Challenges For Brand Management: An Overview (2.4)

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

“Although brand may be as important as ever to consumers, brand management may be more difficult than ever.” (Keller 1998, p.30)

The topic of challenges, changes in the environment or otherwise relevant external pressures on brand management is not exactly a new one, as previous research shows (Shocker et al. 1994). If a brand is seen as the structurally coupling link between an organisation and its environment, changes in this environment are and have always been of essential importance to  brand management. The following paragraphs do not aim at painting a complete picture of every trend that brand management has to deal with presently, but rather serve to give an introduction into the contemporary environment.

Keller (1998, p.31) lists 13 challenges without any inherent structure as important to brand builders:

“savvy customers, more complex brand families and portfolios, maturing markets, more sophisticated and increasing competition, difficulty in differentiating, decreasing brand loyalty in many categories, growth of own labels, increasing trade power, fragmenting media coverage, erosion of effectiveness of traditional media, emerging communication options, increasing promotional expenditures, decreasing advertising expenditures, increasing cost of product introduction and support, short-term performance orientation [and] increasing job turnover.”

Strebinger (2010) divides reasons why brand management has become much more challenging into four demand-side and supply-side drivers. On the demand side, consumers more and more demand products tailored to their special needs and preferences. Technology is bringing fundamental changes to the way people consume media (Wilbur 2008) and information overload restricts the amount of brands people are able and willing to think of. Last but not least consumers have become more critical of the behaviour of brands (Klein 1999). On the supply side, shareholders strive to maximize profits by exploiting market opportunities while focusing on cost efficiency. In addition, mergers and acquisitions challenge established brand portfolios, internationalization leads to new competitors and opportunities and new media leads to new online competitors.

Another structure (Fuchs & Unger 2007, p.2ff) suggests economic, social, legal and communicational changes. Fuchs and Unger identify increased dynamism and complexity, competitive pressure, internationalization, quality parity, the shortening of product-life-cycles and market differentiation as economic developments which all lead to competition through communication, which in combination with a dynamic media landscape leads to increased information overflow. In addition, changes in consumer values and expectations of corporate citizenship represent the most pressing socio-cultural developments.

Siegert and Brecheis (2005, p.76ff) provide more detail on the advertising and media side with their six developments that together portray the current framework advertising has to operate in. According to them, advertising has to deal with internationalization and globalization, digitalization and new information and communication technologies, individualization and experience seeking, promulgation through the mass media and the attention economy, economization and changing markets as well as changing legal frameworks.

Certainly, more challenges and trends that increase the pressure on marketing and brand management could be found. Depending on who one chooses to read, we live in a risk society (Beck 1992), a experience seeking society (Schulze 2005), an information- and media society (Siegert & Brecheis 2005), in a converging culture (Jenkins 2006) and/or in the communication age (Tropp 2004).

In this context, Kotler & Caslione (xii 2009) postulate

“[…] that turbulence, and especially heightened turbulence, with its consequent chaos, risk and uncertainty, is now the normal condition of industries, markets, and companies.”

While Feldwick (2010) doubts the emergence of a genuinely “new” consumer there is a recurring theme around the topic that brands and brand management are under pressure. As Keller called it, managerial practice in the field is becoming “more difficult than ever” (Keller 1998, p.30).

In light of the all the trends, drivers and environmental challenges, Tropp argues that there is lack of a consistent theoretical grounding to be actually give a brand manager a handle on the world he/she is operating in. Consequently, Tropp aims for a ‘lower resolution’ of observation to integrate the different empirically observable phenomena into theoretically grounded categories (Tropp 2004, p.56). These three categories are complexity, coupling and communication, all of which are central terms of systems theory.  – The challenges according to these theoretical concepts will be introduced in the next three blog posts.

Beck, U., 1992. Risk society: Towards a new modernity, Sage publications ltd.

Feldwick, P., 2010. The Feldwick Factor: Has digital growth changed consumer-brand relationships? Admap.

Jenkins, H., 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide illustrated edition., New York Univ Pr.

Keller, K.L., 1998. Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity, Prentice Hall.

Klein, N., 1999. No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs ; taking aim at the brand bullies, New York, NY: Picador.

Kotler, P. & Caslione, J.A., 2009. Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence, Mcgraw-Hill Professional.

Schulze, G., 2005. Die Erlebnisgesellschaft: Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart, Campus Verlag.

Shocker, A.D., Srivastava, R.K. & Ruekert, R.W., 1994. Challenges and opportunities facing brand management: an introduction to the special issue. Journal of Marketing Research, 31(2), pp.149–158.

Siegert, G. & Brecheis, D., 2005. Werbung in der Medien- und Informationsgesellschaft: Eine kommunikationswissenschaftliche Einführung 1st ed., VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Strebinger, A., 2010. Markenmanagement – Lecture at WU Wien.

Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.

Wilbur, K.C., 2008. How the digital video recorder (DVR) changes traditional television advertising. Journal of Advertising, 37(1), pp.143–149.

Vienna. Dancing with the Cool Kids.


(What comes now should probably be filed in the category: “Topics that I have no business writing about”, but anyways.)

One of the good things about being away from home is that you have an incentive for getting to know “home” better once you return. Things always change, some more subtle, others more visible and dealing with the whole “coming home” situation makes you more aware of stuff that you wouldn’t even have noticed before leaving. However, when I came home to Austria after my semester in Vancouver, I hardly spent time in Vienna. On the weekends I played tennis for my hometown and during the week I studied for a big exam. Then, in July, I took off to Budapest for three months. The only thing I saw from Vienna during that time was its train station.

So, looking back at the year since I came back, what has changed?

A lot, obviously, but what I think is really amazing to see is how the music scene in Vienna has built some sort of cluster at the edges of laid-back but energetic, raw but sophisticated, oldschool but innovative funkyness – can I get a “Ho!” for that? – and I don’t only mean the tonality of the music. Now of course, there’s always been underground Hip Hop and electronic music (sic!) in Vienna, and I’m most definitely not in a position to educate anybody about that. What comes out of Vienna recently sounds like that:

(It appears that Dorian Concept and The Clonious are only two of that bunch of producers that are pushing Vienna next to LA and Detroit as the hot spot of this intersection of Hip Hop and Electronic music. You know, Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Hudson Mohawke and all.)

What I find interesting in all this are two things.

First, it seems like it took the opening of a third club right in the same are to ignite that breakthrough on a bigger scale. The “Fluc” had been home to Techno, Dubstep, Drum and Bass, Hip Hop and all kinds of other stuff for some years but it was always a little too alternative for a lot of people. The “Planetarium” right next door had its share of House, Techno, Hip and Hop and other stuff but was always a little too posh for others. So when the “Pratersauna“, a former sauna with outdoor pool and a “legendary” grimy heritage, opened in July 2009, suddenly 3 of the most popular alternative music venues in Vienna were all in a 5 minutes walking distance. And then, in fall, Planetarium and Pratersauna took part in the 5 days minifestival RUN VIE – a week “by the heads, for the heads”, organized by Supercity, one of the important platforms for what I’m writing about here. Sneakerness Vienna – a sneaker fair for the “sole culture” also was happening as part of that thing.

RUN VIE, The Festival 2009, Vienna from supercity on Vimeo.

Now, almost a year later, another collective has formed that will bring Vienna its first electronic “festival”, with Austrian and international acts from Techno, to House, to Dubstep to Hip Hop, in exactly those three locations.

Proximity and momentum. Kind of interesting.

The second thing that I find interesting is the tonality, the look and feel of this ever-more attractive scene. At the intersection of all those genres I left it to you to determine the right words for the sound itsself.

Fluc Wanne Klo


However, apart from the sound I think there is something at the “core” of this scene with its different venues (and it’s not the toilet architecture as you can see). The clubs themselves are of course different from each other.  Of the three clubs, one is under the ground, one is in a real planetarium and one in a former sauna (and/or swinger club). All of them, however, are improvised and minimalistic.

They are raw in the way how they approach interior and sophisticated/rich only in the music they play. All of them are in a district until recently famous only for the Prater, Vienna’s prototypical and stangely-famous entertainment sight, and prositution. So all of the clubs “benefit” from this “dirty” halo of the district and its grimy flair.

All of them are laid back in the sense that there’s no dress code, people from all kinds of backgrounds hang around there and that the whole thing is not taking itsself too seriously yet. They are oldschool in the fact that they are letting the patina survive – both in the sound and the style – and in building and innovating upon that.

And why funky? Well, a week ago I went to another one of the “fresh” venues, Club Morrison. This one’s not in the same area, but it is also in a former brothel and at least as improvised and raw. Ever since, I can’t help but link this whole movement to this movie that I saw in fall at the Viennale:

The patina, the sophisticated rawness, the disco flair, the grimy atmosphere, parts of the sound, the not taking it too seriously…  I can’t help but think of it all as Black Dynamite, remixed Viennese style.

Years ago, when I moved to Vienna, I asked bounce!-records sage Plaq why there were no Grime gigs in Vienna. He answered that Vienna wasn’t raw and tough enough for Grime. Now, years later, we might have found our thing.

(Apart from the fact that I shouldn’t be writing about music – sorry to all you real heads out there-, this posting shows how limiting text is when writing about culture. I’d need way more pictures and video to properly get across what I mean.)