Managers feel heat over rebranding scepticism

Corporate brand managers are under ‘intense pressure’ following criticism of high-profile rebrands and continuing consumer scepticism about brand messages, says research from Citigate Lloyd Northover and the Design Council. The research suggests the image of branding is in need of a makeover.

The report points to growing unease within the industry about the way branding operates. The study, based on interviews with almost 30 senior marketing and corporate affairs professionals, identifies a problem of ‘Brand-Gap’, the gap between strategic promise and creative delivery that consumers can experience.

CLN director Jim Bodoh says ‘BrandGap’ should make people ‘sit up and take notice’. But he denies it represents a crisis of confidence among brand practitioners.

‘The good news is that most branding professionals have a fair degree of consensus about what branding is and what the problems are,’ he explains.

The research says negative coverage in the national media perpetuates the view that branding is about little more than logos and poor corporate performance is ruining the perception of brands.

Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands says the problem lies more in communication than branding itself. ‘Quite often corporate marques are created with all the right strategic intent, but then this rationale is poorly [conveyed], giving rise to individual and often derogatory interpretation of the final execution’, he adds.

According to Bodoh, ‘relentless negativity’ about how branding is portrayed in the media fails to ‘give full credit’ to the sophistication of consumers.

‘The problem is that [consumers’] experience of brand is largely determined by the behaviour of individuals, rather than design,’ Bodoh adds. Both human resources departments and ‘corporate messages through the financial director’ need to become more brand ‘savvy’, he says.

Internal factors, such as a lack of support at board level and the difficulty of ensuring an entire organisation is ‘on brand’, were identified as contributing to the size of the task that brand managers face.

Landor director Alec Rattray adds, ‘The lack of brand support at board level is a problem. Delivering brand promises, a vital activity to thrive in a depressed or vibrant economy, is the conjoint responsibility of marketing, HR, IT, R&D and strategy – it’s not just a corporate issue, it’s a product issue.’

Sands says, ‘The challenge for consultancies is to recognise early on the relative expertise and resource with the client organisation and plug the gaps accordingly.

‘Perhaps we also need to be a little less high-brow and a little more down-to-earth in the way we talk about what we do and how we do it,’ he suggests.

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