Why Branding Gives Marketing A Bad Name
About ten years ago, when B2B Marketing wasn’t even a germ of an idea, I had a conversation with a close friend about branding that is vividly etched in my memory. My friend worked for a global audit firm that had just proudly unveiled its new identity to staff. To say he thought the whole thing was a bit of a waste of money would be the understatement of the century. “All they’ve done is simplify the name, put it lower case and add a full stop at the end,” he said, completely incredulous. “And for that, they got paid a six-figure sum!”
This probably isn’t too surprising a comment coming – with no disrespect meant – from an accountant, but the bean-counters are far from the only employees who think that branding projects are expensive irrelevancies; particularly in these times of post-credit crunch austerity. Staff would rather see the money in their pay packets, and shareholders on their dividend cheques.
And this is why my heart sank when the press release for a post-merger campaign from Bank of America Merrill Lynch arrived in my inbox. Here’s another example of a big-budget rebrand that appears to add little value, and which most stakeholders will struggle to see the value in or relevance of.
In this case, I understand that both client and agency probably had little room to maneuver – legacy brand names could not be abandoned without a compelling rationale, which would have been precluded by the current chastened state of the finance sector.
But at that the same time, rebrands such as that undertaken by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and that experienced by my friend, do little to endear marketing and marketers to the rest of the organization – in fact, they position marketing as an expensive irrelevance.
So what’s the answer – give up on branding? Of course not. But marketers must ensure that the reasons, rationales, and benefits of a rebrand are both understood and accepted by ALL stakeholders; otherwise, they risk marginalizing themselves further in the corporate hierarchy.
However, this is not a hopeless task, and even the biggest cynics can be converted. Five years after our conversation, my accountant friend became a shareholder in B2B Marketing. If you can convince an accountant of the importance of marketing, surely you can convince anyone!