Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

10 12 2009

Once upon a time, marketing was easy.  In fact, Ed or Jimmy or Bubba from sales could handle it.

You didn’t need an MBA: the booming postwar economy made even lousy strategy look like a stroke of genius.

You didn’t even have to understand advertising. You had an ad agency to handle all that Hollywood  junk.  All you had to do was make some phone calls, steer clear of company politics, and have the occasional 12-martini lunch with your pals on Mad Ave.

Fast forward to 2010, and it’s a mess. Your traditional agency still does gorgeous TV, and some of their young guns really do “get” digital. But, maybe their digital offering isn’t as good as agencies that were born digital.

So, how do you manage this?

You can do what most marketers do and work with a crazy-quilt of agencies. You’ll have a traditional agency for TV. Another that does paid search, one that does social media, one that does mobile, one that does PR, digital ad infinitum.  You’ll get best-of-breed thinking, but you’ll spend a lot of time playing coordinator and referee. Oh, and trying to coordinate all the data from these disparate efforts will be a ginormous pain in the shorts.

Or you can go with a “we-do-it-all” interactive agency. They may not be as deep in search as a pure-play search agency, or maybe they’ll be stronger in analytics than in creative.

But at least all your stuff isn’t in silos.

Except… it still is.  If you’re like most marketers, what about the impact of the other 80% or more of your spend that remains in traditional? How does all that integrate with your digital efforts?

The Integration Problem

I’ve worked in traditional, digital and now I’m on the client side. Having seen a 360 degree view of this, I’m more convinced than ever that marketers must take the lead across all these different specialties and integrate them to drive results.

It would be great if you could have your lead agency do this, but you really can’t. No matter how great an agency is, I think it’s impossible to be entirely objective.

Every agency is passionate about their specialty. If they’re not, they can’t be good at it. And as a practical matter, every agency is in business to sell more of what they do. They need to upsell as much as you do.

So the job of integration, of synergizing disparate efforts so that 1+1 adds up to 11, has to be done on the client side. Easy, right? Well… maybe not.

The Overloaded Brand Manager

The job of integration usually gets placed on the shoulders of a brand manager who is already tasked with managing far too much.  Trying to wrap your head around traditional, digital, manufacturing, innovation, social media, competitive threats, private label, and the ugliest roughest retail environment in history all at once ain’t easy.

And, marketing organizations typically lack people who have enough experience across these silos to see the opportunities that exist — and especially not those that can be created.

Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

Marketing organizations now need a senior manager with deep experience in both traditional and digital who is tasked with integrating them.

A strong Tradigital exec who can look at great ideas from different agencies and find the ones that work not just as one-offs, but multiply the power of the overall effort.

Today, 10 years after the dot-com bust, a small number of these people exist. They’re the oldtimers who left successful traditional advertising and marketing gigs to dive headfirst into digital.

What do you think? Does a new position like this make sense? Who ought to do this job, and why? How would this work within a traditional brand management structure?

Comments, please…

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Private-Label Pirates And Digital Defenses

12 08 2008

In days of yore, marketers built brands and retailers built shelves.

It was good business. Everybody prospered.

Then, without so much as a raising of the skull and crossbones, private label brands appeared on the horizon to steal market share.

Private label could offer customers cheaper prices, and no wonder. There was no need to invest in building the category.No need to spend a nickel on marketing, which is typically one of the three top expenses on a CPG company’s income statement.

All they had to do was sail in and take their share of the business.

Ol’ Roy, Wal-Mart’s store brand of dog food, bit Purina where it hurts and became the top-selling brand of dog food in the United States.

Recently, Unilever sold its All, Snuggle, Wisk, Surf and Sunlight brands to global private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners for $1.08 billion in cash. Why? They were so squeezed between market leader P&G and private label that they felt they couldn’t compete — even though their laundry care unit resulted in $1 billion in turnover for the company last year.

And Brandweek reports Unilever is not alone:

“ConAgra (… is) selling its Pemmican beef jerky brand to Brazil-based Marfrig Group (…) Kraft (…) relieved itself of lackluster-performing Post cereal line (…) The bigger companies are now looking to shed any brand that isn’t the leader in their category. No. 1: thumbs up. No. 2: ditch,” said Chris Bragas, CEO of Eastwest Marketing Group, New York, which specializes in strategic planning, advertising and partnership marketing.”

And now Ad Age reports that private-label is taking the next step and breaking down the walls between retailers. Safeway is taking its organic house brand, O Organics, and better-for-you brand, Eating Right, into competitive grocery-chains nationwide this fall.

This leaves CPG marketers with two choices. Cry in our rum. Or find ways to fight back.

How To Fight Back Against Private Label

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. One way to beat the pirates: build faster brands.

According to Advertising Age, product categories in more than 20 countries show a private-label market that is 56% higher where there is low innovation activity compared with categories with many new products

Where are you supposed to find all these new ideas? Go online. Listen to blogs. Build a strong online loyalty program. Create digital panels and get engaged with your consumers.

Yes, the pirates can do these same things. Our job as protectors of our brands is to do it better, faster and smarter. It’s do-or-die.

Go Crazy. And Go More Digital. Let’s face it. There’s no rational reason to buy a name-brand product if the cheaper store-brand product is just as good.

If you can’t be better (for legal or cost-of-goods reasons), forget rational. Go crazy, and go digital.

According to Brandweek, P&G has been able to maintain the upper edge over competitors like Unilever while fighting off private label by continuously seeking innovation in product launches. Earlier this month, for example, P&G announced it was introducing a line of laundry and fabric softeners, called Tide and Downy Total Care, made from beauty care products.

Why not go a step further? P&G can create online fashion and beauty shows to support the launch, enlist celebrities to pitch, and build social communities around these ideas.

Shake things up.

Be More Facebook and Less Faceless. Private-label brands count on brands being boring, rational and predictable. They count on our brands being managed by bankers and not entrepreneurs.

Maybe what you need are a few more loose cannons rolling around on your decks. Challenge your agencies to think crazier. Ask social networks and online ad networks what they could do if there were no rules.

The commanders of the private-label ships are the same execs who used to manage your brands. They know your playbook as well as you do. Burn it, and keep them off guard.

Get Closer To Your Customers. Private-label brands know people like saving money. But since they’re not investing, they can’t learn the kinds of things that you can learn. What are the emotional reasons people need a pasta sauce, or a frozen dinner, or a haircolor?

What do your customers want to do? Who do they want to be? What do they dream? Can you offer them branded online tools that make their lives more interesting, more fun, less dull?

Leave the Parrots to the Pirates. The world doesn’t need more “me-too” products. By the time you copy a successful innovation, the pirates will be there too.

How else can CPG brands do battle against private-label, and win? What do you think?





The Formula Herd vs The Silver Bullet Herd

1 08 2008

A bit of Friday philosophy. Why is making progress so difficult?

I believe it’s because businesspeople run in herds, for safety.

Many of us run in the Formula Herd; our heads down, ritualistically reciting our formulas like a prayer. We desperately hope that we can get rich before our formula loses its mojo.

Others of us run in the Silver Bullet Herd; eyes constantly scanning the horizon for Deus Ex Machina. We desperately hope that our Silver Bullet will make us rich before anyone realizes it’s really just a little man behind the curtain.

A few Crazies split off from the herd and form their own small groups.

We desperately hope that logic and reason will win the day, and that our superior survival skills will make us rich in spite of the insanity of business. Usually the most successful Crazies can be found at conferences peddling Formulas and Silver Bullets to members of the other herds.

I’ve been a member of all three herds at different points in my career. When I’ve run out of Silver Bullets I’ve found myself reaching for Formulas. And if I’m honest, most of the time I’ve been one of the Crazies.

Three questions to think about:

Which herd do you belong to?

Do the people around you even realize they’re in a herd?

Is running with the herd helping us, or is just increasing our odds of tripping because it’s stopping us from seeing what lies ahead?