Fabulous brands will disappear overnight?

Lord Bell of Chime communications was quoted as saying this at the ISBA conference

"If we don’t take action, fabulous brands that spent millions building their reputation will disappear overnight."

The issue referred to is action to dissuade the government from imposing further restrictions and controls on advertising in areas such as unhealthy foods, cars that are bad for the environment, alcohol etc.

This post is not about about the merits or demerits of advertising controls, but to challenge the astonishing presumption that a great brand could not survive without advertising.

Some of the greatest and most fabulous brands of the 21st century became great brands long before they invested in broadcast advertising.   How did they do this?  They created products and services that people wanted and executed them better than others.  Here are a few plucked from the Superbrands top 500

Rough Guides
Rolls Royce Aerospace
Eddie Stobat

And some others
Pret a manger

Brand reputation and durability is built upon people’s day to day experience of the brand or what they hear about it from other people.  How did people discover these brands and services before they started advertising?  It will be different in each case but we know from our Power Channels analysis that whilst TV ads can be influential, word of mouth, previous experiences, being available in the right places are often the drivers of growth.

I would beg to suggest that the "fabulous brands that will disappear overnight" are not really so fabulous.  Great brands that deliver things that customers want and make themselves available in the right places will be sought after and customers will find them.  If advertising is restricted then brand owners will create new ways to make themselves famous.  I am not so sure their destiny is tied to the availability of mass market advertising.

Having said that, advertising is a powerful tool and persuading the government to back off is a good idea. But to do this we will need more powerful arguments than this one as advocated by Lord Bell at ISBA.

Footnote:   People’s day to day experiences are shaped by the way the business
delivers Power Attributes to the Power Categories.  This work underpins
the brands success.  Customers and prospects then discover this through
the Power Channels, which include advertising, but there is much more.
(definitions click here or sign up here  to get our free paper "The Growth Game").

Why you should worry less about the future?

I was listening to this fascinating discussion on Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 on Monday

We are hard-wired not to truly estimate risk, too vulnerable to the
impulse to simplify, narrate and categorize – and we don’t even realise
it. What we should understand, argues the academic and city trader NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB,
is that our world is dominated by ‘black swans’, highly improbable
events that have a massive impact and are nearly impossible to predict.
Black swans, he says, mean we should ignore ‘experts’, stop reading
newspapers and learn to take advantage of uncertainty. Nassim Nicholas
Taleb will be delivering lectures on
The Black Swan at the University of Oxford on Wednesday 5 March and at the London School of Economics on Thursday 6 March. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is published by Penguin.

Here is the podcast link  Nassim is in the last 15 minutes

I got 5 points from the discussion

  • What actually happens is often not possible to predict
  • Measuring (empirical?) what is happening is more useful
  • Projecting current trends is more reliable than expert predictions
  • Our assessment of the risks we take will be wrong.
  • Newspapers, colleagues and experts often try to convince us we can predict and manage risk.

It got me thinking, so what does this mean for businesses in pursuit of more growth? 

You should spend less time worrying less about the future.  So reduce the time you spend

  • Worrying about things you cannot control
  • Forecasting future events (since we will be wrong)
  • Predicting competitor reaction
  • Reacting to the latest hot topic in the marketing press

You should spend more time strengthening your ability to withstand unexpected shocks. To do this, measure what is actually happening to the business and assume it will continue until you create change by doing these things

  • Discover your customers frustrations and unmet needs
  • Know and measure what is important to customers
  • Discover how to make this more available to customers
  • Take action based on these insights and measure the results

You can do a simple audit to see where the balance of your time is spent.  Is it more on worrying about the future or could you do more to strengthen your competitive ability.

Corporate teams can easily get sucked into worrying about the future, whereas entrepreneurs tend to focus on things they can do now.

In the meantime.  I am off to the LSE on Thursday to gain some more insight into how we can strengthen our approach to helping you translate insights about customers into practical steps that will create more growth.

If you would like a free telephone audit to discover if you are worrying about the future too much or are doing enough to get on with the present, then email us or phone us on 020 8334 7202 to arrange it.

P. S.  This is exactly what Power Categories and Power Attributes and Power Channels will help
you achieve this action orientation and address the business fundamentals.  The approach is about
translating insights about customers into practical steps that will
strengthen your competitive position in the market.