Businesses need a holisitic company-wide understanding of brand driven from the CEO, not the CMO, argues Adam Ferrier, Founder of Thinkerbell.

He said businesses that can get the board and CEO to understand what creativity and brand building is all about will have a strong competitive advantage.

“What you need is the CEO to be the chief brand officer and if the CEO gets it, then the whole organisation can build a holistic single-minded brand story,” he said.

Ferrier made the comments during a panel at NewsMedia’s Inform Summit in Sydney earlier this week, which covered the connection between brand advertising and the longevity of a business.

He argued that Silicon Valley companies don’t have a strong understand of brand, because they lead with product and think about marketing later. While big legacy businesses are run by the CFO or salespeople.

“If you can have a pure marketer driving the business ie Richard Branson, Steve Jobs… if a pure marketer can drive the business, then that business will have value,” he said.

Ferrier also called out all the talk about being customer obsessed, describing it as “bullshit.”

“I think it is trying to pretend we are good corporate citizens, putting the consumer’s interests at heart. Apart from anything else it isn’t a good business model because if most people put the consumer’s interest at heart their brand probably wouldn’t be there in the first place,” he said.

Instead, Ferrier argued, businesses should put the brand at the centre of their organisation and focus on building a brand that consumers want.

Referencing comments made by Mark Ritson earlier in the day, Ferrier reiterated that Australia isn’t particularly good at speaking or understanding the language of brand.

“We are really good at understanding the language of product and product innovation, but the sensitivities to understand what is a brand and how a brand grows, I think are lacking.”

Australian businesses also being “hoodwinked” by focusing on consumer data and analytics, rather than brand principles.

“You can measure every single breath they take and every time they go to the toilet. We can measure we want about them, but we are less good at understanding a brand, what it stands for and how that can be built over time.”

Mark Green, CEO, The Monkeys (now owned by Accenture), agreed that not enough Australia CEOs understand brand, but argued marketers are starting to strike a better balance between brand and performance marketing.

“I think there just hasn’t been enough evidence around the impact of long-term brand building until more recent times. Now it is well documented that emotionally-charged brand building activity works much more effectively than short term tactical activity,” Green said.

“Suddenly you have the data and evidence in favour of building brand, using emotion and great creativity to ignite sales.”

Short term promotions do have a place, Green said, and marketing budgets should be split 60/40 in favour of brand advertising over short term tactics.

“A lot of our clients are starting to reinvest in brand, recognise that’s the weapon that will make the difference,” he said.

Caitlin Lloyd, head of strategy Tribal, disagreed, saying outside a few prominent CMOs such as Brent Smart at IAG, marketers’ tenures were too short to really care about brand.

“In companies that don’t necessarily have a CMO who is that outspoken, you do end up with people still chasing short-termism because their average tenure is still really low,” she said.

“I came into this industry when this switch was happening, when everyone said, ‘let’s do digital, let’s put all our money in last-click attribution… and it’s going to make shareholders really happy, the ROI is going to look great.

“And it does for two years. Then you just see everything else fall off a cliff,” she said.

Instead, Lloyd argued, investment in digital should be spread across marketing as well as technology to drive better customer experiences for the business.

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