Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Master Marketers - Interview with Prof. Leslie de Chernatony

Today's interview is with Professor Leslie de Chernatony, whom I first encountered through reading one of his early books on Brand Management when I was studying in the late 90's.

I went on to use his writing in practice, when I became VP Marketing for an International Media Company which owned a worldwide network of luxury goods sites.

Leslie is a global expert on Branding and Strategic Brand management and it is with great pleasure that I publish this interview.

Here is something of his background...

Professor Leslie de Chernatony BSc PhD FCIM FMRS

Leslie is Professor of Brand Marketing at Universita della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland, Honorary Professor of Brand Marketing at Aston Business School, UK and Managing Partner of Brands Box Marketing & Research Consultancy.  Having made a significant contribution to advancing knowledge about brand management, he now bridges the advancement of brand knowledge in his academic role with the application of brand knowledge in his consultancy role.  His cutting edge work on strategically building brands has helped many organisations develop more effective brand strategies.

Leslie’s research on brand marketing is globally disseminated through his books (eg From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation and Creating Powerful Brands), frequent international conference presentations and a significant stream of international journal articles, some of which have won best paper prizes. 

A firm advocate of the need for managers to benefit from his work on brand marketing, he has run many highly acclaimed management development workshops on brand strategy throughout Europe, the USA, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.  His advice  has been sought by numerous organisations throughout the world on developing more effective brand strategies. On several occasions he has acted as an expert witness in court cases over branding issues.

Leslie's work has resulted in TV programmes and radio broadcasts. He is a frequent speaker at management conferences.  

Leslie is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors

Question 1: You are perhaps best known for your innovative work on Strategic Brand Management and Planning. What attracted you to this area of marketing?

About 15 years ago I started to feel uneasy at the way services brands were not getting the attention they deserved and that branding was putting a lot of emphasis on external stakeholders and less on the importance of staff.  My subsequent research, consulting and executive development programmes enabled me to develop and refine a more integrated approach to strategic brand management, applicable to both products and services.  My brand planning framework was then published in the first edition of a book, From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation.  This book attracted interest amongst more people and presented opportunities for applying the ideas across more organisations, in more sectors and countries.

Question 2: What is your definition or explanation of the concepts of a Brand and Branding?

There are a lot of views about what a brand is, often taking a tactical perspective.  My firm belief is that a brand is a cluster of functional and emotional values that enables an organisation to make a promise about a unique and welcomed stakeholder experience.  Ultimately brand management is promise management.  While there may be stunning communication that raises expectation, enacting this through poorly trained staff can kill the fiscal value of a brand. Likewise it is important to involve suppliers and distributors in brand programmes to ensure that there is the correct mix of aligned resources to engender stakeholder satisfaction.  Growing brand equity is becoming one of the key criteria for good brand management.

Question 3: What challenges do organisations face in systematically measuring their ‘Brand Value’? And how can they do this better?

Let’s start by recognising that brand management is about successful husbandry of corporate resources to grow brand equity which in turn then results in the financial brand value.  So firms need to adopt a multi method approach to assessing brand performance, rather than just looking at a few metrics, such as market share or share of voice.  The problem is that some organisations are too short term oriented and see the development of brand equity monitors as costs which they cut.  Also there needs to be an understanding inside firms about the way that movements in some of the dimensions of brand equity (for example reputation or satisfaction) can have different impacts on brand value. So it is not just collecting data about the dimensions of brand equity, it is about understanding how these variables interact to enhance or dilute brand value.

Question 4: In the overwhelming world of Digital Media, how can businesses ‘cut-through the noise’ to get their brand messages across?

Recall that in a digital environment, less can be more.  In other words it’s not the quantity of information that leads to brand success, rather it’s the quality of information.  Consumers are no longer passive recipients of brand information, rather they are active co-producers of brand value.  There is a need to empower consumers through brand websites which enable consumers to tailor facets of the brand to better meet their needs.  Consumers are looking to their peer groups on the internet to help give endorsement or signals about rejection for brands.  They are aware about what brands stand for and even given tools to co-create “their” brand, provided there has been a lot of attention to developing brand values, consumers are unlikely to excessively “stretch” brands into 

unacceptable territory.

Question 5: We see some companies (e.g. Virgin or Tesco) dramatically ‘stretching’ their brands into many diverse areas. What does it take to do this successfully and avoid costly mistakes?

Brand stretch is the dream of many Finance Directors and CEOs who look at their brands as assets that can be inexpensively grown into related sectors to capitalise on the new opportunities.  Alas the driver for interest in brand stretch is often the cost implications.  What is needed is a thorough understanding of the values of the parent brand, what it has stood for in the past and the extent to which the parent’s values can be stretched to meet the aspirations of the new segment and to also consider whether the parent brand positioning is appropriate for the new opportunity.  I smile at those though who think it’s just a one way process.  At the end of the day, the new brand, given correct management, will grow but this may take it into even further sectors which might dilute the value of the parent brand.  So there needs to be some consideration of the longer term impact of the child brand on the parent brand. 

Further Resources:

More details about the work Leslie undertakes can be found at www.Lesliedechernatony.com  

His recent books recent books are, From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation, hhttp://amzn.to/lY45DZ , backed by on-line streamed video http://bit.ly/brndvideo2  and Creating Powerful Brands, http://amzn.to/jYWCWr , which is also backed by on-line streamed video http://bit.ly/brndvideo

Thank you Professor de Chernatony!

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