When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Marketers call for a ‘rebrand’ of the industry

Marketers from across the business world have called for a change in the way the industry operates in order to reverse perceptions of an industry that is seen as untrustworthy by many consumers.

Puma Clever Little Bag

Puma’s Clever Little Bag was cited by Unilever’s vice president of marketing Marc Mathieu as an example of a brand that can have a successful sustainability agenda.

A recent poll by Reader’s Digest found that the advertising industry is the least trusted industry in the UK with 81% of consumers having little faith in the institution .

Unilever’s vice president of marketing Marc Mathieu, recently told Marketing Week of the need for marketing to become a “noble” profession by being as much about driving social progress as it is business growth.

In an interview for this week’s Marketing Week cover feature (15 March), Mathieu adds that all marketers, regardless of sector, must play their part at innovation stage to produce products that have a positive impact on society.

He cites Puma’s “Clever Little Bag” (pictured), which news shoes are taken home but uses 65% less paper than a shoebox, as an example of a brand that can have a successful sustainability agenda.

Many marketers believe is because many in the industry have focussed on selling at the expense of innovation.

Ashley Stockwell, global sales and marketing director at Global Ethics, which creates products that support charitable activities in developing countries, says: “a product should sell itself and if it doesn’t … you probably need to look at the product.”

Another aspect that marketers should address to improve perceptions of the profession is the language used to talk about marketing within the organisation.

Mathieu believes that language should be more about people than about targets and objectives wile others, including Jane Frost the chief executive of the Market Research Society, who led rebranding projects at HMRC and the BBC, says marketing’s language should fit in with the objectives of other departments to ensure its relevance to the business is understood.

She adds: “At HMRC we would talk about evidence. We’d say: ‘We conducted a huge research programme, if you took certain actions to manage customer behaviour then you would reduce cost.’ The key was to show that you could reduce error by ‘x’ percent. You’re more credible because you’re relevant to the main processes of the business. For the BBC you didn’t talk about marketing, but you could talk about brands. You talked in creative language because that was the language of the business.”

Read our full cover feature on how marketers can rebrand the profession in this week’s issue, dated 15 March.

Readers' comments (6)

  • For marketing to become noble, and drive social progress, the briefs need to change. Put sustainability, reduction in resource use, carbon emissions, social benefit etc at the heart of a brief and the game changes. Marketers should become, and work with, problem solvers, not just attention grabbers

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  • Unilever’s Marc Mathieu is quite right to argue that marketers should play a broader role in society beyond selling people products and services. Over the past 10-15 years, as the commercial Web and then its social counterpart expanded, marketers have contributed significant innovations to society. We have also served immeasurable public good by changing people’s attitudes and behaviors toward some of the world’s most pressing social issues.

    But at some point, our tone changed and our outlook shifted from How do we help people within our local communities? to How do we sell this product to consumers across global borders at an increasingly efficient rate?

    That is all well and good so long as we do not lose sight of our broader purpose: to improve people’s lives through the products and services we promote and sell. In 2012, as the global recession ekes on with little end in sight and as the public continues to lose trust with brands and executives, it is imperative that we bring back the focus on how we positively impact people’s lives versus how we can sell them one more unit of something.

    Keith Trivitt
    Associate Director
    Public Relations Society of America

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  • Spin, propaganda, clueless tweets and poor job descriptions have lot to do with why marketers have a bad rep.
    We should change the product or target different customers if the ROI is swinging like Damacles Sword.
    Actions (innovations) speak louder than a rebrand.

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  • The key, as some have observed, is about integrity, good practice and honesty. Like the ASA aims to ensure in advertising that it is: legal, decent, honest and truthful

    It seems that consumers are increasingly looking for online reviews from credible and independent sources (like established expert bloggers) and see these are more valuable than the advertising. We also see more reliance on physical advice from doctors, dentists, and other experts in their field.

    It seems to me that the key is for marketers to focus on "doing the right thing:, and avoiding getting carried away with the over hype, and the constant attempt to react to the competition.

    As my mother says: the good guys always win in the end. And this is a mantra that the marketing community need to focus more and more on.

    This includes the knock on effects and social responsibly. We see the drive for lower prices mean that we also hear about abuses and exploitation of workers in emerging markets, bad and inhumane practices with animals and so on.

    Marketers need to actively seek and take a more moral high ground.

    I blog about this topic a fair bit, as is a real passion of mine at http://www.garybembridge.com

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  • 1 Headline. 3 Symptoms. 1 probable cause.

    What does sustainable innovation, product utility and the language used between agencies and their clients have in common? On the surface, not much. But after a once over, you get a sense that in this most uncertain business environment, where marketing as a function is under more pressure to justify not only their spending but their effectiveness as a whole, clients aren't getting the support they need. And rightfully agency's are getting the heat.

    That's not to say that there aren't great agencies producing inspiring and effective work, but I think we all need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that communications and design alone, are not the solutions for the big operational and strategic issues facing marketeers each and every day. What's needed is objective advice, big thinking and a deep understanding of our clients' businesses. Agencies have been quite good at the last two, but how objective can we be, when so many agencies' bread and butter comes from markups on communication media and identity production? And it doesn't matter how many times people say otherwise, this financial dependency creates an inherent conflict of interest that does not put the clients interest at heart. This makes agency client relationships an unhealthy zero sum game.

    Whether it's inputing on innovation, being brutally honest about your clients product or service, or just speaking in a language they understand, what's needed is not a superficial rebrand for the industry, but some self awareness around how business is conducted and how that limits or enables a relationship that's beneficial for clients and agency's alike.

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  • Marketers need to accept that there's no one size fits all in this industry anymore. More and more consumers are becoming resistant to advertising messages and they value brands that approach them with a personal experience. This is not only about changing the way the industry operates, but it is about understanding how to deliver a positive experience every time the consumer comes across your brand, whether in real life or the digital world.

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