Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Marketing schizophrenia can be defined in many ways, but one of the most compelling barometers I've found is an advertiser's consistent creation of short term "campaigns". (And of course, use of the term brand campaign.)

Many brand "experts" and senior marketers espouse brand and branding as the long term means to a profitable end when properly nurtured, yet much of what you see in adland today - and for that matter, the past decade or so - goes directly against this philosophy.


Campaign is defined as "An operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose:, and therefore, by their very nature, campaigns are temporal. A brand is not.

If advertisers and their agencies continue to change up their messaging and brand identity to satisfy their short term profit goals - that are mostly not met - then they are doing more of a disservice to their bottom line than any bad publicity.


A brand is the accumulation of physical and perceptual entities about a specific product, service or company that occupies a space within a person’s mind, and whose ultimate goal is to create the right amount of trust to produce a sale. It stands to reason, then, that a true brand, a successful brand, is something that is enduring, consistent and eminently reliable. Something that its audience should be able to revisit over the years and have at the very least, a 90% chance of having the same interaction and reaction to (brands do evolve of course...)

So what are people to think when they see a company change it's look, its messaging and "brand attributes" emphasis? All in a relatively short time? They think commodity, lack of focus, something for everyone, a jack of all messages that might have an impact on me. A "me too" brand? And this goes against everything we've come to know as true about branding. Because branding is a "program", with a long shelf life. Campaigns come and go.


Case in point: Hyundai, my pet peeve. A while back, they came out with the "Think about it" brand campaign, and then just a few months later, I was barraged with "Save $2500 now", "Best deal around" and "Only during our sales days." Nothing about the benefits of Hyundai and why it is a better car. Nothing to reinforce the Think messaging. And I've never seen the Think ads again. Same for most car ads.

Soda ads? same thing. Computers? mostly attributes. Ice cream? Kid's cereals? same thing.

Yes, messaging quite obviously needs to change for a given product (or service), but that's product messaging, not brand messaging. The best and most profitable brands understand that they can have many "product campaigns" within the context of their overall brand marketing "program", but the brand remains pre-eminent, and so does the brand identity (that which a company systematically creates, versus brand image, that which people create based on identity, word of mouth, PR, their experience, etc.)


The key is to establish a brand identity foundation that can allow creativity and new impact to exist within the context of the mother ship. Campaigns should exist within long term business growth programs.

Much is also made of corporate branding and how it is different than other brand programs, but my feeling is that in every element, every initiative, every piece of promotional collateral no matter how small for any related brand offering (with a skew towards B2B, as P&G-like conglomerate behemoths are structured differently), should promote the overall brand message. Think BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine. There is a hint of that in absolutely everything they do. Even dealer advertising.


My point: no matter what you do, do it consistently, and when the stormy times come, your audience will seek out safety.

Brands that are enduring and to emulate: IBM, AmEx, Oracle. Sony (mostly recently.) BMW. GE, the mother of all consistent brands. Polo. Tiffany. Lowe's. Lego. Apple. Itron.