Wally Olins says brand valuation ‘meaningless’

Branding guru Wally Olins has blasted the process of brand valuation, saying it is ‘about as meaningful as sticking your wet finger in the air and shouting out a number’.

Saffron Brand Consultants chairman Olins says brands are for the most part ‘inherently unquantifiable’, adding that valuations are ‘like a comfort blanket for a child, which makes it feel safe, secure and stable’.

He adds, ‘But all of us know deep down life isn’t like that. Brand valuation and other statistical analyses with which it is associated are supposed to be an aid to predicting the future, when, as has recently been made clear yet again, the future stubbornly refuses to be predicted.’

Olins’ statement follows recent developments in brand valuation, which include Interbrand valuing the Royal College of Art’s brand at £57m, and the release of a report by Westminster Business School and the British Brands Group which suggests that the total contribution of the branding industry to the UK is not being fully accounted for.

Read Olins’ comments in full in the next issue of Design Week, out tomorrow.

Hide Comments (7)Show Comments (7)
  • sue turner November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    He’s right. I’ve been as close to those who have made a mighty fine living out of this stuff as it possible to get and it is utter, absolute and total bollo*ks.

  • eilish bouchier November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    i’m afraid although i’m a brand consultant i have to agree with Wally.

    The reality is that branding is meaningless unless a company is branded inside out. We have seen too much of same same but different in the past decade or so. My background is in visual design and business which has extended to branding during the past decade and more.

    While working with clients I discovered the easy part is creating the brand identity through visual and written/spoken language. The difficult part was the company actually living up to this brand we created. This led me to working with clients to create more inside-out branding; where we worked with companies in the alignment of their mission, vision, management culture, products, operations, recruitment, customer service etc.

    The objective was to really discover their values and consequently their offering. Very few companies understand or are open and willing to invest in this. It requires a meaningful and often confrontational internal dialogue with all the leaders of a company. it’s that spiritual depth that lovemarks and hugh macleod is talking about.

    It is only through alignment of all pieces of an organisation that internal engagement occurs, which in turn makes the external offering clear and engaging. A company can then deliver their products/service with integrity and create that trust and loyalty that is so elusive.

    Branding cannot take credit for this. CEOs who are willing to engage at this level and then lead their organisations to live their brand can. However it is a moveable feast and a continuous challenge hence its value is largely intangible.

  • Roger Perowne November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I am sure that even Wally Olins would not disagree with the fact that brands contribute to the value of companies, and that for many companies they are the most valuable assets they have.

    Similarly no-one who regularly conducts financial brand valuations would claim that it is a precise science, nor would they claim to have a special insight into predicting the future.

    However, when a brand valuation exercise is informed by well-constructed consumer research it not only highlights the role the brand plays in creating demand for a business, but it can also inform the best course of action to grow brand value in the future.

  • BB November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If Mr. Olins is considering brand valuation as an Interbrand’s Brands Rank, I totally agree with him. But in fact, the brand value can and should me measure as well as it’s assets. This can be done with and efficient and accurate methodology that provides not just a number for itself but explains how is brand value being created and how could managers leverage their brand value. In my point of view, in this case, brand valuation can be a powerful tool for managers.

  • LB November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The point is that if something is transactionable, it should have a price tag. A brand is transactionable, many times its a company most valuable transactionable asset. Of course, brand valuations can have serious non-speculative methodologies and different points of view (seller, buyer etc.) Valuations can (and should) iinclude risk. Also,brands reduce risk. Its true that we cannot predict the future, however, if you are buying or selling a brand, you will need to evaluate what you are buying or selling in the most acurate possible way.
    Btw, I look up to Wally Ollins as the prophet of branding himself and I love his books and work. His philosophy of focusing into internal audiencies (like stated in one comment above) his very true and 20 years latter companies still dont get this straight and see branding as something superficial. Valuations or research are tools of branding.

  • gareth November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think it depends who is holding their finger in the air… how long ago they were at college, where they went to college, what life experience they’ve had, where they work, where they live, etc. Wally’s obviously quite happy to give opinion – he probably thinks he’s earned the right and I would rather hear his thoughts than a lot of others. But while it’s impossible to literally quantify a brand it is possible to have a good guess at which ones are in good shape. I believe Apple’s brand to be in better shape than Lloyds TSB. I believe the BBC is a healthier brand than Channel 4. What’s the problem with clients paying for informed opinion? That’s the design industry in a nutshell isn’t it?

  • Hugh November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I wholeheartedly endorse Mr. Olins comments, only a Wally would swallow the brand valuation twaddle peddled by brand valuation experts – accountancy at its most creative !

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