Why Branding Experts Need to Step Out of Their Silos

Why Branding Experts Need to Step Out of Their Silos

And yes, those involved with licensing want to talk about what's going on in their part of the brand universe. How do we get the different disciplines of brand to talk with each other in more connective ways, so that marketers can form coherent views on how the elements work together to form stronger, more valuable, more exciting and competitive brands? What's still missing for us is a framework for how the historically silo-ed disciplines of brand insights and strategy, brand licensing, brand valuation and brand protection should work together to lift the contribution of the brand to the business. Brand protection: The ideas that the brand chooses to hold close as proprietary property Brand licensing: How, where and why the brand chooses to extend or expand its presence to help achieve the greatest possible levels of return Brand valuation: What the brand is worth to the business. Two things seem inevitable in such a discussion. Equally, brand protection and brand licensing have a traditional relationship. Brand valuation is an outlier to many, but shouldn't be -- because, if brands are valuable, and the purpose of brand strategy and brand licensing is to grow the value of a brand, then it makes sense that money should be an integral part of the planning for, and extension of, every significant brand. Equally, while brand valuation often appears to outsiders as a scorecard function, there could and should be closer discussions around how brand growth and brand equity are better monitored, and the levels of investment required to achieve the returns that senior teams want -- in other words, framing brands as active and strategized market makers for companies. Doing so not only enabled the brand to play to its real strengths, it also enabled the brand to own an idea that was valued by consumers, that made sense from a strategic and licensing point of view because it tightly integrated with the brand's DNA, and that enabled Rubbermaid to profitably expand its presence out into new markets. This understanding of the brand enables each distinct team member to do his or her part in helping achieve the company's overall goal.

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Why Branding Experts Need to Step Out of Their Silosgraphicstock

Spend any time at a brand or marketing conference or reading the marketing press these days and what is very clear very quickly is just how fixated people seem to have become with pushing narrowing viewpoints. The digital people just want to talk about digital. The brand valuation people analyze shifts in the worth of brands. The intellectual property people want to talk about protection. And yes, those involved with licensing want to talk about what’s going on in their part of the brand universe.

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As agencies and consultancies have developed expertise in these different facets, they have developed methodologies and approaches that systematize their schemata and worldviews, but — and we’ll let you decide whether this is inadvertent or intentional — also drive wedges between the different approaches, to the point where they can feel like either/or decisions.

At one level this focus on specific aspects of the brand spectrum is completely understandable. We’re all too busy on our own stuff and it feels like we have zero time to consider the bigger picture despite our best intentions. The complications and debates of each discipline now run so deep that there is ample fuel for conversation and the promotion of new theories and frameworks, even within micro-fields. What concerns us though is that this silo-ing of marketing functions is causing practitioners to overlook what should be the key priority for all of us. How do we get the different disciplines of brand to talk with each other in more connective ways, so that marketers can form coherent views on how the elements work together to form stronger, more valuable, more exciting and competitive brands?

Joining historically disparate disciplines

In the discussions we’ve been having with senior marketing and licensing executives as part of the research for Pete’s book, Expand Grow Thrive: 5 Proven Steps to Turn Good Brands into Global Brands Through the LASSO Method (February 2018), it has been great to hear more and more of them making overt reference to brand DNA, story and experiences as critical consideration elements for licensing decisions. The view that licensing is just about deals and sweating IP assets is slowly giving way to an understanding that brands are as much about how they are emotionally structured and viewed as how they are legally owned, and that unless they are offering consumers consistent stories and aligned experiences across their various touchpoints, they are short-selling the brand. In a recent conversation with Matt Dunn, founder and chief brand officer, Octane5, he shared his company’s “Five Immutable Laws of Licensing” that speak to this evolution:

  1. Protect your brand;
  2. Identify and track hidden risks;
  3. Manage with actionable information;
  4. Engage the customer(s); and
  5. Act like a business, not as a department.

What’s still missing for us is a framework for how the historically silo-ed disciplines of brand insights and strategy, brand licensing, brand valuation and brand protection should work together to lift the contribution of the brand to the business.

By connecting the various activities through a lens of “where and how does each activity add value (as a whole and to each other)?,” our hope is that we can promote a more interactive brand ecosystem. Several years ago, Mark created something of a furor at a technology conference when he suggested that the technology and marketing teams needed to do lunch. Today, big data, algorithms and patterning have normalized that relationship to the point where it is becoming mainstream. Our hope is that the same thing can happen across the brand continuum as specialists from across the disciplines understand that they are much more valuable working together than they are squabbling with each for territory, mandate and client access. More closely aligning the disciplines, and perhaps the performance metrics and compensation, would encourage each to think about its relationship with the others rather than pushing for one area at the expense of everyone else.

Identifying contributions

Here’s how we see the contributions that various disciplines make:

  • Brand insights: The environment within which a brand competes: the competitive forces; the market dynamics; consumer priorities; regulatory constraints and opportunities
  • Brand strategy: Where a brand is positioned; purpose; values; the brand’s story. Described by some as the “business strategy made visible.”
  • Brand protection: The ideas that the brand chooses to hold close as proprietary property
  • Brand licensing: How, where and why the brand chooses to extend or expand its presence to help achieve the greatest possible levels of return
  • Brand valuation: What the brand is worth to the business.

Two things seem inevitable in such a discussion. By snapshotting how the various components work, we will be criticized by some for over-simplifying the value and contribution of their discipline. And there will be the inevitable protestations that some agencies are doing some or all of what is described already. Neither defense should detract from the key point of emphasis, however. The broader brand community needs to work more closely and more constructively together to help brands explore more effective ways to grow. There are opportunities for individuals and teams at all levels to demonstrate leadership here by asking to include other perspectives.

It’s true that within this construct, there are already well-established relationships that do work well together. Brand insights and brand strategy experts need to work closely together and frequently do so to great effect. Equally, brand protection and brand licensing have a traditional relationship. However, these two disciplines are often ignored and segregated from the rest of the marketing team. Moreover, the brand licensing group needs to be seen as the expert in brand extension and expansion, but often is not even consulted in this decision. Brand valuation is an outlier to many, but shouldn’t be — because, if brands are valuable, and the purpose of brand strategy and brand licensing is to grow the value of a brand, then it makes sense that money should be an integral part of the planning for, and extension of, every significant brand.

Still unanswered for us

We’ve previously examined the need for brand strategy and brand licensing teams to work more closely together to develop brands that extend and expand in integrated ways. The role of brand protection in this discussion seems to us to need to focus increasingly on what brands need to own in order…

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