That was a recurrent theme at the Association of National Advertisers Brand Innovation Forum, where ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice cited a marketing-accountability study from the organization that suggests long-term brand factors effect up to 80% of a brand's current-year sales. Furthermore, intangible long-term assets such as brand equity and market effects contribute approximately 40% to a company's overall value.
Innovation is the aspect of brand health that keeps a brand relevant for years to come despite shifting consumer needs and wants, he said. "Marketing must be reinvented," said Mr. Liodice. "In fact, it must be continually reinvented." Reinvention, he went on to say, should be a guiding philosophy in brand building.
The day-long conference, held at the Grand Hyatt in New York today, kicked off with a discussion of the 2007 ANA/Guideline report that outlined the top warning signs of brand deterioration.
What to look for? When customer conversion or repeat rate vs. competition slips; when the percent of consumers rating the brand as "excellent" slips; when factors rated highly by customers differ from the company's goal; when the company sells more on promotion or price reduction than it does at premium; and when a brand's net promoter score slips (a net promoter score is a widely used marketing metric that's determined by subtracting the number of brand detractors from the number of consumers who say they would recommend the brand to another).
How to combat deterioration
According to the survey, the best actions to combat brand deterioration are product innovation, refocusing marketing efforts on growth, exploring new targets, analyzing the root cause of the deterioration and completing a deep qualitative study on brand issues.
Roger Adams, senior VP-chief marketing officer at Home Depot, presented the findings and joked that hiring a new ad agency was nowhere in the solutions at hand. To wit, Don Sexton a professor of business at Columbia University, said: "Sizzle alone won't do it, you have to have the steak as well. Great advertising makes a lousy product fail faster."
Core values, in fact, were crucial in helping JetBlue recover from a public-relations nightmare after two-day ice storm in February left passengers standard on the tarmac. Its return to the company's basic mission -- bringing humanity back to air travel -- helped the airline save face and possibly even escape long-term brand damage. "Our response was a direct expression of our brand," said Andrea Spiegel, JetBlue's VP-sales and marketing. She cited as examples the appearance of David Neeleman, the airline's CEO, on YouTube to calm customers and the airline's issuance of a Customer Bill of Rights. "We brought humanity to a crisis in an innovative way."
'Ever wondered why?'
Allen Adamson, managing director, Landors Associates, maintained that "strong brands start off with a crisp idea of what's different and why that difference is relevant." In presenting the points contained in his book, "Brand Simple," he raised the Jerry Seinfeld query: "Have you ever wondered why...?" This, Mr. Adamson said, is the question that generates true innovation. Timberland, he said, came from the shoe maker's founder stepping in a puddle and asking himself why it's so hard to find a truly waterproof shoe. Baby Einstein was born when a mom wondered why there was no educational programming for the 9- to 14-month-old set.
In a session regarding "Innovative Agency Relationships That Propel a Brand," speakers harped on the need to break down superficial constructs and get back to basics. Clorox Co. VP-Global Health and Wellness Tarang Amin, along with Stacey Grier, DDB, San Francisco's managing partner-chief strategic officer, discussed the 11-year relationship between their respective organizations and how it continues to evolve.
"Agencies have been accused of being a black box," said Ms. Grier, "where something pops out the back end and [clients] never know how they got there." Based on a guiding principle called "co-creativity," Clorox and DDB blurred the lines between Clorox's marketing department and the advertising agency to create a truly transparent process. The end result? Mr. Amin and his colleagues are as responsible for creative ideas as Ms. Grier and her colleagues are for marketing strategies. They said the acts of constantly challenging one another and co-brainstorming have strengthened brand promise.
"We embrace the brand in a different way because we are part of developing it," said Ms. Grier.