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.

About Bananas, Ethics and Consumption

Posted in Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the Juni 7th, 2011

Some of you may know that I spent a month in Nicaragua during my civil cervice for the twinning between my old highschool and a technical school in León, Nicaragua. Our school sends a group of pupils there every second year for them to learn about how different people on different spots of the earth live and runs a couple of projects there around energy usage and sustainability – all under an educational umbrella. There are Austrian civil servants in León and over the course of many years, some great things happened around the school and twinning in León. While this might only change the bigger picture a little bit, it does have its effects. Having said that, I might be a bit biased about what is going to follow later. But there’s a second disclaimer: I’m also not that big of a fan of the fair trade concept. I’m not sure whether it provides the right long-term incentive (it may not be sustainable to stay a farmer in the first place) and I’ve learned a bit about the bureaucratic and very expensive certification process. And last but not least, I still do have my troubles calling trades that all partners agree on ‚unfair‘.

That said, I’d like to ask you to watch the trailer for Bananas*, a documentary:

My first reaction when I saw Juan Dominguez, the lawyer in the documentary, was apparently the same as the director’s, who, in an interview described him as „the type of person most people wouldn’t buy a used car from.“
In fact, I find both the speeches he gives in Nicaragua and the way he conducts himself appalling. While the case that they present in the documentary seems to be very, very strong and while Dole’s representatives look like they don’t give and gave a shit about the Nicaraguan people, something about Dominguez made me feel a bit uncomfortable about that case. Now in the end, 6 of the 12 plaintiffs are awarded about $2 million and Dominguez wants to bring group after group after group of plaintiffs to court to bring justice to hundreds of workers and Dole (and millions to his law firm).

After I the documentary, I turned to Google to find out more about the lawsuit and what happened later on and found that the suit was overturned, the lawyers were reported for fraud and for coming up with a sophisticated scheme for extorting money out of Dole and that, because of that, no further lawsuits of Nicaraguan farmers are going to be accepted in court. How did Dole do that? They found some anonymous plaintiffs.

In 2007, Dole was found liable for causing six Nicaraguan banana workers to have been sterilized by Dole’s use of the pesticide DBCP and the jury found that Dole acted with malice, fraud and/or oppression. One year later, anonymous Dole witnesses stated that several workers in two upcoming cases had never worked on banana farms and that this alleged fraud had infected all Nicaraguan banana suits. Dole successfully spread their version of the story to international media, which was possible due to a court order protecting the identity of the witnesses, making their stories impossible to double check. Several media articles stated that Dominguez not only risked losing his license, but also “possible prison time”. See LA Times from May, 2009 »

http://www.bananasthemovie.com/juan-dominguez-cleared-of-any-wrongdoing-by-state-bar

After the court had thrown out the case,

Steve Condie, a solo practitioner in Oakland, Calif. who represents Nicaraguans who worked on Dole’s banana plantations in the 1970s and 1980s, filed a bar complaint in October 2010 against three of Dole’s lawyers, arguing that a newly translated recording indicated that the company bribed witnesses in the form of thousands of dollars in cash and luxury hotel accommodations. The witnesses later testified in secret about alleged fraud between the workers and the plaintiffs‘ lawyers.

Fredrik interviews Steve Condie from WG Film on Vimeo.

This was unsuccessfully, however, as

„The State Bar has completed the investigation of the allegations of professional misconduct and determined that this matter does not warrant further action,“ the letter reads. „Therefore, the matter is closed.“ The letter was signed by Chief Trial Counsel James Towery and Deputy Trial Counsel Melanie Lawrence.

On Feb. 28, Condie said the bar’s decision „reveals a dangerous sinkhole in our legal system when the State Bar can’t fully investigate a complaint against California lawyers because of court-imposed secrecy. The state bar did not exonerate Dole’s attorneys, they simply have dropped the case because they could not investigate the bribery report because of the thick veil of secrecy that Justice Chaney imposed on everything connected with this case. I would have preferred to have had the matter fully and publicly investigated so that the truth could come out. It appears that that will never happen.“

http://www.law.com/jsp/law/LawArticleFriendly.jsp?id=1202483509606

In March 2011, the appellate court threw out the case again, this time for good.

So much for justice.

Phony plaintiffs and helpers on both sides and many poor men that have definitely been hurt in one way or another, now unable to sue Dole ever again. And still, after watching the documentary, seeing the historic documents and letters showing that Dole didn’t and still doesn’t give a shit, you have a company that is – at least morally – guilty.

A few weeks ago, I was in the supermarket shopping for groceries. I apparently put bananas in my basket and went on to the cashier. Only then I found out that the banans I just bought were Dole bananas. I returned them and saw that these were the only bananas the supermarket had. So I left, without bananas and even more convinced that we live in a low-attention, low-involvement world, in which people in general don’t care much. If I, heavily invested in the topic and the country, almost bought the Dole bananas, why would anybody else care? Or even know in the first place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Dominguez_(lawyer)#Involvement_in_Tellez_v._Dole

About the ‚Science of Marketing‘

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,planning by thomas on the Januar 31st, 2011

At the moment a presentation and a video by Byron Sharp about the science of marketing are making rounds in the plannersphere. They are based on Sharp’s book „How Brands Grow. What marketers don’t know„. About this book Martin Weigel says:

If you want to buy one book this year to help you (or the marketer in your life) be a better a marketer, don’t buy all the data-devoid stuff that makes us feel cutting edge, or massages our egos. I suggest you read this one. It is full of proper data and analysis. And full of the stuff that as Sharp says, marketers should know, but many clearly don’t. Like double jeopardy, retention double jeopardy, the law of buyer moderation, natural monopoly law, etc.

It’s easily the most useful, challenging and illuminating book about marketing I’ve read in years.

I haven’t read the book yet, but after this enthusiastic review it is now lying on my desk. From what I can see, a lot of it is based on Andrew Ehrenberg’s work, which is not surprising, given that Sharp is at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. For those of you who don’t know Ehrenberg, who passed away last summer: he was the sage of marketing science, looking for and finding consistent marketing laws, most notably the Double Jeopardy law. He also wrote some interesting papers about advertising effects and a quite interesting comment in Strategy+Business called Marketing: Are you Really a Realist (free registration).

As shown in his work Ehrenberg is a passionate advocate of using the methods of physics in social science:

Even in a field supposed to be dominated by people’s impulses to buy – that of marketing – there are striking regularities … [yet] people seldom expect there to be law-like regularities in social science (‚Is it a science?‘) and therefore do not even look for them. (Ehrenberg 1993)

Sharp is promoting the same school of thought and you should definitely have a look at his talk.

Undeniably, law-like patterns as the ones he mentions in his talk are interesting. I am a huge believer in Ehrenberg’s view of advertising as being not so much persuading than nudging and that salience (in combination with widespread availability) is what often explains big brands better than anything else. However, with the nature of generalizations comes – I think – an exaggerated trust in what ‚the data‘ tells us, which might lead to some laziness in interpretation, analysis and understanding. After all, what ‚the data‘ doesn’t tell can’t be there, right?

Now this might sound like the sulky response of a ’social constructivist‘ (or any other ‚anti-positivist‘), but have a look at how Sharp presents his argument about Harley Davidson. He’s spot on when he says that Harley and Apple are the two brands always being mentioned as examples for cult-like loyalty and other brand anomalies and he rightfully dismisses these myths. However, when it comes to the Harley consumer segmentations he goes on to laugh about the fact that only few of Harley consumers are actually like one would imagine Harley riders, while the rest of them lives a more ‚regular‘ life – you know, the one without violence and drug trafficking. He argues then, that we spend too much time pampering the loyals and not enough time growing the others. Now, without having read the book, in arguing like that I think he omits that the 90% might only drive a Harley because they’d love to feel like the tough guy once in a while. And while I do know that this isn’t exactly an insight or new thought, I think it is quite a good accomplishment to commercially ‚reach‘ 9 times the people that are actually into the meaning you promote, the one your brand is perceived to (theoretically) stand for. This is – in my humble opinion – something that empirical marketing science couldn’t explain, because it’s not and won’t ever be in the ‚data‘.

The more you rely on generalizations, the more general your insights and understanding becomes. To fit a situation into your law, you have to chip away parts of what you want to explain.

So now I’ve got to read that book.

Sources:

Ehrenberg, Andrew (1993): Even the social sciences have laws‘, Nature, vol. 365, p. 385.

Sharp, Byron (2010): How Brands Grow. What Marketers Don’t Know.

A look at Nokia on the long road back to glory

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,planning by thomas on the September 24th, 2010

(This post contains a bunch of personal stuff, post-rationalization and opinions – typical planning bollocks -, just so you know. If you make it through the text there’ll be some nice videos though.)

First, some background. I always liked Nokia. When I was a teen, as far as I remember Nokia was a synonym for modern times and a cosmopolitan view of the world. They were not exactly on the cutting edge of everything but compared to the likes of Ericsson, Siemens and others, they were symbols of a connected global world. I got my first phone when I was 14, a blue Motorola that somehow looked like an egg, and then a pretty flashy panasonic that my dad wouldn’t use anymore. But my first real mobile was a Nokia 6210. It was the phone I used to text my girlfriend back then – first love and all. I think it was able to store a bunch-load of texts, which was obviously a plus, considering all the important teen texts that were not to be deleted.

There was no doubt that my next phone would also be a Nokia, though I’m not even exactly sure which one it was, with all the number combinations they used. I only remember that it was one of the first ones with a color screen – that unfortunately also didn’t last very long. Then however, I became unfaithful and jumped on board with Motorola when the 3G version of the Motorola Razr came out. It was the smallest 3G phone available, the RAZR was the coolest shit around and I gave in (contrary to what most people think of themselves, advertising works fine with me). Over in Vancouver I picked the cheapest phone available, which coincidently also was a Motorola with the same crappy software.

Then back home in Vienna, after quite a bit of pondering and looking at what Nokia had done in the meantime, I decided against the N95 and for the iPhone. It was a hard decision (not real-life hard, but in the realm of products), not because I had anything against Apps or the product, but because already back then I hated the way that a bunch of idiots who had no idea of what Apple used to stand for, of technology or of the creative industries, were wearing their white headphones like a badge of honor, proudly showcasing their iBooks/Macbooks, bashing Windows and Linux and in general pray at the altar of Jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved their OS and hardware but already then “The Great Product Claim” and the way that Apple’s smug “brand behavior” rubbed off to a lot of their now mainstream customers got on my nerves big time. The “I’m a Mac” campaign, while obviously catchy, made Apple look like a bunch of arrogant idiots.

I still bought it because back then, there was no comparable product experience in terms of touchscreen and applications. It just wasn’t there. But I do have the feeling that Apple, while building their ecosystem-empire and growing bigger and bigger, were constantly withdrawing from their “brand equity”, from the symbolic resources that shaped their public perception. Sure, that’s not going to bother them in the short term, because they can still sell this one device in all kinds of different sizes, but their success came – no matter how often Amir Kassaei repeats it – never only from the design and simplicity of “the perfect product” (that it isn’t and that doesn’t exist), but also from the symbolic resources it provided. Symbolic resources that went into the common knowledge about Apple because a bunch of nerds and hipsters from the creative industries were Apple, loved the OS, had the G4s, made their flyers on it and used it to DJ once they became to lazy to mix with vinyl. Think different and all.

Now, not so much anymore.

And so, while Nokia’s software was and is apparently crap for the last years and couldn’t remotely keep up with Android and Apple, and while they also neglected the symbolic parts for ages – I haven’t experienced anything that would make me feel a Nokia brand in Canada and also nothing in Austria for a while – they at least seem to have woken up. If Apple is moving away from their old heritage and Android is working on becoming the new mobile Windows, Nokia is in the strange position of being the challenger brand, while still being market leader.

This means that they simultaneously have to work on fixing their OS/App-store issues, but also work the edges of culture and their developers, the ones that Apple doesn’t give too much of a damn about anymore. And they have to continuously throw out millions of phones to defend their market share in the meantime. They have a chance to build what Apple built on one device and what Android is trying to do with all the different bloated brand versions of their OS, on a base of hundreds of millions of users of one brand who will trade up for smart-phones at some point. Think about it: if all the others are joining Android, and Palm and Microsoft more or less take themselves out of the game, why would you not be the third big guy in the market. (BB will always be business niche.)

Judging from what has come out of Nokia since the Nokia World, it seems like they at least get the symbolic part right and they’re working with different communities and developers to get their vision out there into reality.

Typical W+K brilliance, this is just lovely and puts different communities of do-ers and makers in the spotlight. DIY is a rich territory right now and you can break out every single project for different length features.

Sounds a heck of a lot like a hungry challenger brand. And that is a good sign.

AOL, Customer Experience and the „new“ realities in 2006.

Posted in digital,experience,media, culture and society by thomas on the März 15th, 2009

If members…are trying to provoke the Consultant into being unprofessional, immediately cancel the account. (AOL Offer Matrix 2006, according to Consumerist.com)

The dominating perspective my three courses at Sauder School of Business (Market Research, Consumer Behaviour and Integrated Marketing Communications) use to look at their topic is advertising. Even though market research and consumer behaviour teach other topics and usually look at the broad picture, it often comes down to research about questions concerning the framing and/or distribution of messages. This is great on the one hand, as I never had courses the rigorous, strategic and marketing-orientated North-American way. On the other hand, the consumer behaviours course – as great as it is – hasn’t talked much about experience, satisfaction, post-purchase behaviour, word-of-mouth and all the other things that exist next to advertising. Apparently, this is going to change now. To finish our discussion about overpromising/underpromising, we watched this little clip:

What did Vincent do? He recorded, he blogged, he got his story on Consumerist.com, he was on national TV not long after that. Hunderts of thousands of people could see first-hand how AOL treated a customer who didn’t want to have the service anymore.

What did AOL do? First, they fired „John“ and declined any corporate wrongdoing. Then, after serveral other customers and even employees came up with similar stories, they pledged to change the internal procedures. Did that happen? I don’t know. But it is nice to see how the communication model AOL and so many other companies still believe in clashed big-time with the power of losely connected individuals. As AOL’s retention manual was posted on the Consumerist in the course of this events, a perfect example of how they perceive(d) „communication“ as a one-directional and not necessarily human distribution of a message were revealed.

This happend to AOL in summer 2006, without twitter and a way less developed „social media“ environment. Now, almost 3 years later, things are even faster and even more „unpredictable“ for companies. As David Armano described in detail in his case about the Motrin Moms, brands can get in serious trouble within few hours, with all the details saved on the web forever.

So, what’s the good thing? There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Budgets are reallocated, broadcast media is losing and new companies with a more egalitarian view on people’s role in marketing emerge. And hopefully even more business school students are going to see the following bullet points in consumer behaviour courses:

  • Listen to the squeaky wheel
  • Look for complaints – make complaining easy
  • Accept responsibility
  • Quick action
    • Replacement
    • Repair
    • Refund
    • Exchange
  • Empower and train employees

In my case, they were accompanied by the words „Earlier in the days, you could’ve ignored things. There were not enough journalists to write about everything. Nowadays, everybody is a journalist. There is no way you can ignore things now.“