“Every company is a public company”
You know, a few years ago that sentence would have seemed strange, obscure. And yet, none of us here today would doubt what it is saying.
Now everything is open; everything is discoverable. There are no hiding places. And the hundred year plus model where the ‘company’ and the ‘brand’ could somehow exist as separately orbiting planets, only occasionally effecting conjunctions, has vanished.
If you had asked me five years ago how to define a brand, I would have confidently replied, “A brand is a relationship between a product and its consumer,” one which is based on emotional as well as functional bonds. Our own founder, David Ogilvy, was the first exponent of how brand imagery creates those bonds. It still does. But the definition does not quite work now. Social media has exploded that sense of relationship.
The brand is now shared, liked or disliked, discussed and debated outside of it. The relationship is extended to your friends, to your peers, to your heroes. It is public property. And that, in turn, means it cannot be managed in isolation: “Oh, the marketing department looks after that!” Its image, and the image of the company, are inextricably, forever, one.
What is the effect of this?
I think you can liken it to a kind of Damascene awakening for our industry. It forces us to enquire what values the company andthe brand share. It forces us to ask how appropriate those values are, how unique they are, how authentic they are. Do they spring from the authentic tissue of the organization or are they an artificial transplant? Authenticity, as Jon has written in his marvelous Arthur W. Page Society piece, has become the “coin of the realm” for successful corporations. It is no longer enough just to say that a brand is a relationship. You have to know what the brand stands for. And you have to express what you stand for in a clear point-of-view – whether it be about your customers’ lives, about the world of business, or about the world itself. What does the brand believe? In the case of IBM, it believes the world would be a better place if we used technology to make its systems smarter.
The Smarter Plant platform – a fabulous co-authorship between client and agency – expresses that point of view in a way which spans the world of company and brand, of internal audience and
You can track the experience in your hand: just how powerful it is becomes apparent in the first market to launch, France, where 88% of all iPhone owning mothers downloaded this app.
Back in the 1950’s David Ogilvy helped create Dove, a soap which contained moisturizing cream. Over many years the brand developed a set of values based on care and a commitment to real women.
Its authenticity stems from its belief in the value of campaigning for real beauty against beauty stereotypes. Dove recognizes that this is not just a matter anymore of staking its ground, but also of engaging in always-on conversation with its fans, its fellow campaigners. Its social media presence is globally designed, allowing the opportunity to aggregate the global user base when helpful, and providing a balance of central content and, locally, of activation programmes. So much part of Dove’s authentic persona has Facebook become that it can even afford this unprecedented “make-over”.
Sometimes brands have to re-find an authenticity which they have lost. Louis Vuitton was one such. Some years ago its travelling heritage had become diluted – as travel itself dumbed down into mass tourism.
We had to reframe it as about true and
Mikhail Gorbachev, or Angelina Jolie. But these appearances are all part of a design, a design where marketing and
One of the critical success factors of this digital presence is that it allows Louis Vuitton to start building relationships with tomorrow’s customers through data-led insights.
UPS, too, recently sought to project itself in a more authentic way. As its founder, Jim Casey, said, “Anyone can deliver a package”. In time it became seen as just that: a shipping company.
But Casey’s values had gone deep even if they were particularly reticent. They were all about the attitudes and
For UPSers, it’s a platform which has unleashed a collective energy. This B2B brand has become social in a way it never had been: for instance, harnessing NCAA basketball against Facebook content of logistics as a game-changer, driving an exponential increase in fans and engagement.
Logistics has dramatically increased the brand value of UPS, but it has also enabled a system for creating profitable growth. For instance, we can see the incremental revenue growth which can be directly attributed to the content in the US amongst small and mid-market companies. One reason is that data was designed into the customer experience from inception. Small businesses are too diverse to target with broad based marketing; they do not fit into typical “vertical” segmentation models, and they are hyper-sensitive to relevant messages and offers.
The examples I have cited speak of a sweet spot when authenticity and technology converge. These are smart brands, creating meaning, not messaging. Whether you be a teenager or a new Mum, or a real woman, or an intrepid voyager, or a small business, they create for you an eco-system of content which is seamless, and where the creativity itself is, in the words of Coca-Cola’s Wendy Clark, “liquid and linked”. They are all socially adept: there is no gap between what they believe and how they behave.
And each of them set out to design an experience strategically, not as a collection of tactics and gizmos, but as a “meaningful order”.
Miles Young – Worldwide Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather
June 6th, 2012