A brand cant be contolled

“A brand used to be just a seal, but today a brand is everything we think and feel; it’s something we often can’t even describe. A brand is a country, a political party, a religion”

What do Nike, Disney, Mini Cooper, Virgin, Apple, Starbucks, George Bush, Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden and your mother have in common? This is the exact question that Scott Bedbury, one of the world’s most famous brand experts, posed at a forum in Belgrade’s Sava Centre, which was held as part of the fifth annual Brand Fair.
This was Bedbury’s first visit to Belgrade, and Brand Fair’s organisers admit that they finally managed to secure Bedbury’s participation after two years of trying.

Scott Bedbury, who entered the annals of branding history with his legendary campaigns for Starbucks and Nike, is one of the worlds most sought after speakers when it comes to the subject of marketing and brand development. Indeed, his famous “Just do it” concept saw him enter the Hall of Fame of the American Advertising Federation.

When Bedbury first took up the post of Nike’s global advertising director, the company was placed a distant third behind Reebok and Adidas. Bedbury managed to reposition the Nike brand by launching the “Just do it” campaign, which led to the expansion of the brand range, the conquering of new markets and an increasing number of consumers. During a three-year period Nike repositioned itself as the world’s number one brand, becoming one of the world brand icons with annual revenue of $15 billion.

After leaving Nike, Bedbury once again accepted a new challenge – this time at the small but ambitious Starbucks Coffee company. His Starbucks brand repositioning strategy led to major growth and expansion, with Starbucks growing from a few hundred outlets to several thousand cafes in a period of just three years. By reinventing the coffee category, introducing new hit products and redesigning the stores, Bedbury managed to make Starbucks an indispensable daily port of call between home and work for millions of people. After working successfully for two big companies, Bedbury went on to establish Brandstream Inc., an independent consulting agency specialised in brand development strategy. Brandstream Inc.’s clients include the likes of Coca-cola, Procter & Gamble, Google, NASA, Microsoft, Visa, Starwood Hotels, AS Watson, Nokia, Volkswagen AG, Mars and many more.

Bedbury has proved that his methods help companies achieve long-term success. He is the author of the book “A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century”.

Marketing experts from Serbia were present at the forum in Belgrade to hear the tale of how Bedbury managed to turn Nike and Starbucks into instantly recognisable brands and success stories in the world of marketing.

“They all have a value system and a promise” is the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this text. “Those are the marks of a brand,” says Bedbury. “Just do it” is the campaign that made Nike famous, but it also brought fame to this American marketing expert who always starts by forbidding his clients from saying the ever-so-clichéd word “quality”.

“I am currently working on the rebranding of America, which at present has a bad image in the world, as well as a huge foreign debt, and Americans are also major polluters. All of us who live in the U.S. have contributed to the bad American brand, because the American brand represents all of us who live there. The brand of a nation is something you build, just like a company brand,” explains Bedbury.

According to this marketing legend, it is important to link two to three values with each brand, but certainly not seven or eight because, he insists, “less can be more”.

“A brand used to be just a seal, but today a brand is everything we think and feel; it’s something we often can’t even describe. A brand is a country, a political party, a religion: like Christianity and Catholicism, which is a sub-brand of Christianity. Nobody really owns a brand: it is in the human mind. CEOs are often disappointed when I tell them that they can’t control a brand because it is something that everyone can see on the Internet, on the street, in stores, etc., but certainly everyone wants to have a strong brand.”

Bedbury believes that a good brand has three characteristics: relevance, resonance and trust.

“All brands are relevant. For instance, perhaps I want to pay a lot of money for a car, but maybe I do not want to buy a Ferrari because some other brand is more relevant to me. An example of resonance is the thousands of people who were completely addicted to their morning coffee at Starbucks. When one of the coffee shops was closed people lined up to get their coffee, unable to comprehend how it was possible that the cafe could be closed. In the end there is trust in a certain product. All three elements are required for a brand to be successful,” stresses Bedbury.

According to Bedbury, one needs to know a brand well in order to successfully expand it or make it more desirable or profitable. “How can you raise a child if you do not know the child well?” asks Bedbury.

“You have to get to know the brands in your companies. It is important what consumers think, but it is also important what the company’s employees think. The way the management perceives their brand is often different from the employees’ perception. It is essential that these differing perceptions are known because changing a brand starts from within the company”, says Bedbury. Employees should be asked to first describe the brand in three or four words, not ten, eight or six. “Then you should ask them how they would like the brand to be described in five years, if we all work well. And in the end you should ask them how to close the circle by progressing from what the brand is today to what we want it to be? You need to dig deep to find out how consumers feel about a brand. For example, Nike carried out surveys of teenage consumers by asking them what kind of music they like, how they spend their time in school and outside of school, who they are friends with and so on. I must admit that I have co-operated with 50 to 60 research agencies, but I can count the one’s I trust with the fingers of one hand. In 60 to 70 per cent of cases consumer research is not good. It is often performed hastily and the conclusions are drawn from a very loose information base,” says Bedbury.

According to our interlocutor, psychology is important for researching consumer habits: discovering why people act in a certain way. “It is important to know that people want to be safe and acknowledged; they want to feel welcome, appreciated, a part of something bigger, loved and loving, successful. You should take all of that into account when you brand a product. When you finish the research you need to be able to describe the brand on one page in 300 words. Then you should shorten it to a single paragraph and then to one sentence. The most successful and efficient people who work in marketing need at least six months to narrow the values of a brand into three words, which is how many words you need to describe a brand.”

This marketing guru adds that a brand also needs a mantra consisting of three to four words that can easily be remembered and repeated. “In the end it doesn’t matter what you do, but rather why you do it. Many people would work at Nike for a third of the salary they’d receive in some other sports equipment companies simply because they feel that it also matters where they work,” concludes Bedbury.