Brand Strategy vs Absolutely No Clue

Background:
A few years ago, João and I had a debate on “How art as a design is more relevant than the strategy”, at the Chamber of Commerce, in Riyadh. The audience had ambivalent feelings, some agreeing with it while others disagreeing. João and I always had our differences. I never seem to agree on his field of advertising while he never agrees on my field of strategy

I’m a hard believer that advertising has failed or the advertising we knew has failed to evolve because of its continuation of false claims. I asked João to write an open letter with his views on Brand Strategy. Even though, I do not fully agree with what he has to say, I would like to, nevertheless, share his thoughts which are as follows:

The Rise and HARD fall of the Brand Strategist
by João Almeida

The trendy – short lived – age of the Brand strategist is coming to an end. Faster than you can say ‘Brand Evangelist’. Traditional advertising is already dead, an outcome welcomed and brought forward by many Brand experts. But little did they know, the death of the ‘Mad Men’ also meant the death of the ‘Strategy Men’

So you may ask who’s going to replace all those wonderful ‘what-people-think-and-how-to-make customers-feel-the-brand’ experts? The answer: Mathematics, Statistics and AI software

In a not so far away future, software algorithms will be able to personalize ads not for the 1%, but for the .0001% of consumers. This means strategy for the ‘long term’ will be redundant. Decisions will be made in a millisecond. Content, stories and ads will be delivered to you (and you specifically) without the need of human planning or strategic input. Facebook is already doing this to some extent. It’s still in its beginning stage, but imagine a brand story being told differently to a vast audience. Imagine that an ad seen by you will only also be seen by 50 other people (who share your statistical history). That’s 50 out of almost 2 billion FB users! That’s a strategy no human mind can beat

So who’s left? The content creators and the storytellers will survive the Brandpocalypse. Everyone else needs to start re-branding

Here are my thoughts:

The Fall Of Advertising and Design (Art) without The Essence of Strategy
by Said Baaghil

Let’s be serious, whatever we do as strategists and advertisers is for the purpose of the brand which is the business. Things need to be have a logical business model for any brand to work. As a strategist, on brand and marketing and even branding, the first and foremost thing we need to think of is the business model and then align the rest according to that model. The thought of a beautiful logo and art is irrelevant to support any business sense, João said. In fact, he claimed, it’s irrational and may produce high a level of business threats. Also the death of human expertise and the drive of technology as the core thinker to support the business line is crazy!!!

João debates, in a not so far away future, software algorithms will be able to personalize ads not for the 1%, but for the .0001% of consumers. The first question is would a software be continually able to understand the human senses? No matter how things evolve, human to human will remain the best practice for brands to thrive. Brands are like humans,they live and die so they continually need to evolve to sustain growth

When you look at McDonald’s and compare it to Five Guys and the health movement that’s revolutionizing the industry, what impression would it give to you if everything is automated including the communication? We are speaking here of the customer senses. Even if technology massively evolved in the communication platform, you still need a human brand strategist to deal with the evolving needs of people

No matter what happens to our world as technology changes, brands are like humans. They grow and die, unless they evolve. This is why they need to have the human experience for it to be logical and make sense to the customers

João Almeida is a Creative Professional with over 15 years experience in leading multi-disciplinary, multi-national teams both in Europe and the Middle East that have helped in developing successful Brands and Business Strategies across different industries

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, an author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renowned Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

Coffee Effect but Tea!

Tea is boring!and ‘Kick’ by Rabea is very Functional while on the other hand, coffee is very Inspiring and Emotional so why did Rabea went off to associate a strong substitute and one of the main threats to ‘tea’ in their packaging design?

Coffee is growing fast in a Tea market. ‘Kick’ by Rabea is one of their newly launched products with extra caffeine, targeting coffee lovers. While tea is boring and coffee is social and inspiring, Rabea decided to launch a ‘coffee look a like tea product’ and named it ‘Kick’. We are all aware that caffeine as a Value is more associated with coffee and energy drinks than tea and in this approach Rabea is after the Value and Benefit of coffee. The Value ‘Caffeine’ and the Benefit thereof i.e. ‘Awake’, are both very strong Branding signals of coffee and energy drinks which is why in this area, Conversion strategy is required

I beg to ask, if tea and coffee are from two different worlds with the former being calmer and the latter being more of an energy booster, how does Rabea plan to sell the Value of caffeine with tea especially when it’s mainly associated with coffee and energy drinks? The Packaging color indicates a coffee product which gives the first impression and more credible reason to believe that the value caffeine is owned by and belongs to coffee

Following additional points of concern:

  • The promise of Rabea Kick is ‘coffee effect in the taste of tea’, very simple but very functional. Promises are best served Emotional and Branding is the human sense to Product and Services
  • This is a conversion approach in Branding. Conversion requires Perception change and this, by Rabea, is a wrong Strategy for conversion!
  • I wonder if there is a holistic Brand Strategy apart of from Positioning and Promise?
  • Short-term Sales as new product might excite the team but I don’t see this going anywhere in few years down the line
  • Why use Yellow? why remind your audience of Lipton? Lipton owns Yellow

I like the idea behind ‘Kick’ but the Brand Strategy is very questionable. If ‘Kick’ was introduced as Tea and free from any other product association, the potential would have been enormous. This is only possible with a correct Brand Strategy

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 10th January, 2015

The most Infamous Promise: ‘Easier Life’

STC’s most infamous promise to their customers ‘Easier Life’ backfired as a Harder Life for them. This is a great Brand as well as a Branding exercise. Yes Brand and Branding both serve different purposes

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When the Saudi Communication Commission decided to merge all its services (mobile, landline and internet) under STC Corporate Brand, the company went through a full scale Brand and Branding exercise. 3 companies participated in both exercises, a Branding agency at development phase with several initiatives and 2 Communication agencies to roll out the promise. Through my findings, the communicated promise ‘Easier Life’ was developed by an Advertising agency and not by the Branding agency which initially had developed the strategy. This signals the disconnect between the Essence and the message

I have always wondered why would STC, after the merger of their services, embarked on a promise that is far impossible to achieve during the day to day operations. Secondly, did STC train their human resource prior to the launch? And if they did, how much was invested in their training? Third, was the organization aligned at all levels from bottom to top or from top to bottom on the promise? Last but not least, did STC hire experts on Brand and Branding as internal members to guide them through the journey? I doubt it. The deep understanding about Brand and Branding is relatively new to the region and very confusing, even to seasoned Marketers in the Middle East and business people in many parts of the world. Imagine a region that grasped business understanding out of trade, how will they perceive Brands. Most treat Brand and Branding as tangible deliverables such as logos, colors and fancy Taglines and in most cases the results are detrimental. STC ‘Easier Life’ Brand and Branding case is a perfect example on how things went wrong. In the following points I will illustrate what EXACTLY went wrong:

  • Clearly during that period the CEO,Board and head of Marketing had very basic understanding on Brand and Branding
  • The region’s culture on Communication is Advertising and seemed to be the most feasible approach to the management as Branding
  • STC’s positioning was clear: ‘Mobile, Landline, Internet everything revolves around you’
    Great positioning before other mobile providers had entered the market but the positioning failed on delivery
  • The Advertising agency developed Tagline, why? The head of Marketing at the time didn’t find the Branding agencies’ proposed Taglines fancy enough and decided to ask the Advertising agency to come up with a fancy one, what happened? STC raised their promise bar for an ‘Easier Life’ for their customers which became impossible to achieve
  • STC Operations failed to deliver the promise, a billing system with tremendous issues, customer were billed once every six months
  • STC retail experience was all about ‘Pretty Stores’ which were hard to produce emotional end benefit to their customers
  • STC decided to continue its promise even when customers expressed their frustration across all social media channels
  • Why didn’t STC hire an expert on Brand and Branding? Well, they depended on their head of Marketing to be informed on the subject, which is usually the case in our region. Most if not all heads of Marketing have a very basic Brand and Branding understanding and it’s clear from most launches taking place in the region apart from Brands straight out of Dubai

STC ‘s Branding exercise is a great case study for CEOs and heads of Marketing on how a good Brand strategy failed at implementation. I have many examples similar to STC, the misunderstanding of Brands on Value and Purpose can be very detrimental to any business

The heart of a Brand is the Promise and the Emotional Value the customer benefits from by using the product or service

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 25th December, 2014

Is Advertising the only tool in Communication?

Next time someone tells me that Advertising is a Strategy I will tell him: No! It’s a tactic

Communication is the Strategy. Advertising is part of Communication and every other Communication tool helps in delivering the Brand Awareness not necessarily Advertising. One more thing, Advertising helps in creating Awareness not necessarily in building the Brand. I have region and international clients that used Advertising as Brand champion and failed to deliver the purpose or felt that they wasted their Communication budget. I also have clients that used Advertising in the right medias with minimal spending as part of the general Communication and worked beautifully. So is Advertising the single awareness tool or Communication? NO. That’s why at AskBaaghil.com’s Strategy sessions we demand that CEOs to be coached on Brand, Branding and Communication because they are the champions not the heads of Marketing when it comes to their Brand(s). Very few CEO’s in the region are aware on how Brands work or which Communication strategy would best serve them

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 18th October, 2014