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  The Value of Technology in Managing Brands
by Kent St.Vrain
July 4, 2005

I haven't failed. I've found 10,000 ways that don't work. — Ben Franklin

At a recent branding conference in New York, I made a joint presentation with a well-known branding consultant who has 35 years of experience with more than 100 brand categories under his belt.

Our panel discussion offered the collective thesis that marketers have failed badly in bolstering their brands. That managing and enhancing the brand, which typically accounts for 60 percent of the intangible value of a company, is a brand marketer's main responsibility and that most are falling short of succeeding on the job. Approaching the topic as agents of change, our intent was not to incite doom and gloom, but to inspire hope. Just as Ben Franklin derived from a series of inventive shortcomings, perhaps it's not that brand marketers have failed, but only that their encountered means haven't worked.


Laying the foundation for the discussion, my co-presenter pointed out that maintaining brand preference is getting nearly impossible. Citing the soaring costs of conventional media, in stride with its ineffectiveness and declining ROI, we were forced to declare and lament, "The old marketing model is indeed broken."

Recognizing that much of the fault lies in the fact that process infrastructure is foreign to marketing made our audience feel no better. As we reminded our colleagues that manufacturing has its supply chain and finance has SAP, contorted confusion crept across their face. Our challenge that every other key enterprise function is centered on robust processes supported by a well-entrenched technology platform was falling on deaf ears. Our further claims that such platforms document the efficiency and effectiveness of those functions, while proving a believable, quantifiable return on investment was neither resonating. "What does this have to do with marketing," their expressions begged.

As the audience teetered on the verge of a deep depression, it was a customer of my company's that shed light onto the dim landscape that is marketing today. An executive for a large pharmaceutical company, she implemented a best practice process as an integral strategy in advancing brand equity.

And let's face it, by virtue of her industry alone she is well motivated to succeed where many others have not. If a pharma company sees no value for deploying a process for developing, proving and warning about the safety of its products (not to mention those key benefits!) what kind of organization would? Such a process could support the conveyance of messages consistently across branding and packaging, mitigating risks such as wrongful death suits by consumers. In the case of such a drug crisis, no amount of process is enough.

In her rigorous pursuit of a process and a technology platform to enable it, our customer offered one vital piece of advice: do NOT wait for help from above. The IT group isn't likely to be funded to solve the crisis marketing finds itself in. Yes, they know all the bells and whistles but they have let you flounder with 37-point solutions for years. You have to be the master of your own destiny. Here's why you need a technology platform:

  • Accountability will be automatic
  • You'll know where every asset is all the time
  • The demonstrable ROI of steps saved and costs cut will prove the value of marketing
  • Winners show growth via new products
  • First to market = millions
  • Innovation becomes possible
  • Early warning of risks
  • Consistency of global brand management
  • "No Effort" compliance with standards
Here's what she looked for in a technology platform:
  • A solution that is sized, integrated and built expressly for branding, labeling and packaging
  • 24/7 global availability to collaborate across business units and partners
  • Ability to store and re-use best practices
  • Compliance ready
  • A vendor who can help implement the platform
The bottom-line: everything related to brand has a lifecycle—projects, tasks, assets as well as the product itself. You have managed the life of all those parts of brand design. If you are in an industry that's regulated (and that's pretty much every industry now), you have to be prepared to ensure compliance to a range of internal and external standards. Get some tools that automate that! Having complete visibility into the stage in the life of any brand element or any project from largest to a new product launch is the best thing you can do as a brand marketer. Everyone has a technology to support their function. You must have one too.

   Kent St. Vrain is vice president, sales and marketing, at Paxonix, a MeadWestvaco Company.

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