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Momentum for stalled, stuck, and stale industries.

By Steve McKee

Of all the assets a company owns, it’s brand is the single most valuable. The reason is simple; a brand is the only corporate asset that need never depreciate. Patents expire, software ages, buildings crumble, roofs leak, machines wear out, and employees leave. But a brand, well managed, can increase in value year after year.

VMVMSeldom does this happen. To be sure, some unfortunate companies (BP, Toyota, Citi) suffer from scandal or controversy, but most brands have a good run for a few years based on an innovative new product or creative ad campaign, only to suffer a setback due to a change in management, a bold competitive move, or changing marketplace dynamics.

We’ve recently been working with a national retail chain on a brand renewal project. Where to begin? As marketers, it is our instinct to start with the marketplace need and identify the most relevant and meaningful mental space the brand can occupy. Equally critical, however, is the company’s ability to execute on its positioning, not only in word but in truth.

This is especially crucial for stalled, stuck and stale brands in need of true revitalization. When we discover a marketplace need and brand value proposition that can be aligned all the way up to the corporate vision and mission, we know we’re on to something that can drive brand value for years to come. Short of that, results are likely to be short-lived.

In an analysis of the incredible seven-year run up in IBM’s brand value, WARC’s Geoffrey Precourt documented how IBM far exceeded the value enhancement of its megabrand peers by first asking the question on the company-wide intranet, “If IBM were to disappear tonight, would the world be any different tomorrow?”

WARC-brandvalueThat question led to a true understanding of IBM’s corporate character and a new mission statement. Jon Iwata, IBM SVP of Marketing and Communications, said that the corporate values crystallized through that process “shape everything we do and every choice we make on behalf of the company,” including the resulting “Smarter Planet” positioning that drove much of the growth in brand value.

There was much more to IBM’s success, of course, as there is with the integrated program in development for our retail client. A great deal of research, creativity and just plain hard work must go into filling the gap between C-level vision and street level value proposition. But we’ve learned that if top-to-bottom alignment can be achieved, the makings of long-term success are in place. Short of that, you may be able to give your stalled brand a jump start, but it will soon run out of gas.


Steve McKee

Our firm’s co-founder isn’t just sitting in his not-so-oval office looking official, he’s busy writing books and winning awards for them.

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