What do they know about branding, who all but branding know?

I wonder if I’m the MBA Kevin Keohane had in mind when he wrote his recent post on employer branding? I’d like to think so.

I’m the first to admit that my CV doesn’t follow the accepted path for someone who markets himself as a senior level brand strategist. But, you know what, I’m bloody proud of it, and it’s nice to know that someone else gets it.

In an echo of another of Kevin’s posts from the dim and distant past, mine has been a calico career. Coupled with the MBA, which utterly transformed my way of thinking and helped me to forge all sorts of ideas and connections, it means I bring a very different perspective to someone who’s lived nothing but brand for the last 15 years.

And that’s important when you think about the myriad complex challenges brands face today, particularly in respect of the recurring themes of authenticity, simplicity and responsibility.

Such themes touch every facet of a business’ strategy and operations; they are no respecters of traditional organisational boundaries; they require a whole systems approach, and an ability to unravel complex issues and the interdependencies between people, processes and performance.

It means being much more than just a brand specialist – no matter how ‘strategically’ you claim to practice. These days, creating a relevant, insightful and robust proposition that can be properly ‘operationalised’ by the business requires you to be part management consultant, part executive coach, part occupational psychologist, part marketer, part HR professional, part operations manager… dare I say it, even part accountant.

Old agency models, built on functional specialism, simply don’t cut it any more. This is the age of the multi-specialist – strategist and creative, theorist and pragmatist, skilled communicator and all-round business manager, each in equal measure.


3 thoughts on “What do they know about branding, who all but branding know?

  1. Brandon R Allen

    Totally agree. This is something that my firm has incorporated into our brand practice with clients. We will sit down and go through every facet of the client’s business. Our team looks totally different today than it did a year ago.


  2. Dan Gray

    It goes back to our previous conversation on culture, doesn’t it? To find a truly compelling proposition you have to get right under the skin of the business. It’s amazing the insights you can generate – and how positively clients embrace them – when you take the time to thoroughly explore and understand all the angles.


  3. kevinkeohane

    I just met with the CEO of our 200-strong agency in Melbourne, Publicis MOJO and we had an intersting chat about just this — from the angle that most consultancies/boutiques/agencies have fallen into the specialisation trap as well.

    The full-service agency model will come back.

    Clients are tired of (and incresingly resource-stretched to be able to) trying to manage five agencies each with a small piece of the puzzle.

    Marty N provides a good explanation of this in The Brand Gap (or Zag, I forget which) – but I think the financial crisis means that overly niche players will suffer since they lack the “stretch capability” that provides greater relevance and security to multi-specialists.

    My CW article made this point too.

    Nice post, and thanks for the mention. You might have been the MBA in question. Maybe.



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