing) brands screwed up and even draw up immutable laws
governing brands. But they’re long on post-facto analysis and short on detailed processes for success.

Either they have or they don’t have processes. If they do, then they won’t want to share it – it’s their
livelihood and besides, they probably stole it. And if they don’t have a process, then their dabbling in
brand consulting is an even bigger scam!

So the next time you are discussing your brand and branding with a design studio, ad agency or consulting
firm, be sure to get straight answers to the following questions:

        1. What is the brand essence statement for my brand?
        2. Is it a current brand essence statement or a future brand essence statement?
        3. What is your process for developing a brand essence statement?

If they squirm at any of these questions or give woolly, roundabout answers, then you’ll know you have
probed their weak spots and they are making it up on the fly.

Of course these are questions some potential branding partners would rather you did not ask, but by
winnowing away the pretenders, your brand will benefit in the end.

aBouT The auThor
Dr Michael Llewellyn-Williams is the Principal Brand Strategist of the WESSLING Group.

He has been working in brand consulting and as an ad agency account planner for over 20 years, and been
a regular conference speaker/chair in Europe, the United States and the Far East.

Dr Llewellyn-Williams has worked on such famous brands as Disney, Visa, Scion, Hewlett-Packard,
BMW, Shell, AOL, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Pentax Cameras, QANTAS, McDonald’s, Tomb
Raider (Lara Croft), Miller Genuine Draft, Orville Redenbacher, Land Rover and Mini.

He was elected a Member of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in London after only seven years
in the industry and was awarded the prestigious ‘Marketing Award for Innovation’ by that institute in
1990. That same year he was elected to the highly prestigious Marketing Society in London.

He has twice been a judge for The Effies in New York and has a string of proprietary methodologies
to his name.


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