Making ‘fractured’ brands whole again
Wunderman Thompson UK’s Sid McGrath advised Festival of Marketing attendees how to avoid becoming a ‘Humpty Dumpty’ marketing case study, as brands lose sight of how their business is connected.
How have brands become so disjointed? An ecosystem that was once so simple has now become unwieldy and complex, making a marketer’s job much harder. But if it’s tough for the marketer, it’s even tougher for the customer.
Clear objectives in a marketing plan can get distorted in the execution and, as a result, a survey by Wunderman Thompson has found that only 34% of customers feel connections between different parts of a brand are consistent. In a presentation to the Festival of Marketing, Wunderman Thompson UK’s chief strategy officer Sid McGrath offered a virtual ‘accident and emergency’ clinic to marketers who might have inadvertently “fractured” their brands
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He put this down to an explosion of marketing messages. In the 1970s, people might have experienced 500 messages in a day, in the 2000s around 5,000, and currently anywhere up to 10,000, he estimated. It all comes down to the sheer number of channels and connection points.
McGrath suggested brands become fractured when one channel dominates the others, when there’s a disconnect in service experience across channels or when tone of voice swings wildly. Examples of fractures can be tone-deaf PR, an inappropriate social post or dramatically different shopping experiences between a retailer’s bricks-and-mortar store and its online alternative. And it’s not like customers have to put up with this because, as marketers are all too aware, it’s easy to take their business elsewhere.
Part of the challenge is siloed teams, lack of alignment and too many different perspectives, often based on personal agendas. These are compounded by the mismatch between what marketers believe is a high-quality, consistent experience and what customers really think about it.
“Our job is to find the stories that connect with audiences and engage customers.”
Emily Latham, Channel 4
Take back control
“Marketing is struggling to stay in control of the brand,” McGrath warned, “probably the single most valuable asset on the balance sheet.” And for those marketers who believe that, actually, the customer owns the brand and therefore dictates what happens to it, he had strong words: “It’s a huge abdication of responsibility.”
One solution might be to make sure there is lower turnover of marketing employees and brand guardians. Citing the average 40-month marketer tenure, McGrath mused: “No-one has their hand on the brand tiller for long enough.”
Identifying signs of a fractured brand is the first step towards mending it, and McGrath listed four of these signs – when it is too reactive; there are more complaints than usual; there are internal conflicts; or you’re losing share, sales and interest. A “whole-brand gap analysis” is needed, he said, and it’s where marketers should be focusing their efforts.
While working to build consistency is not the full answer, it’s an excellent starting point in repairing fractured brands. Integrated campaigns are 31% more effective, whilst consistency increases revenue by 33%, McGrath stated. “There’s more power, more value and more opportunity.”
And as to the point that some brands may simply be too complex to deliver a whole-brand view? This, he says, can be solved by the Whole Brand Blueprint – a one- to three-year plan that looks at where the brand is now, where the fractures are and what needs to be done next. Its aim is ‘systemic consistency’.
Ultimately, McGrath’s take is that marketers need to move from the single customer view to a single brand view. This doesn’t imply that customers aren’t important, but focusing on them has tended to exclude the brand. “It’s vitally important to be as obsessed about the brand as we are about the customer. The single brand view is the ultimate opportunity for the marketer to gain control of their brand again.”■
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Wunderman Thompson's Sid McGrath explains how to repair 'fractured' brands