2.4.4 Responses to the challenges Brand Management faces
As the review of contemporary challenges for brand management (complexity, coupling, communication) tried to argue, predominant brand management practice does not reflect on environmental complexity. What most concepts, models and recipes still have in common is that they use a more or less simplistic perspective on the management of systems (Tropp 2004, p.130). They perceive brands as ‘trivial machines’, which means that by giving an order in the form of rationalized information, a system will react in a way so that certain goals will be reached.
Metaphorically, managers thus become engineers, dealing with the control of a closed system, simply adjusting the given input based on feedback from the system and thus reaching their objectives. This perspective promotes a “primacy of planning” (Tropp 2004, p.132) and puts analysis and strategy at the beginning of a linear and controllable process.
Management theory from this perspective believes that brands can be easily manipulated by using the right levers, following a linear path that leads to guaranteed success if only the instructions are followed carefully – countless proprietary brand models by agencies, brand consultancies and other proponents can serve as evidence for this, whether they sell social media, lovemarks or cultural movements. This perspective on brand management may be understood as “brand engineering” and is visible in such words as the German “Markentechnik” that brings with it an almost almighty claim to brand building success.
If, however, as argued before, the multidimensional knowledge about brands is shaped by the experiences and social interactions of consumers and if this happens in an increasingly unpredictable landscape, then brand management is ill-advised to adhere to the believe that processes, models or anything like this will lead to guaranteed success. With a failure rate at the introduction of new brands of between 50 and 95% (Buchholz & Wördemann 1998, p.20 qtd. in Tropp 2004, p.144) and in light of the apparently increasing complexity of companies’ environments, the empirical regularity today is closer to failure (Ehrenberg 2002; Ehrenberg 2001) than success.
This, in turn, raises doubts if these are a consequence of not obeying to the countless how-to’s of positioning, branding or even advertising execution; or if it is the underlying paradigm of a desired linear process and logically deductible outcome and “how-to” literature that might be flawed (Tropp 2004, p.144).
The next chapter will introduce a systems-theory based model of brand management. Sounds useless but is nothing but a structure that helps (or at least helped me) better understand the scope of what creativity and planning could be.
Ehrenberg, A., 2002. Marketing: Are you really a realist? strategy + business, 27, (Second Quarter 2002), S. 22–25.
Ehrenberg, A., 2001. Marketing: Romantic or Realistic? Marketing Research, 13(2), S. 40–42.
Keller, K.L. & Lehmann, D.R., 2006. Brands and branding: Research findings and future priorities. Marketing Science, 25(6), S. 740.
Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.
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