All about branding

All about branding

About half way through John Fanning's new book The Importance of Being Branded – An Irish Perspective, it became clear to me that I was enjoying the read because it was not selling me a silver bullet. It was not enlightening me on 'the new way of thinking' to solve all branding issues in the Irish marketplace.

Instead, I felt Fanning was sharing a perspective on branding and the developments around Irish branding, with varying degrees of depth. Fanning's book covers the history and development of branding, growing into how to build marketing icons.

Fanning looks at strategy, how to communicate the message, the importance of insights, the significance of brand extensions and brand evaluations. He looks at critical issues for the future of branding, including the myth of the manipulated consumer, the future of branding and six cultural contradictions in 21st century Ireland.

The author shares a lifetime of experience and gets well chosen support for his arguments from key figures from around the world over the last 30 years. The support papers and texts used throughout are worth the read itself.

The context of branding is especially set up in the first three chapters. I was particularly impressed with his explanation of the three ages of branding: the functional age; the emotional age; the perceptual, intellectual and philosophical age.

Suggestions about the potential development in the later age are particularly relevant for marketers planning to develop new brands for export. A key theme, backed up as all others, with a fascinating breadth of supportive thinking.

A second theme of the book, born out in numerous chapters, although not necessarily intended by the author, is the fact that brand management as a profession comes under criticism on a number of occasions from various contributors.

The professionalism of marketing departments is certainly under scrutiny; criticised not by the author, but by professional observers from ex-Lever head of marketing, Andrew Seth, to 'Marketing at the Crossroads' by Coopers & Lybrand.

A section dedicated to the ongoing importance and impact of the marketing department on branding would have been very insightful. Fanning really gets into his own when he moves on to insights and the focus on creative thinking.

He shows a detailed overview of the techniques used to uncover insights from the tried and trusted brainstorming to scenario planning, problem solving techniques, employed by the blue chip companies and new methods of research in some planning agencies.

He covers De Bono, Adam Morgan and Red Spider, outlining their key methods and ways of uncovering insights and helping the creative process. He also studies the potential benefits of exploring feng shui and collaborating with local artists to identify the cultural and brand insights, which may unlock creative and successful future strategies.

Fanning's Irish experience proves particularly insightful when discussing the friction between manufacturers' brands and retailers' brands. He dispels the notion that retailer brands are not as high in Ireland as they are in some European countries because Irish consumers are more brand loyal. Fanning argues manufacturers can regain the initiative by focusing on continuous product innovation, a stronger level of consumer understanding and the quality of their marketing communications.

I would agree and the real challenge is whether marketing departments can persuade the board of directors to invest in innovation, as opposed to spending the marketing budget on short-term requirements for the retailer, or short term sales objectives.

In looking at services brands, Fanning highlights key challenges, opportunities and looks at a number of Irish test cases. Ballinahinch Castle Hotel may see a steep rise is business on the back of the sales of this book.

Fanning then goes on to deal with 'Local brands – is there any hope?' His view is that different countries can have very different cultures and that culture is a major influence on consumer behaviour. Branding Ireland is obviously a hot topic with the author.

The exciting concept of fusion branding is discussed, where operational excellence and logistical superiority are the main drivers for successful brands, due to public demand.

Overall this is not a book about brand management, it is a book about branding, where different areas are covered in varying degrees of depth.

The areas of greatest benefit are the sections on managing insights and creativity, analysing the critical issues for branding in Ireland, the assessment of local brands, their potential and the review of opportunities for branding in to the future.

This book by the man who steered McConnells so ably for so long is an excellent read for all marketers, students and businessmen interested in marketing. It gives a context of where we have come from and offers tangible insights to where branding will go next.

Damian Devany is regional marketing manager for Coca-Cola Ireland and chairman of the Marketing Institute of Ireland

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