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Clearly identifying strategy is key in successful image advertising

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"The world is so brand-conscious these days that companies have to make their best brand, their corporate name, stick in customers' minds..." The best corporate image advertising adheres to one, simple rule: It directly links the corporate parent to its products or services, the tangible assets that customers can see and touch.

"People do not relate to companies," says Ann Hayden, exec VP-executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Business Communications, Rochester, N.Y. "What we've found in research is that people, whether businesspeople or consumers, relate to brands and brand names."

What this means for image campaigns-on which the Top 100 spent some $220 million in 1996-is that while companies can and should use their corporate names, it's best to link that name to a specific brand name.

GE, Du Pont successful

"That is one of the reasons why the GE `We bring good things to life' and the Du Pont `Better things for better living,' campaigns have been so successful," says Peter Harleman, managing director, Landor Associates, a San Francisco image and strategy consultancy that lists Top 100 companies E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. and General Electric Co. among its clients. That's because products are included in ads.

"These companies are directly communicating what it is that their companies deliver. These are real and concrete products and services. I could tell you how wonderful my company is, but if I don't link it to a specific product, you don't know what it is that I'm trying to sell you."

Du Pont in August broke a new global corporate campaign promoting some of its best-known brands, linking the likes of CoolMax, Lycra Power and Tyvek directly to key personal benefits: CoolMax wicks moisture away from the skin, Lycra Power helps an athlete's endurance and Tyvek keeps out chilly drafts.

In fact, Du Pont views its corporate campaign as promoting product, not image per se.

"We are promoting the Du Pont brand, whether it's CoolMax or Tyvek," says Jamie Murray, global brand manager. "We don't have a lot of interest in puffing out Du Pont's chest and bragging about an image. But we do have a great image in helping people understand that Du Pont makes products that they can see, touch and feel."

What contributes nothing to a company's image or bottom line is image advertising that inflates corporate egos, says Arthur Anderson, principal of New York-based consultancy Morgan Anderson & Co.

"The campaign must be relevant to the target audience, the customer," he says. "Too often, the campaign has not been thought through and the campaign ends up confusing customers."

Pick a position and stick with it

Industry executives agree that successful corporate advertising requires a long-term commitment.

"The world is so brand-conscious these days that companies have to make their best brand, their corporate name, stick in customers' minds, and that can only happen when a company decides upon a position and stays with it," says Michael Sodano, president, Eventure, a Verona, N.J.-based image building and corporate communications production company.

"Companies need to develop a strategy and stick to it; too many companies insist on changing their ad slogans simply because someone is bored with it. Who's to say that the target audience is tired of the message? It only ends up sending a confusing message to customers," Mr. Sodano says.

Marketers need to know the intended audience for an image campaign, says Chet Kane, president, Kane, Bortree & Associates, a new-products and brand image consultancy in New York.

"Is it customers? Financial analysts? Employees? As a customer, it may not do much for me unless the campaign is tied back to a specific product or service offering. The bottom line, it has to be meaningful to me, the customer," Mr. Kane says.

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