- February
Posted By : Jeannie Chan
Have Brand Marketers Lost Control?

Branding Beyond the Brief

Elsewhere on the world wide web, there is a challenge to state the difference between a brand and a commodity in a sentence or less. Many marketers answered the challenge. After all, most of us think we know the difference. Many of us make a living based on how well we can separate the two. But one particular answer perplexed me. It did not answer the question in a sentence or less. In fact, it was practically a short encyclopedia entry.

As a CPG marketer, I was trained to summarize my entire brand into a 30 second commercial, a print ad, a tagline… I think in top lines, highlights, and briefs. To me, there is no reason why it would take more than a sentence to express the difference between a brand and a commodity.

Then, an astute marketer asked the following question:

Perhaps precisely because we only think in terms of top lines, highlights and briefs is part of the reason why there are so relatively few deep, powerhouse, iconic brands out there to begin with?

Now, ain’t that the truth!

Marketers have gotten away with quite a bit. We will never admit it (and I will deny it if you ever ask me directly), but we sometimes think consumers are dumb. We think that they won’t catch on that we’ve downsized our packs. We think that they won’t realize that we’ve changed ingredients on them. We think that we can pull a fast one on them. Spend enough on advertising, we can drown out the defectors. The lone squeaking wheel will be silenced.

The truth is consumers were never dumb. We had never been able to fool them. We got away with it all because there was little they could do about it! It’s all different now! Rich mediums such as social media are slowly, but surely, forcing marketers to evolve. Today’s consumers are asking for more and more from their brands. They want dialogues. They want rich experiences. They want relationships. They want everything, and they want it now! They will complain, and they will demand answers. They will yell and scream, and they will expect to be heard. Today’s consumers will not be silenced.

In this world, where marketers feel like we’re losing control, how will we regain it? I don’t know the answer. But I know the following: We will not regain control by thinking in terms of top lines, highlights, and briefs. Building and maintaining a brand will take so much more than smartly-made thirty second commercials, print ads, and taglines.


  • Rowland Heming

    Hi there Jeannie,

    Great thought, and nicely expressed too.

    I wrote an article for my blog earlier this year call “Brands, what went wrong”, you might find it relevant to your point too – you can find it at http://rowlandheming.blogspot.com

    Thanks again for provoking us all into action


  • Adam Schorr


    Great post. My answer to the question of whether we have lost control is that we never had it. It was an illusion. You as much say this when you point out that we were never able to fool consumers.

    We must understand that we don’t control anything. Consumers will do what they want to do. They will perceive what they want to perceive. The best we can do is have a very clear sense of what our brand beliefs are and then work with our consumers to make it so.

    It’s a new world. I fear that brands that are desperately trying to maintain or regain control will slide into oblivion.

    I wrote a post on my blog re control (more broadly) that you might find enjoying.



  • Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing!

  • Hi Rowland!

    Thank you for your post. I really interested in your post
    Thank you for sharing!

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