What ever happened to brand stewardship?

One of the primary jobs of a marketing team should be to govern the brand; to take care of it, make it thrive and stop it from getting ripped to shreds in the media.

Youtube Video

Youtube Video

Front of mind is ASB bank’s ‘Creating Futures’ campaign. From the very unscientifically supported feedback I’ve heard, the public (especially women) don’t particularly like the IVF ‘Chance’ ads. The debate even sparked an opinion piece in the NZ Herald from three Otago University academics writing about medical ethics and money issues around conception. As a result, ASB was accused of bad taste for preying on the emotions of those trying to conceive.

The following week, ASB ran another flight of IVF print ads in the weekend papers, which ran alongside a terribly sad story of a P-addicted pregnant woman living in squalor and the efforts of the social agencies to protect the life of her unborn child.

Horrific stories of child abuse have dominated traditional print media over the last few months and marketers should have more sense and simply run other change outs of the ad. There’s just no need to go there. Why do you think politicians spend so much energy on polling, media tracking and sentiment analysis?

What the hell is ASB doing letting itself get into these sorts of debates? All this talk of social media conversation and consumer-owned brands and yet media plans continue to be mapped out and locked in on brightly coloured spreadsheets in read-only format.

That’s fine on the agency side (and I do wonder how much of this is being driven by the trans-Tasmanification of New Zealand marketing), but the in-house teams should be setting boundaries and shepherding the brands away from danger. Brand managers need to develop better instincts and start saying ‘no’.

We seem to have become very focused on creating brands but not so good at managing them. Digital makes this worse as brand architecture goes out the window and is replaced by sprawling wastelands of microsites and unmanaged Twitter and Facebook accounts. Many of the tactics touted as ‘engagement’ are actually just clutter and simply create more risk for your brands.

Client-side marketing needs a shot in the arm from the media management playbook to keep brands saying what they’re meant to say and steer them away from wolves and dead-end conversations. It’s called brand stewardship and it needs to be put back on the agenda.

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