“Marketing has not changed,” said David Wheldon, Head - Brand, Reputation and Citizenship, Barclays but he was quick to add that much has changed in aspects such as the channel, the feedback loop and the boundary for ideas.
Setting the context for the conversation, while speaking at the Festival of Media Global 2012, Wheldon pointed out that the ‘yes, we can’ syndrome was plaguing the agency world. For agencies, that agreed to help brands on tasks the agencies did not master, meant paying people for learning on the job. The better approach, he suggested was, ‘no we cannot, but we know someone who can’ – the core element there being collaboration.
Advertisers today have data on one hand and stories on the other but imagination and data don’t overlap. “There is merit in being comfortable with ambiguity,” observed Wheldon.
Stating that the basic questions of marketing were still the same, Wheldon defined a brand in three ways. Quoting Amazon Chief Executive Jeffrey Bezos for the first definition, he said “a brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. There are dotted lines around a brand and it is imperative to listen to what consumers are saying and respond to it in a simple, straightforward manner.
The second definition was ‘a brand is what a brand does’, stating that data is not just data but an inspiration of ideas. And the third definition was that a brand had to be seen as a character in a constantly evolving narrative.
CEO’s role as brand builder
Wheldon said that one common factor in some of the best brands such as Starbucks was the role that the CEOs played in articulating and building the brand. If a CEO was not living and delivering the brand, then you were looking at a brand that would fail.
Wheldon also challenged a lead agency concept, saying that no agency could have all the necessary abilities or could hire all the required talent. The industry needed T-shaped people, who were deep in their core expertise and had many characteristics including being ego-free and collaborative.
The conductor of the orchestra is the advertiser and freedom within defined framework of working was needed. Agencies should hire and inspire curious individuals, who had confidence in their own abilities and who were also keen to learn.
He finally said, there are two types of people and it is not necessary either one of them is right or wrong.
With this Wheldon summed up his advice for brand builders.