Is brand building a dying art?

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 13 November 2015
Image from Senorhorst Jahnsen

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Client focus on short terms gains and a bigger emphasis on measurable returns has turned brand building into a “dying art” according to agencies.

While advertising has been hinged on “the big idea” or the platform that brands live off since its advent, the foundational building blocks for communications seem to be falling by the wayside.

M&C Saatchi chief strategy officer Justin Graham told AdNews that he thinks brand building is very much a “dying art”. But he said much of the collapse of “big idea” thinking is on the part of agencies rather than clients.

“It feels like the great brand builders are somewhat of a dying art,” Graham said. “A lot of people throw out this term of ‘brand platform’ but a lot of agencies aren’t going out and integrating what a brand platform can mean.”

Where it does tend to be driven on the part of the client, Graham says its the result of chasing after short term gains with something tactical.

J Walter Thompson general manager Jenny Willits said where she sees the conflict is when competing agency partners see tactical opportunities as a way of demonstrating their expertise at the expense of the core idea.

“It requires strong marketing leadership to get this right,” Willits said.

“With a central idea at the heart, any marketing activity becomes easier to manage, and easier to hold partners to account.

“The challenging part is spending the time on developing that central brand idea and defining it in a way that everyone involved, are all singing from the same song sheet.”

Landor Associates managing director Dominic Walsh said from a communications perspective there seems to be less executions tied back to “big ideas”, with more tactical pieces coming to the fore. But he said that when it comes to other elements of brand building such as internal structures within the business, he thinks there is plenty going on.

“There was time where brand building was just putting a lot of money in media and putting messages out,” Walsh said. “Organisations have gotten more sophisticated now around how they execute it so there is a lot more activity internally focused now. Clients are more likely to invest in things like innovation rather than just mainstream brand building from a communications perspective.“

But Walsh added that there probably is an education piece for marketers to understand just how widely their job is now spread with building up a brand.

“There is a greater need for more brands to better understand what it means to build long term brand equity and think beyond the next 12 months,” Walsh said.

“You look at brands that are really successful like Apple and Dyson and they’re very good at looking at the medium to long term.”

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