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+++ S P E C I A L R E P O R T +++
"Marketing vs Branding --
Why These Two Business Tools Should Be Kept Separate"

© 1999 By Jacques Chevron , Partner
July 16, 1999
Moderator's Comments

Hi All:

I want to thank Jacques Chevron, Partner at JRC&A - Strategic Branding Practice for writing this report. Jacques is a world-renowned branding expert, and, in my opinion, one of the best. We are honored to have such talent available on E-Tailer's Digest. And, so we all know him, I did an interview with Jacques. I am sure you will gain something from this report.

George Matyjewicz, C.M.O.
Moderator, E-Tailer's Digest


 Not very long ago I was contacted by a company in the computer accessories business that wanted help with its branding strategy. The company, let's call it Company "A," is still closely managed by its two founders. It has developed a reputation for high quality and reliable premium-priced products and is the leader in its field. The need for a branding strategy arose when Company A bought one of its smaller competitors, Company "B," known for its line of value-oriented products, for its creativity and new product development ability. Company A made the decision to keep both brands A and B, and was faced with the task of developing a marketing strategy that would allow the two brands to coexist and flourish. Marketing management wanted to find a way to differentiate the brands in their distributors' and customers' minds. They thought a branding strategy would do the trick.

It will not!

Company A's management confuses branding with marketing and wants to use a "branding strategy" where a product line "repositioning" is called for. What it needs in the short term is to position each company relative to the market and its powerful distributors. This calls for a traditional positioning-concept development exercise based on identifying a market's needs and aspirations, company strengths and weaknesses, and competitive offerings, so as to find a different position for each of the two companies to occupy. In a second step, Company A needs to develop a strategy to rationalize the two lines so that each product in each line has as clear and unique a reason for being as possible.

"And Branding?" you may ask. "Aren't you going to also develop a branding strategy?"

Branding is important, too. But when two companies with different corporate cultures merge into one, there is upheaval and uncertainty which is detrimental to brand communication. I should add that, in this particular case, Company A didn't buy Company B for its brand but for its production know-how, distribution, research facilities, etc. As far as we know, Company B didn't even have a formalized branding strategy, relying, as is often the case, on the instincts and persona of its founder for branding direction. Because the "B" brand wasn't a specific consideration in the purchase, Company B's brand assets and values were not identified before the merger. In the absence of an identified brand profile, brand B will change as a result of its new long-term management idiosyncrasies. For that reason, we felt it better to wait until the long-term management would be identified and in place.

In confusing "Positioning," one of the fundamental tools of marketing, with "Branding," Company A is hardly alone. Many branding experts, be they from the academic or from the business world, routinely advocate using the tools of marketing to assist them with branding strategy. They'll research their customers' perceptions of the brand or investigate their needs and wants. In short, they'll do "customer research." Ask why one should research the customer instead of using a more introspective method to identify brand values, and you'll get responses ranging from the robotic "because all marketing knowledge has its source in the customer" to the almost poetic "because our customer owns the brand." It is no wonder that, as a result of all this confusion, one hears Product Managers (who are themselves often mislabeled as Brand Managers) speak of "brand repositioning" when they mean "product repositioning" as if the terms "brand" and "product" were interchangeable.

But the business strategist would be well advised to keep the two concepts well separated.

In the world of a branding strategist, a brand is what results from marketing consistency: the customer comes to expect that the brand will continue to display the same characteristics, and this expectation creates a covenant between the brand and the customer. The source of that consistency is often referred to loosely as the brand's values, because it is presumed that, as is the case with a person, the only way a brand can be truly consistent is by being true to itself, its beliefs and creeds, at all times.

The process by which a brand identifies its set of values is, therefore, an introspective process. The brand will reflect the beliefs of its management, the idiosyncrasies of the company that markets it. When those beliefs and idiosyncrasies are expressed consistently, branding, that is the communication of the covenant to the customer, will occur progressively, over time. Since the entire process relies on consistency, the role of the all too fickle customer must be limited. Some marketers will object on the principle that the customer doesn't get a voice in the branding process I have just described. Not so! As one of our clients observed, the customer is present in the branding process because the customer is present in the mind of company management so that management's vision of the brand's values should incorporate all they know and feel about their customer.

If the fact that marketing is extraverted while branding is introverted is not sufficient to convince you to look at the two as separate disciplines, please consider these other differences:

Marketing communicates quickly and single-mindedly while Branding is slow and multi-faceted. In fact, quick communication is an essential aspect of marketing: because communication is expensive, the skilled marketer will seek to convey a message that has the ability to trigger a quick response. Concept testing is thus designed to identify the one most compelling selling proposition, and copy testing then ensures that the proposition is conveyed clearly and quickly. Those tests are usually based on recall or impact measures achieved after one or two exposures, no more. Then the artful media planner will "optimize" the communication plan so that the target audience sees the message between 3 and 6 times, not more, over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. ...All of which supports the idea that marketing is supposed to work fast.

Branding, on the contrary, is a slow process. That's because communicating what a brand is about is akin to communicating a person's character: it cannot be done proactively. You do not become convinced that someone is "trustworthy" because they say "Trust me!" The only way others can truly convince you of their trustworthiness is by displaying trustworthiness in situations you witness. This takes time. Communicating the character of a brand takes time for the same reason.

And, contrary to the focused marketing message with its USP (Unique Selling Proposition) mantra, branding is complex by design: a rich brand is a gestalt made of multiple messages, associations and character traits. After all, a person with a single character trait could hardly be described as "having character." Likewise, the values and associations that form the character of a strong brand are never one-dimensional. The plurality of messages, which is a liability to the marketer, is an asset to the brand.

Branding and marketing are closely related business tools, so closely related that they are too often intermingled. I hope that these few lines help. For, to paraphrase the poet, "If you can keep your head in the midst of all this confusion, you'll get a brand, my son."

By Jacques Chevron

2016 West 55th Place
La Grange, IL 60525
Ph.: (708) 784-0730
Fax: (708) 784-0559
E-mail: Jacques(at)JRCandA.com
© 1999 Jacques Chevron

An Interview With  Jacques Chevron

Today we have an interview with Jacques Chevron, Partner at JRC&A and author of today's special report. I have known Jacques for four years, and can attest to his ability and will say he is worthy of the title I bestowed on him -- "world-renowned branding expert."

1. What is your organizations name?

JRC&A, which stands for Jacques R. Chevron and Associates. I started the business in 1985 and I was the only associate. I now have about a dozen associates, some of whom I have worked with from the very beginning. Incidentally, we have also had some clients that have been with us from the very beginning.

2. What services do you provide?

We focus our activities on the creation of new products or services that consumers want to buy and on developing the branding strategies that maximize their market value. We summarize that as "New Product Development and Strategic Branding."

3. Is there one of those two activities that predominates the other?

Not really. The activities are distinct and yet closely tied to each other.

New Product Development, as we approach it, is based on a thorough analysis of the consumer, his or her needs, problems and aspirations. If you understand your consumer better than your competitors do you'll be able to offer them solutions that will appeal to them more that those of your competitors. That superior understanding of the consumer is the basis for any sustained competitive advantage. It dictates what new product formulation you may chose, what package you may opt for, or how you present the product to its target audience. In fact, before we tackle the development of a new product per se, we determine what market positioning it should have to appeal to its user target. Once we know that the rest usually follows.

Branding deals with the covenant that the consumer feels exists between the brand and him or her. If the consumer comes to expect certain actions or reactions from the brand because of how the brand has acted in the past, the brand acquires a certain predictability. We call that brand character. Some brands have acquired that character by accident, most often because a strong management forced them to consistently reflect the same values. What we do is to make the process more systematic and not too dependent on a business dictator...

4. You have explained why the two activities are distinct. How tied are they to each other?

They are tied because they are two business tools. They are also tied because people often confuse issues of "branding" with those of "positioning." See the article "Marketing v. Branding" for more explanations. Lastly, they are tied because our clients tie them together. One of our first assignments in 1985 was the development of new products for a subsidiary of DIAGEO Ltd., The Heublein Company. We have since developed worldwide branding strategies for other subsidiaries of DIAGEO, and even have a current assignment for one of its most visible brands.

5. Can you say...


6. Why are you better than the competition?

We have many competitors in the new product arena. Most of us use the same techniques based on QFD principles (Quality Function Deployment), though those techniques often go by different names. I do believe that we are more experienced than most: I worked on my first new product introduction in 1973, in France (Gamma Tous Tissus, a Colgate Laundry Detergent, still going strong today) and have worked on many new products from Kellogg's Cracklin' Bran in the US to the introduction of Diet Pepsi in Singapore. Every single JRC&A associate has in excess of 20 years of marketing experience. Does this make us better? I don't know. But we are darn good and very efficient.

In the branding strategy area, we do not have many competitors. Most of them are design companies that sell the logos they create or the names they invent. We do very little of that. We write strategies, guidelines for organizations to follow to ensure to improve their odds of creating a strong brand. I think that we are better because the world's largest marketer of branded products, DIAGEO, uses our services. It means a lot to us. I hope it means something to you.

Note: DIAGEO is a U.K. based company that owns Burger King, Pillsbury and its dough boy, Green Giant, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Old El Paso Mexican food, Smirnoff vodka, Guiness beers, and many many other well known brands.

8. How do you market the service? Word of mouth? Newsletter (subscribers)? Affiliates? Ads?

Word of mouth is very essential, but we do not count on it.

We have an infrequent newsletter (2 to 5 issues each year) which is sent either via snail mail or electronically. Subscribe from the JRC&A web page at http://JRCandA.com The newsletter will not cost you any money, but is not free either: We expect occasional feedback, if only to let us know that you are interested in receiving our material. We delist those people whom we cannot obtain that confirmation from. In exchange, we commit to sending our mail only if we have something to say which is worth your while.

We do not run ads. Our articles have been published in the business press and in academic journals. In fact every single one of our news letters over the last three years was published in the press.

We also run "BrandL" a list dedicated to the discussion of branded marketing. Subscribe from our web page or by clicking here: mailto:BrandL-subscribe(at)listbot.com

Jacques Chevron


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