OPINION: Marketing Society - Don't fanfare a strategy before you are living it

When a company announces a name change, a new identity or even a promotional campaign, the media often lambaste it for wasting money. They believe there are other more important things organisations could be doing.

The media's reaction tends to be 'So what? What's different, other than the name' - as with Lotto and the Billy Connolly television ads.

Rowan Williams has even made our industry the butt of some of his first comments as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Marketers are often perceived as being purely self-serving in advising clients to undertake these activities. So, when we are helping clients to make changes, how do we ensure that any publicity is good publicity and does not simply offer fodder for front-page rants?

Many new identities or changes of name are the result of a rethink on brand strategy. However, that motivating strategy rarely gets a look-in or is explained clearly in the press. So perhaps we should be telling our clients that they should not unveil a new look or even start thinking about creating an identity until the strategy starts to become embedded and successful.

Although it would come hard for designers and communication agencies that earn fees - and hopefully acclaim - from a big launch, it is probably better for the client's business if the change of strategy is implemented internally, rather than displayed externally.

Over the past few years there has been much emphasis on the employee asset and the internal brand. That said, employees are rarely deeply engaged in the development of new initiatives and strategies. Therefore, when a change is announced they simply 'duck', expecting it to be yet another initiative they believe is doomed to fail and is not worth taking on board.

So we should be encouraging our clients to involve employees more at the development stage. Any launch should focus on employees so that they understand the changes that will be taking place. Greater attention should be paid to their involvement in the communication process and how they will be able to contribute to the future implementation of the strategy.

Any change of brand strategy should also be sufficiently profound for the client to be encouraged to create an advocacy campaign about the new brand philosophy.

For example, if Camelot had made more profound changes to its offer, such as donating more of every ticket sale to charitable causes, it may have encouraged people to look at playing as a way of having a little fun while doing good. The relaunch would then have been about the fact that Camelot's main aim was to ensure that it generated money for good causes. And it would give more to compensate for the 'shortfall' in tickets sold.

With this approach, Camelot could have encouraged people to play more to the benefit of all. This alone would have done the trick. But Camelot changed the game's name to Lotto and was pilloried in the press for doing so.

Any development of a brand, be it corporate, product or service, only justifies publicity if it has real substance - internally and externally.


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