Posts Tagged 'Emotional Branding'

Is Marketing being marginalized in B-school?

The world has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  Consumers and customers have changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  Media has changed dramatically in less than 10 years.  The actual practice of marketing, by corporate marketers, is changing as people adapt to the new realities — some more successfully than others.

But what hasn’t changed is the most popular theory of marketing — brand positioning — and the way that it is taught in B-School.

Several professors, including Wharton’s Gerry Wind, have now said that the teaching and study of marketing is so narrow that it is in danger of being marginalized at business schools.  The title of their article gives it all away: “Is Marketing Academia Losing It’s Way?”   While they don’t single out brand positioning in particular, they make the very clear point that just at the time when new theories are marketing are most needed, they are least likely to be found in the great universities.

There is an alarming and growing gap between the interests, standards, and priorities of academic mar- keters and the needs of marketing executives operat- ing in an ambiguous, uncertain, fast-changing, and complex marketspace.

There are now several alternative theoretical models to replace the traditional brand positioning approach.  Only one of them was developed by an academics.  The four I am most familiar with — and which are true frameworks — are 1) Professor Doug Holt’s Iconic Branding; 2) Marc Gobe’s Emotional Branding; 3) Larry Light and Joan Kiddon’s Brand Journalism which they created for McDonald’s.  The fourth is our own Narrative Branding approach.

The article was published in The Journal of Marketing last summer.  A copy of it is here.

AcademicMkt_LosingitsWay_JofMrktg

Can a marketing book be fiction?

Mike Prentice sent along an AdAge article about the Top 10 Marketing and Media Books of All Time. There was that moment of anticipation while I waited for the page to load, sort of like when waiting for Tom Hanks to open the envelope at the Oscars.

Right up there in the #4 slot was the novel “e” by Mark Beaumont.  That’s right, a novel.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love novels.  I even have my graduate degree in Creative Writing. But does one belong in a list of Top 10 Marketing Books?

It worries me when a profession needs to look to fiction for guidance.  

It also worries me that the number 1 book is Positioning by Mr. Trout and Mr. Ries.  But it does not surprise me.  The Positioning method is so widely adopted that it’s validity is not even questioned.  Or is it?  

Truth is that the majority of marketers are looking for a breakthrough method that is more effective than brand positioning.  That is what we heard in our survey of over CMOs at over 100 corporations.  

The alternative methods of marketing are not well known, which explains why brand positioning continues to be so dominant.  This blog is one way of contributing to the marketing conversation by sharing how Narrative Branding is one of those alternative methods of marketing. Marc Gobe’s Emotional Branding and Doug Holt’s Iconic Branding are also well thought through alternatives to brand positioning.

Now back to that AdAge list…Can we at least substitute “Waiting for Godot” in place of “e”?  Or the brilliant movie “Putney Swope”?  I know, I know, a play and a movie ain’t a book…

The 4 methodologies of branding

Sometimes an idea becomes so well-known and widely held that people don’t even consciously recognize it as an idea but simply take it for granted.  The underlying assumptions are no longer questioned.  The idea passes from theory to law.  Consider gravity.  Before Sir Isaac Newton, people accepted that pendulums slow down and that two objects may bounce off of each other.  They were facts, nothing more.  Newton saw a set of fundamental principles behind those facts.

Over time, Newton’s theory became “laws”.  They were seen as sufficient to explain the world around us.  And for many centuries the underlying assumptions were no longer questioned.  Eventually physicists identified some special situations in which Newton’s laws could not explain the observable phenomena.  New theories of physics were developed, several of which are competing with each other.  Space-time physics, string theory, big-bang — all are theories that are vying for our attention and elevation into laws.

The same is true for branding.  For many years, brand positioning was the preeminent theory of branding.  From this theory grew a method for defining, creating and managing brands.   It has several different labels such as Mind Share or USP but those are fundamentally the same method built on the same theory.  It was popularized by Mr. Trout and Mr. Ries in articles and books.  It was widely adopted in academia, ad agencies and corporations.  At least two generations of marketers have known of almost nothing else.

Along the way the way special situations cropped up in which the brand positioning method was not sufficient to explain the success or failure of a particular brand.   So there was tinkering with the brand positioning method, adding a new twist here and there along the way.  But the underlying theory was no longer in question.  And the underlying assumptions were unquestioned, too.  Perhaps the best know superstructure — and most complex — was developed by David Aaker and his co-authors in a number of books such as Building Strong Brands.

Beginning in the mid-1990s several academics and consultants started to recognize more and more situations in which brand positioning was not working as it was meant to.  Instead of adding more complexity to the brand positioning method, they decided to opt out.  They began to question the theory itself.

Today there are 3 additional methods for defining, creating and managing brands, along with brand positioning  The first  method is Emotional Branding, popularized by the wonderfully brilliant Marc Gobe.  The second is Iconic Branding, which was formalized by Professor Douglas Holt formerly of Harvard and current at Oxford.  And the third is Narrative Branding (which is, by the way, also our trademark term) that was developed by me and Michael Thibodeau.

(In this list of the 4 methods of branding I am deliberately excluding some highly specialized methods created by individual companies for their own purposes.  The most famous of these is Brand Journalism, created by Larry Light when he was the CMO of McDonald’s.  Because this is proprietary to McDonald’s, it is not available to other companies.   It is like a hothouse plant, known to survive in the special environment but not tested out in the greater world.)

The questions about brand positioning have only grown over time.  Today the method and theory of brand positioning are being challenged by marketers at major corporations around the world.  In our recent study we found that  nearly 2/3rds of senior marketers are looking for breakthrough methods that are more effective than brand positioning (source: JupiterResearch/Verse Group study 11/08).


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