But what is brand strategy becoming?
Research company Gartner recently announced that, partially at least, in response to the pandemic and its associated uncertainties, CMOs now rank ‘brand strategy’ as their top priority. As with any survey, we should consider the research skeptically — but since CMOs largely direct how they spend their budgets, it’s worth the industry that serves them considering what they might be looking for assistance with.
The survey was interesting beyond the headlines. Previously the same group considered analytics their most vital marketing capability, which highlights both the increased scrutiny that marketing faces to be accountable and the endless pendulum that swings in the industry, between brand and performance. Keen agency observers will also note that ‘analytics’ was also the largest budget item that year according to the same CMOs.
Even closer consideration of the poll posits an existential quandary that cuts to the heart of the entire industry. While brand strategy is newly enshrined at the top, advertising comes joint bottom with media buying. This disparity might seem odd depending on (of course, always) what is meant by ‘brand strategy’.
The word brand, as Mark Earls has noted, is used in a variety of different cases in everyday industry speech. It can refer to a mark, set of values and guidelines, set of associations in the mind of the consumer, a product from a certain company, or the company itself. We switch between different uses all the time but this has an impact on what we, and clients, and CFOs, understand ‘brand strategy’ to be.
The very blurriness of the word makes it suspect to the analytically driven minds in finance and technology, who tend to prefer abstractions that can more easily be assigned numerical values.
Brand evolved from a mark into a personality metaphor thanks to the groundbreaking work of Stephen King. His insight was that people naturally anthropomorphize products by appending personality attributes to them. This perception can be impacted by advertising and appeared to help people make decisions, which created price inelasticity…