2.1 The Relevance of Brand Management

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business by thomas on the August 29th, 2011

This post is part of my bachelor paper ‚The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management‘. You can see the other posts and the table of contents here.

This chapter will first start with an argument for the relevance of brand management, followed by a discussion and working definition of the brand concept. Subsequently, the different brand paradigms at work in both practice and theory are identified and discussed and contemporary challenges for brand management are outlined. Last but not least, at the end of this chapter, a systems theory-based model of brand management is proposed and three key learnings about brand management in organisations are suggested.

2.1  The Relevance of Brand Management

“Branding has emerged as a top management priority in the last decade due to the growing realization that brands are one of the most valuable intangible assets that firms have.” (Keller & Lehmann 2006, p.740)

“Niall Fitzgerald, co-chairman of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer products group, epitomized this shift in perspective when he stated ‚We’re not a manufacturing company any more, we’re a brand marketing group that happens to make some of its products‘ (Willman 2000).” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.850)

Brands are seen as important assets by shareholders and management. Each year brand consultancies and market research companies rank the “world’s biggest brands” (Interbrand 2010; Millward Brown 2010). In 2009 5,981 new brands were registered in Austria (Österreichisches Patentamt 2009). However, while the launch of new products is certainly an exciting prospect for brand managers, they spend most of their time managing the more than 114.000 officially registered national, 218.000 international and 70.000 Community Trademarks.

A lot of attention is therefore being devoted to brands and branding in marketing science (Keller 1993; Keller & Lehmann 2006; Wood 2000): “Brands manifest their impact at three primary levels – customer market, product market, and financial market. The value accrued by these various benefits is often called brand equity”. The actions taken by an organisation to increase the brand equity may then be understood as brand management.

“Brand management comprises the process and locus for capitalizing and realizing brand value, i.e. transforming it in superior market performance.” (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.850)

The following chapter will therefore analyse existing definitions of “brand” and then analyse contemporary conceptualizations of brand management and the challenges brand management is currently facing. At the end of this chapter a conclusion about the state of brand management and how it may be understood in a broader organisational context will be offered.

Keller, K.L. & Lehmann, D.R., 2006. Brands and branding: Research findings and future priorities. Marketing Science, 25(6), p.740.

Louro, M.J. & Cunha, P.V., 2001. Brand management paradigms. Journal of Marketing Management, 17(7), pp.849–875.

Österreichisches Patentamt, 2009. Geschäftsbericht 2009. Österreichisches Patentamt. Available at: http://www.patentamt.at/geschaeftsbericht2009/de/start.html [Accessed July 12, 2011].

1. The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business by thomas on the August 29th, 2011

This is the introduction to my bachelor thesis, which has the same title as this blog post. I thought I’d post it here, so that more than the two people grading it can read it and give feedback. I’ll probably also put the pdf online, but I want to layout it properly before doing that. You can see the table of contents here.

Creativity is an often used word in the context of marketing communications and brand management. There are magazines named after it, such as Creativity and Creative Review, there are numerous awards around the globe judging and celebrating it and there is the APG Creative Strategy award, which rewards creative strategy in the context of marketing communications and planning.

Creativity, of course, is also the selling point of almost every agency or agency-like company trying to make a living in the widening domain of marketing services.

“We put the creative function at the top of our priorities.” (Ogilvy & Mather 2010)

“Creativity Is The Most Powerful Force In Business. […] DDB’s pursues collaborative relationships with clients and partners to find the hidden potential of people, brands and business through creativity.” (DDB 2010)

“[Wieden + Kennedy is] an independent, creatively-led communications agency.” (Wieden + Kennedy 2010)

“We connect ideas and innovation to deliver award-winning results for the world’s leading brands.” (AKQA 2010)

„We are creative problem-solvers.” (Naked Communications 2010)

“We are a creative company with 186 offices and 7000 colleagues united around a single mission: To Resist the Unusual.” (Young & Rubicam 2010)

“Our industry is undergoing radical transformation. To keep pace with the changes being driven by emerging technology, it is vital to focus on collaboration, creativity and organizational flexibility.” (Brien 2010, McCann)

“Our philosophy emphasizes the utilization of strategy and creativity to drive growth and measurable impact.” (MDC Partners 2010)

Both independent agencies as well as large established agency networks claim to be at the forefront of creativity. More precisely, as Zurstiege (2005, p.179ff) puts it, what agencies aim to offer and what marketers ask for is effective creativity or creative effectiveness. Therefore, as the relationship between creativity and effectiveness is a regular topic of discussion between advertising agencies and clients, within agencies, the industry press and advertising conferences, there is a stream of research dealing with creativity in the context of advertising. Among the topics covered are the definition and perception of creativity (White & Smith 2001; West et al. 2008; El-Murad & West 2004; Koslow et al. 2003) the effect of creativity on advertising effectiveness (White & Smith 2001; Ehrenberg et al. 2002; Till & Baack 2005; Kover et al. 1995), and contextual issues that influence advertising and agency creativity (Koslow et al. 2006).

However, while creativity is the focus of awards, agency positioning and industry debates, and while there is work in advertising research towards “a general theory of creativity in advertising” (Smith & Yang 2004) the topic is generally not dealt with in detail in a broader marketing and brand management context. The seminal work of many leading scholars in this area (Kotler & Bliemel 2006; Fuchs & Unger 2007; Schweiger & Schrattenecker 2009) does not systematically cover creativity.

For this reason this paper sets out to critically evaluate the functions and premises of brand management and more specifically what “creativity” could mean in this context. This is done by first analysing the concept of brands and brand management as found in a literature review. In addition, the environment companies and brands operate in will be described and structured, followed by implications for brand management theory and practice. Then, meanings of creativity both in today’s advertising and marketing industry as well as in the broader management context will be examined. The last chapter will then merge the two streams and draw conclusions from the synthesis of the current state of brand management and a broader meaning of creativity in a commercial context.

AKQA, 2010. AKQA Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.akqa.com/10_company/assets/pdf/AKQA_Fact_Sheet.pdf [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Brien, N., 2010. Interpublic Announces Management Succession at McCann Worldgroup. Available at: http://www.mccannworldgroup.com/2010/01/interpublic-announces-management-succession-at-mccann-worldgroup/ [Accessed October 22, 2010].

DDB, 2010. DDB. Available at: http://www.ddb.com/timeline.html [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Ehrenberg, A. et al., 2002. Brand advertising as creative publicity. Journal of Advertising Research, 42(4), pp.7–18.

El-Murad, J. & West, D.C., 2004. The Definition and Measurement of Creativity: What Do We Know? Journal of Advertising Research, 44(2), pp.188-201.

Fuchs, W. & Unger, F., 2007. Management der Marketing-Kommunikation 4th ed., Springer, Berlin.

Koslow, S., Sasser, S.L. & Riordan, E.A., 2006. Do Marketers Get the Advertising They Need or the Advertising They Deserve? Agency Views of How Clients Influence Creativity. Journal of Advertising, 35(3), pp.81–101.

Koslow, S., Sasser, S.L. & Riordan, E.A., 2003. What Is Creative to Whom and Why? Perceptions in Advertising Agencies. Journal of Advertising Research, 43(01), pp.96-110.

Kotler, P. & Bliemel, F., 2006. Marketing-Management. Analyse, Planung und Verwirklichung 10th ed., Pearson Studium.

Kover, A.J., Goldberg, S.M. & James, W.L., 1995. Creativity vs. effectiveness? An integrating classification for advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 35(6).

MDC Partners, 2010. MDC Partners [BETA]. Available at: http://www.mdc-partners.com/#agency/mdc_partners [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Naked Communications, 2010. Naked. Meet Us. Manifesto. Available at: http://www.nakedcomms.com/ [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Ogilvy & Mather, 2010. Corporate Culture | Ogilvy & Mather. Available at: http://www.ogilvy.com/About/Our-History/Corporate-Culture.aspx [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Schweiger, G. & Schrattenecker, G., 2009. Werbung 7th ed., UTB, Stuttgart.

Smith, R.E. & Yang, X., 2004. Toward a general theory of creativity in advertising: Examining the role of divergence. Marketing Theory, 4(1-2), p.31.

Till, B.D. & Baack, D.W., 2005. Recall and Persuasion: Does Creative Advertising Matter? Journal of Advertising, 34(3), pp.47–57.

West, D.C., Kover, A.J. & Caruana, A., 2008. Practitioner and Customer Views of Advertising Creativity: Same Concept, Different Meaning? Journal of Advertising, 37(4), pp.35-46.

White, A. & Smith, B.L., 2001. Assessing Advertising Creativity Using the Creative Product Semantic Scale. Journal of Advertising Research, 41(6), pp.27-34.

Wieden + Kennedy, 2010. Wieden + Kennedy London. An independent, creatively led communications agency. Available at: http://www.wklondon.com/ [Accessed January 4, 2011].

Young & Rubicam, 2010. Young & Rubicam. Young & Rubicam. Available at: http://www.yr.com/ [Accessed October 22, 2010].

Zurstiege, G., 2005. Zwischen Kritik und Faszination. Was wir beobachten, wenn wir die Werbung beobachten, wie sie die Gesellschaft beobachtet 1st ed., Halem.

Organisational Culture

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the August 24th, 2011

In the process of organising, the behaviour of employees needs to be coordinated and directed to maximise results.3 This involves a certain amount of trade-off by organisation members on all levels, as people must willingly surrender much of their individual flexibility and independence in order to attain both personal and organisational goals.4 In addition to guiding behaviour, goals motivate people to join and remain in organisations, stimulate effort and provide a benchmark for evaluation.5

In the great quest to meet formalised goals and objectives, however, it is all too easy for managers to forget the less rational social elements, such as the concept of organisational culture, which not only associate goals with deeper meanings6 but also determine individual and collective behaviour, ways of perceiving, thought patterns and values.7

McAleese, Hargie: Five guiding principles of culture management: A synthesis of best practice – Vol. 9, 2 155–170 – Journal of Communication Management.

Let’s see where that paper goes …

Fragen und Antworten zum Studium

Posted in academia by thomas on the Juni 6th, 2011

Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien
In den vergangenen zwei Jahren hat mich der Bildungsberater meiner ehemaligen Schule gefragt, ob ich bei der Studieninformationsbörse der HTL den Schülerinnen und Schülern zur WU und dem Studium im Allgemeinen Rede und Antwort stehen könnte.  Ich habe das immer gerne gemacht, halte Information und Orientierung – Mentoring allgemein – für eine ziemlich wichtige und praktische Sache. Nach der diesjährigen Studieninformationsbörse hat mir einer der interessierteren Schülern geschrieben ob ich ihm mit ein paar Fragen behilflich sein könnte. Dabei dachte ich, dass die Fragen und Antworten vielleicht für mehrere Schülerinnen und Schüler interessant sein könnten.  Ich bin sicher nicht der richtige Ansprechpartner für alle Fragen, trotzdem hoffe ich, dass manche von mit den Antworten etwas anfangen können. Wenn ihr das hier liest und selbst bessere Antworten habt, bitte einfach kommentieren.

85.000 Leute an der Uni Wien. 26.000 an der TU. Das ist schon extrem viel. Wie war eigentlich die Umstellung zwischen HTL und Uni? Ich mein‘ ich bin nicht so der Streber und komme mit meiner „einen Tag vorm Test lernen“-Strategie mit 0 bis 2 4er pro Jahr durch. Wie war das für dich?

Nun, die 85.000 oder 26.000 Leute sind natürlich auf die ganze Unis gemeinsam gerechnet. Das ist an der Uni Wien alles vom Juridicum, über die Afrikanistik zur Chemie und Wirtschaft. Viele der 85.000 wirst du nie zu Gesicht bekommen. Das gleiche gilt für die TU. Das heißt, es kommt schlussendlich viel auf die Studienrichtung an die du vor hast zu wählen. Informatik und Architektur an der TU ist ziemlich gut belegt und auch auf der Uni Wien gibt es viele Studienrichtungen die überlastet sind (Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft etc.). Was die Umstellung betrifft gibt es schon Prüfungen, die natürlich schwierig sind und gründliche Vorbereitung, also 1-2 Wochen täglich lernen, brauchen. Alles in allem gab es von den Prüfungen aber nicht so viele. Die größte Umstellung war ein bisschen mit all den Dingen die man in Wien anstatt zu lernen machen kann zurecht zu kommen. Manche schaffen eben diese Umstellung nicht. Oder müssen so viel arbeiten um sich zu finanzieren dass sie dem Studium zu wenig Zeit widmen können. Das hängt aber auch von deinem Studium ab. Eine Technische Physik wird mehr Aufmerksamkeit von dir verlangen als die Publizistik. Das klingt vielleicht hart, ist aber so.

Wie vermutlich alle sagst du auch das Bachelor umsonst ist und wenn man schon studiert gleich den Master auch noch machen soll. Seh‘ ich das richtig?

Das kommt ein bisschen darauf an was du studierst, wie dein eigener Drang nach Wissen und Forschung ist und wie sehr du deine Zukunft in Österreich siehst. Wenn du mal in England, den USA oder sonst wo arbeiten willst in einem Bereich der nicht sehr forschungsgetrieben ist, dann reicht der Bachelor in vielen Fällen sicher aus. Auch in wirtschaftlichen Berufen gibt es sogar in Österreich viele große Unternehmen die Bachelors einstellen (auch Google z.B.). Wenn du dich in Zukunft in Österreich siehst, in einem eher forschungslastigen Bereich und dich sehr für dein Thema interessierst, dann ist der Master natürlich schon auch naheliegend. Einerseits weil in Österreich Titel immer noch viel zählen, andererseits weil dir Master noch 2 Jahre geben dich wirklich ausführlich mit einem Thema zu beschäftigen.

Ich habe in Publizistik zum Beispiel den Master belegt weil ich dachte dadurch wirklich noch Tiefer in die Materie zu kommen. Das hat so zwar nicht gestimmt – der Master ist nicht sehr gut – aber ich hatte dennoch 2 Jahre Zeit um mich mit dem Thema noch mehr zu beschäftigen. Und das war im Nachhinein gut.

Ich kann mir nicht vorstellen mit 25 jahren noch keine Arbeitserfahrung zu haben. Ich meine du, hattest ja auch Praktika oder? Ist arbeiten neben dem Studieren eigentlich „möglich“, so dass man noch Freizeit hat?

Ja, ich habe Praktika gemacht und auch nebenbei gearbeitet. Ob arbeiten neben dem Studieren „möglich“ ist, ist eine schwierige Frage. Das hängt einerseits davon ab wie „gut“ du bist, nicht nur fachlich, sondern auch in Selbstdisziplin und Zeitmanagement und andererseits ob es dein Studium erlaubt. Bei manchen Fächern ist es sicher leichter möglich als bei anderen. Es arbeiten allerdings ca. 2/3 der Studierenden nebenbei, wenn ich mich richtig erinnere. Vor allem nach 2 Jahren haben viele in meinem Bekanntenkreis die erst nach Wien gekommen sind mit Jobs angefangen. Manche arbeiten aber weiterhin nur im Sommer, das hängt auch ein bisschen von der Unterstützung der Eltern ab. Fachspezifische Arbeit zu finden ist zu Beginn immer ein bisschen schwierig, wobei da die HTL schon ein riesen Startvorteil für mich war. Freizeit? Ja, sicher. Ich habe immer mehrere Sport-Kurse belegt, im Sommer für die Mannschaft von Braunau Tennis gespielt, bin normal fortgegangen etc.

Du warst ja in Kanada oder? Sind diese Auslandssemester eher die Ausnahme oder die Regel oder hängt das auch vom Studium ab?

Ja, ich war in Vancouver. In meinem Studium (Internationale Betriebswirtschaftslehre) an der WU ist Auslandserfahrung Pflicht. Diese kann man entweder durch zwei Sommerunis, durch eine Sommeruni und ein Praktikum oder durch ein Auslandssemester decken. In anderen Studien sind Auslandssemester nicht Pflicht, werden aber immer häufiger. Viele meiner Kolleginnen und Kollegen waren im Ausland – Korea, Schweden, Finnland, Niederlande, Australien, Thailand, …

Wie kann man sich am Besten informieren? Gibt es da „Schnuppertage“ oder kann man Vorlesungen besuchen? Wie bist du auf deine Studienzweige gekommen?

Einerseits natürlich über Menschen die das studieren was sich möglicherweise interessiert, andererseits über Veranstaltungen wie die BEST und in Internetforen der Studienrichtungsvertretungen und der Unis. Vorlesungen sind öffentlich, das heißt du kannst einfach nach Wien fahren und dich dort hineinsetzen. Manche Unis haben auch Tag der offenen Türe und ähnliche Veranstaltungen. Das müsstest du googlen. – Wie ich auf meine Studienzweige gekommen? Ich habe mich immer diffus für Wirtschaft, Menschen, Medien und Technik interessiert und habe mir dann eine Liste an Studienzweigen aufgestellt die sich mit den Themen beschäftigen. Auf dieser Liste sind dann PuKW, Psychologie, Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik, Medieninformatik und Geschichte gestanden. PuKW hat mich vom Studienplan her (der war online) und von den Namen der Lehrveranstaltungen am meisten interessiert. Medieninformatik war auf zwei. Nachdem Medieninformatik nach einem Semester mangels Begeisterung für Informatik/Mathematik wieder gestrichen wurde, hab‘ ich dann Wirtschaftsinformatik begonnen. Und nachdem ich dort nicht die WU-Spezialisierungen belegen konnte die ich wollte und mich Sprachen immer mehr interessiert haben, habe ich schlussendlich Internationale BWL gemacht.

Ist es normal das man zwei Studienzweige studiert bzw. auf zwei verscheiden Unis? Wieso Wirtschaft und Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft?

Normal, nein. Es ist sicher insgesamt eher die Minderheit. Auf der Sozial-, Kultur- und Wirtschaftswissenschaft ist es aber schon üblicher als auf der TU zum Beispiel. Wenn man ein möglichst umfangreiches Wissen z.B. über Gesellschaftstheorien oder Medien erlangen will, bietet es sich an z.B. zwei Bachelor-Studien zu belegen. In den USA zum Beispiel ist es ja so, dass man im Bachelor einfach nur einen Bachelor of Arts (BA) studiert und dafür Kurse aus Soziologie, Psychologie, Philosophie, Geschichte, Medien, Wirtschaft, etc. belegt – bei uns sind das alles eigene Bachelor-Studien. Bei uns gibt es das nicht, darum gibt es oft Kombinationen. Warum Wirtschaft- und Kommunikationswissenschaft? Weil ich denke, dass sich die beiden Fächer sehr gut kombinieren lassen, weil mich beides interessiert und zu einem gewissen grad natürlich auch, weil die Internationale BWL eine gewisse „Ausbildung“ ist, die ich als Basis gut finde (Sprachen, BWL-Grundlagen, VWL-Grundlagen …).

Was ist dein Traumjob bzw. was bringt dir dein Studium? Könntest du den Job auch ohne Studieren ausüben?

Mein Traumjob ist im Prinzip der, den ich momentan habe. Bei Planning oder Strategie geht es darum, mit Intuition und Logik (Kreativität und Analyse) dafür zu sorgen, dass Unternehmen und Marken Dinge schaffen, die sowohl für die Menschen als auch für das Unternehmen relevant sind. Das heißt, z.B. dafür zu sorgen, dass Werbekampagnen funktionieren, oder herauszufinden wie man eine Marke besser oder bekannter machen kann, oder dafür zu sorgen dass man ein Produkt teurer verkaufen kann oder neue Produkte oder Marken zu schaffen, die Bedürfnisse von Menschen besser befriedigen als andere. Und das ganze so, dass das was dabei herauskommt nicht etwas ist für das man sich schämen muss. Idealerweise soll es etwas sein, dass die Gesellschaft insgesamt ein wenig besser macht. Aber das ist natürlich schwierig. Der große Traumjob ist ein bisschen genau das bei W+K oder IDEO zu tun.

Könnte ich diesen Job auch ohne Studium ausführen. Theoretisch: ja. Praktisch: nope. Wie Rob Campbell immer anmerkt sind die Qualitäten die man für den Job braucht auch ohne Studium zu erlangen. Das Problem ist nur, dass die meisten Unternehmen niemanden dafür ohne Studium einstellen. Das heißt, entweder man arbeitet ohne Studium verschiedenste Dinge und wechselt dann ins Planning – was geht, aber irgendwie auch nicht einfach ist, oder man studiert, sammelt vielfältige Erfahrungen und hofft dann dadurch besser in dem Job zu werden. Zweiteres war meine Strategie.

Was bringt mir mein Studium? Insgesamt hat es mir einen breiten Überblick über viele unterschiedliche Dinge gegeben. Von Psychologie, über Soziologie, über Pädagogik, Geschichte, Sprachen, Buchhaltung, Logistik, Management, Marketing und so weiter. In der Kommunikationswissenschaft im Speziellen hatte ich Gelegenheit mir meine Gedanken darüber zu machen was die Gesellschaft antreibt, wie sie ihre Themen selektiert und vor allem wie sie sich verändert. Ein bisschen darüber nachzudenken, wie das Leben da draußen, die Medien, die Menschen eigentlich funktionieren. In der Internationalen BWL hatte ich Gelegenheit eine tolle Sommeruni in Vietnam zu machen, ein unvergessliches Auslandssemester in Vancouver, dadurch auch viele Menschen kennen zu lernen – und natürlich auch – ein Fundament an wirtschaftlichem Verständnis das mir so niemand mehr wegnehmen wird können. Wäre das unbedingt notwendig gewesen? Nein, natürlich nicht. Ich hätte auch arbeiten gehen können. Aber es war eine schöne Zeit, in der ich Gelegenheit hatte vieles zu lernen und mir ein besseres Bild von der Welt machen zu können. (Dass ich dabei viele liebe Menschen kennengelernt habe die ich sonst eben nie kennengelernt hätte, das ist natürlich ein weiterer, nicht zu unterschätzender Punkt.)

About the Social Uses of Advertising

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the Februar 22nd, 2011

Stumbled upon a research paper I didn’t know before on the social uses of advertising taglines among young men from 2007:

Most of the social uses or tagline recitals stemmed from television advertising campaigns. Respondents said that they would not normally use any copy from print ads, poster ads, radio or internet ads because ‘it’s just not done, everyone our age knows what you’re talking about with TV’. (Mitchell et. al., 2007: 209)

One of the quotes from the research:

Was on the phone in the evening when a new Nike ‘Freestyle’ ad came on TV so I couldn’t really concentrate on the advert. When I was finished on the phone I asked my housemate what the advert was like and he said it was really cool and my other housemate said it was the best one yet and I felt a bit left out and my housemate seemed to think they were better than me cos they had seen it and I hadn’t, like they had something over me, some sort of power and they said I would have to watch TV all week to see it and wouldn’t tell me what happens in the advert. I then watched TV all night and secretly hoped it would actually come on but it never did. (Mitchell et. al., 2007: 212)

Advertising was always ’social‘ media. It’s just that business theory didn’t get it: 

Thus the audience that current theories of advertising describe is not an audience at all but rather an “aggregate of individual consumers” (Sheth 1979), p. 415) who respond to advertising stimuli while remaining “islands of cognitive and affective responses, unconnected to a social world, detached from culture” ((Buttle 1991), p. 97). At the center of the great majority of theories in advertising research stands a lonely individual, cut off from the social contexts in which he or she, you and I, actually reside. (Ritson & Elliott 1999, S. 1)

Taken from:

Mitchell, V., Macklin, J.E. & Paxman, J., 2007. Social uses of advertising: an example of young male adults. International Journal of Advertising, 26(2), S. 199.

Related research:

Lannon, J. & Cooper, P., 1983. Humanistic advertising: a holistic cultural perspective.

Buttle, F., 1991. What do people do with advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 10(2), S. 95–110.

O’Donohoe, S., 1994. Advertising uses and gratifications. European Journal of Marketing, 28(8/9), S. 52–75.

Ritson, M. & Elliott, R., 1999. The social uses of advertising: an ethnographic study of adolescent advertising audiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(3), S. 260–277.

Heath, R. & Feldwick, P., 2008. Fifty years using the wrong model of advertising. International journal of market research, 50(1), S. 29.

Master Thesis Topic (update)

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the November 20th, 2010

After getting a lot of useful comments (thank you!) on my initial brainstorming on possible topics for my master thesis I cut them down to three and handed in a description of three very broad topics, all with some more concrete research questions: (1) ‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?, (2) ‚Continuities from Propaganda Theory to Planning:‘ and (3) Reception and Usage of ‚Transmedia‘ Narratives.

So here’s my translated description of topic (1), that I handed in before leaving and which has got a strong endorsement from the prof while I was in Tanzania.

‚Post-Postmodern‘ Uses of Brands and Media?

According to Holt (2002) there are two relevant branding paradigms in the 20th century. The first is called „Modern Branding“ and was based on a domineering, cultural engineering approach. It was dominant until the 60s, when the ‚creative revolution‘ around people like Bill Bernbach appeared.

Marketers made no pretense about their intentions in these branding efforts. They directed consumers as to how they should live and why their brand should be a central part of this kind of life. Advertisements shared a paternal voice that is particular to this era. By contemporary standards, these ads appear naive and didactic in their approach. This paternalism reveals that, at the time, consumer culture allowed companies to act as cultural authorities. Their advice was not only accepted but sought out. (Holt 2002: 80)

This modell – now being popularized by the TV series Mad Men – was inspired both by Freudian psychoanalysis and the scientific approach to advertising and persuasion at the time, provoked rising resistance in the 60s, with books like The Hidden Persuaders and other critical analysis appearing on bookshelves. With the increasing professionalization of the industry and knowledge about the branding paradigm more and more entering the public sphere, the public opinion was increasingly directed against the supposed manipulation of the individual.

Branding could no longer prescribe tastes in a way that was perceived as domineering. People had to be able to experience consumption as a volitional site of personal development, achievement, and self-creation. Increasingly, they could not tolerate the idea that they were to live in accord with a company-generated template. (Holt 2002: 82)

In reaction to the creative and anti-commercial countercultures of the 60s – and with that at the time when interpretative approaches started to challenge the predominant stimulus response thinking – a new branding paradigm emerged. Holt calls this paradigm „Postmodern Branding“. In a postmodern consumer culture, the role of branding would emerge from the supplier of a cultural blueprint – „How should I live?“ – to supposedly authentic, cultural ressources to be used for the identity projects of consumers who strive for independence from paternalistic and authoritarian corporations.

Postmodern consumer culture has adopted a particular notion of authenticity that has proved particularly challenging to marketers. To be authentic, brands must be disinterested; they must be perceived as invented and disseminated by parties without an instrumental economic agenda, by people who are intrinsically motivated by their inherent value. Postmodern consumers perceive modern branding efforts to be inauthentic because they ooze with the commercial intent of their sponsors. (Holt 2002: 84)

To produce these ressources in a distanced and commercially disinterested way, five branding techniques – also made public by Klein 1999 and Frank 1998) have emerged over time: (Holt 2002: 83ff)

  • Authentic Cultural Resources
  • Ironic, Reflexive Brand Persona
  • Coattailing on Cultural Epicenters
  • Life World Emplacement
  • Stealth Branding

All of these techniques however, are confronted with substantial contradictions. Ironic distance has been imitated without end and is now outdated, stealth marketing is getting more and more aggressive and reaching its limits, marketers are running out of counterculture content to tap for their campaigns as the authenticity market heats up, consumers are increasingly peeling away the brand veneer and „collectively, postmodern branding floods social life with evangelical calls to pursue personal sovereignty through brands“ (ibid.).

For Holt these phenomena (published in 2002 – before ’social media‘ even existed) pointed to an expiration of the postmodern branding paradigm. Whereas brands in the future would still have to offer authentic and relevant resources, authenticity won’t not be conveyed distance the brand from a profit motive, but through a role that Hold calls ‚citizen artist‘.

So brands will become another of expressive culture, no different in principle from films or television programs or rock bands (which, in turn, are increasingly treated and perceived as brands). […] Postmodern brands have little value in this new consumer culture. Because they rely so much on the cultural work of disinterested others and work so hard to deny that the brand itself stands for anything by itself (for fear of being tagged as cultural engineers), postmodern brands lack an original point of view that they can claim as their own. Rather than take a free ride on the backs of pop stars, indie films, and social viruses, brands will be valued to the extent that they deliver creatively, similar to other cultural products.

The citizen part on the other hand is concerned with the socially responsable behavior of corporations and their brands, basically answering the question of what is behind the brand veneer.

Holt

This topic and Holt’s only superficially covered hypotheses give rise to a lot of questions that might be covered in a master thesis. (Not all in one of course …)

  • What – to people – is authenticity in advertising and marketing communication? How is it operationalized? What are expectations?
  • How does authenticity translate in regards to aesthetics – from user-generated content to brands using a documentary style?
  • How does the use of digital, social networks (’social media‘) have affect the ‚corporate cool machine‘ as described by Holt in the postmodern branding paradigm. Is his hypothesis regarding brands being used in the role of citizen artists true? Or, more concrete: which range of uses of original, authentic and creative brand content can be shown? And in regards to the ‚citizen‘ part of the hypothesis: do people really look behind the brand veneer and if so, how?
Frank, T., 1998. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, University of Chicago Press.
Holt, D.B., 2002. Why do brands cause trouble? A dialectical theory of consumer culture and branding. Journal of Consumer Research, 29(1), S.70–90.
Klein, N., 1999. No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs ; taking aim at the brand bullies, New York, NY: Picador.
Mad Men – AMC. Mad Men. Available at: http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/

Master Thesis Topics (beta)

Posted in academia by thomas on the November 1st, 2010

Universität Wien

When I said I wanted to go to Tanzania for the Great Football Giveaway, I knew this was going to be in the middle of my last winter term and I knew I’d miss one session of each my classes – including the master thesis seminar of my communication and media science MA. This is basically the last class of the program and is designed to prepare us for conducting the masters research and writing the thesis, give us some exposure to profs (that’s not that common here). However, for a lot of administrative reasons, 4 weeks into the semester we haven’t had a class yet and the first class will be held in a 3-hours session while I’m out there giving out footballs. So instead of me missing the third 1 1/2 hour session, we have until the 7th to deliver a 1-2 pages description of our topic and I won’t be there at the first session held.

Now as always, my problem is that I have more than one rough topic in mind. Some of them are advertising related, some of them are media usage related, some of them are historic and some of them are related to internal organization. So here I am, trying to get to one topic.

1) Use and Reception of (Post-Postmodern-)Advertising

This is basically inspired by Douglas B. Holt and his cultural research into branding and advertising. Holt stated in 2002 that there are 5 contradictions that contribute to the end of postmodern branding and that give rise to brands as citizen artists. He then goes on to hypothesize about a spectrum of brand and media uses that people would resort to. Now this topic is obviously huge, could use some empirical research and might be tackled from a lot of different perspectives but I’m not quite sure which one might be the most interesting and fruitful approach.

Subtopics of this bigger area of interest might be:

  • Building upon my bachelor paper an inquiry into the specifics of reception and usage of recommended/forwarded ads
  • An inquiry into the use of reality aesthetics in marketing communications (everything from user generated content to documentary)

2) Reception and Use of Cross-Platform Narratives (with a focus on gender)

I would have written transmedia here but as it’s the last thing sucked dry by the industry I’d rather stick to cross-platform. I find this topic quite interesting for a while now but it has never been a research focus of mine and it’s never been one of my institute. Still, something that Dan Hon said at TEDxTransmedia re-ignited my interest. He basically asked us to imagine what it would have looked like if Amelie would’ve gotten the „transmedia treatment“ just like Heroes, Lost and all the geeky or more „male“ franchises. And that prompted me to think about how the realities of cross-plattform narrative use and reception actually looks like, away from industry hype and glory.

3) Play and Abductive Thinking

We all know IDEO and are well-aware of the gameification hype so there’s no need to use a lot of words here. I’ve had a fairly interesting theory seminar about organizational comms last semester and also read a bit into organizational culture, management and organizational thinking styles. I think that play(ful communication) and abductive thinking might be something worth looking into from an empirical and theoretical perspective. But this is still very, very raw.

4) History lessons: Propaganda Theory vs. Planning in a Convergent Culture

Basically a look into historic developments and continuities. I had a very, very interesting lecture about the history and theory of propaganda last semester and have developed a strong interest into the relationship between conceptions of men and theories. Looking at the „perfect product claim“, social media etc I think a theorizing look back in time might be fruitful. But then again that might just be liking to sound smart.

So in case you’ve read this until here, if you’d chip in a thought or two that’d be much appreciated. Does it all sound like BS? Is it relevant or interesting to you? Has it been done before?

„The Evolving Role of Creativity in Brand Management“ aka my Bachelor Paper and Planning Barcamp topic

Posted in academia,Bachelor Thesis,Brands and Business,planning by thomas on the August 25th, 2010

This weekend, I am going to fly up to Hamburg to meet with a bunch of interesting people at the Planning Barcamp, a mini/un-conference around the overarching theme of „Context“. As Michaela asked us to come up with topics, I thought it might be a good idea to suggest the title of my bachelor paper that otherwise nobody else would probably read anyways. So, as a preview of what I am going to talk about on Friday (in a less academic and hopefully more interesting way), here’s the preliminary introduction to my „thesis“:

(Thanks to Christian Riedel, and Michaela for organizing and to the APGD and the Good School for supporting it.)

Creativity is an often used word in the context of marketing communications and brand management. There are magazines named after it, such as Creativity and Creativity Review, there are numerous awards around the globe judging and celebrating it and there is the APG Creative Planning award, which rewards creative strategy in the context of marketing communications and planning.

Creativity, of course is also the selling point of almost every agency or agency-like company trying to make a living in the widening domain of marketing services.

We put the creative function at the top of our priorities.

Creativity Is The Most Powerful Force In Business. […] DDB’s pursues collaborative relationships with clients and partners to find the hidden potential of people, brands and business through creativity.

[Wieden + Kennedy is] an independent, creatively-led communications agency.

We connect ideas and innovation to deliver award-winning results for the world’s leading brands.

We are creative problem-solvers.

We are a creative company with 186 offices and 7000 colleagues united around a single mission: To Resist the Unusual.

Our industry is undergoing radical transformation. To keep pace with the changes being driven by emerging technology, it is vital to focus on collaboration, creativity and organizational flexibility,

MDC Partners fosters the entrepreneurial spirit of our Partner firms by encouraging creativity and autonomy while providing human and financial resources to accelerate growth.

Both independent agencies as well as large established agency networks claim to be at the forefront of creativity. More precisely, as Zurstiege (cf. 2005: 179ff) puts it, what agencies aim to offer and what marketers ask for is effective creativity or creative effectiveness. Therefore, as the relationship between creativity and effectiveness is a regular topic of discussion between advertising agencies and clients, within agencies, the industry press and advertising conferences, there is a stream of research dealing with creativity in the context of advertising. Google Scholar, which searches for scientific literature such as journal articles, displays around 100.000 entries for “advertising AND creativity”. Among the discussed topics are the definition and perception of creativity (D. C West et al. 2008; El-Murad & Douglas C. West 2004; Scott Koslow et al. 2003; White & B. L. Smith 2001), the effect of creativity on advertising effectiveness (Ehrenberg et al. 2002; Arthur J. Kover et al. 1995; Dahlen et al. 2008; Till & Baack 2005), and contextual issues that influence advertising and agency creativity (S. Koslow et al. 2006).

However, while creativity is the focus of awards, agency positioning and industry debates, and while there is work in advertising research towards “a general theory of creativity in advertising” (R. E. Smith & Yang 2004) creativity is generally not dealt with in detail in a broader brand management context (Kotler & Bliemel 2006; Fuchs & Unger 2007; Schweiger & Schrattenecker 2009).

For this reason this paper sets out to critically evaluate the functions and premises of brand management and more specifically what roles “creativity” could play in the ever-more-complex environment companies and brands are embedded in.

This is done by first analyzing the concept of brands and brand management as found in a literature review. In addition, the changing environment companies and brands operate in will be described, followed by implications for and a critique of brand management and research on the topic. Then, different meanings of and perspectives on creativity, both in today’s marketing industry as well as in the broader business context, will be examined. The last chapter will then merge the two streams and draw conclusions from the synthesis of the current state of brand management and a broader meaning of creativity in a commercial context.

(Will update the sources later.)

So much for the introduction. The good thing is, I’m not finished and will therefore have to present half-baked thoughts as discussion material. Of course, I’ll share the thesis here, once it is finished.

73 years.

Posted in academia,communications,media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the Juli 19th, 2010

As another little confirmation that most of what is being written about „models“, „theories“ and „new thinking“ in communication, management and all those other funky disciplines has been more or less eloquently written before, a quote from the research for a paper I am supposed to be writing instead of this …

It has been found that a properly recruited, properly educated staff whose loyalty has been adequately ensured will work not only eight or more hours a day keeping up the Bell System’s public relations, but further, even in personal contacts and friendships, on company time and off, will serve as an efficient agent in spreading the Bell ideology and securing the sympathies and allegiance of groups and individuals to the Bell System.

Bell System, Public Opinion Quarterly 1937 vs. Twelpforce, Cannes 2010.

What did we really do in the 73 years between, except for changing some words?

Speaking of models, there’s a rather innovative one that TheKaiserII was kind enough to share with us:

12 Brand Definition Themes Identified (by others)

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,planning by thomas on the Mai 8th, 2010

As a result of the content analysis of this literature, we identified twelve main themes which we thought were an accurate categorisation of the broad range of definitions of the „brand“ in the literature, i.e. as: i) legal instrument; ii) logo; iii) company; iv) shorthand; v) risk reducer; vi) identity system; vii) image in consumers‘ minds; viii) value system; ix) personality; x) relationship; xi) adding value; and xii) evolving entity. The categorisation into the twelve themes was fairly straightforward, since most authors used buzz words such as „personality“ or „relationship“ either in the definitions themselves, or in the discussion of their view of the brand. As we discuss in more detail in below, there is some overlap among the elements of different definitions, which are therefore not mutually exclusive. However, the twelve themes represent a categorisation of the most important propositions in the branding literature.

This is a quote from de Chernatony, L. & Riley, F.D., 1998. Defining A „Brand“: Beyond The Literature With Experts‘ Interpretations. Journal of Marketing Management, 14(4/5), 417-443.

I think it’s valuable to read this kind of stuff and deal a fair share of time with what could be denounced as a pure semantic, abstract and theorectical exercise. Why? Because it could eventually help me to understand the perspective a client, partner, team or boss has on the topic, which in turn allows me to reach a goal easier just by making my thinking – or its packaging – more compatible with the associations people already formed. (That, and finishing my bachelor thesis …)

A sign showing how subjective our business is (as Russell Davies has pointed out before)? Rubbish and useless academia?