Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Sorrell said, ‘In the long term, it’s all about branding and identity.’ He highlighted the shift in the balance of power globally, not just to countries like Brazil, Russia and China, but also to ‘the next 11’, including Bangladesh, Cuba and Pakistan.
He pinpointed events such as the football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 as particularly important for brands in Brazil.
Sorrell said he perceives ‘a shift to the centre’ between global and local on the world stage. Local is becoming increasingly important, he said.
He spoke of over-capacity, particularly in Far Eastern countries like China, Japan and South Korea, and pointed to growth in the number of older people in countries such as Russia and the shortage of brands locally to meet their needs.
The Web and the expansion of companies such as Google, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo beyond service-providing is creating new rivalries and opportunities for brands, Sorrell said. But he cited retail as the biggest challenge for brands, with companies such as Wal-mart and Tesco looking at global purchasing and other innovations.
Internal communications is, says Sorrell, a largely untapped market for most brands. He said he is ‘amazed at the lack of internal alignment’ in some of the biggest companies. His experience of WPP consultancies has shown that, ‘The best clients are those where [an internal communications system] is in place,’ he said.
The same is true of corporate social responsibility programmes, Sorrell said. He added that companies that once played lip-service to CSR are now taking it seriously, following the lead of high-profile players such as Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
Finally, Sorrell highlighted the Government as ‘a very big client’ for branding consultancies. Its decision to change payment structures from 60 to 90 days will, he said, go against smaller consultancies that could be pushed to meet a monthly salary bill, but he sees opportunities for bigger groups, whatever the outcome of the General Election.