Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Endorsed Strategy - To Be or Not To Be?

Welcome back! That's to me of course. I'm not entirely convinced that it's possible for someone in the advertising industry to stick to deadlines, except the ABF (Absolute Bloody Final) one. I have now reached what I consider to be my ABF on this blog post – so here it is!

Truth be told, I have been grappling with the written expression of the endorsed strategy because I find it a rather convoluted strategy, in that, there is no really clear strategy around it. Shhh – don't tell the marketing guru's! This is probably why I like this strategy the most. I feel it strikes a great balance between expensive "multi-branded" and limited "monolithic". Now don't get me wrong, there is most definitely a place for both of those and I'd happily work within their constraints, if the product or service fits their mould. In fact, there are times when they are the only structures that will work.

When working within an endorsed strategy, the freedom to do what you please, but still adhere to a framework is where the creative juices really start flowing. It's like being sixteen all over again! You get to express your own individuality (within solid parental type boundaries), you can disown your brothers and sisters if they embarrass you and you have the backing of a big daddy, who has a message that is much bigger than yours – not to mention the financial means to bail you out of trouble! What a wonderful mix in my eyes. It gives products or services two chances to grab their markets attention with their message.

There are several associations that a 'sub brand' (for want of a better name) can have to its endorsed brand:

1. A suffix or prefix like CitiBank/CitiFinancial/SSB Citi or Toyota Yaris/Toyota Camry/Toyota Hilux.

2. Using the same typeface, symbol or logo like Toyota, Sony and many more.

3. Using "A member of...".

These may seem like clear cut boundaries and options, but hopefully you noticed that I used Toyota in point one and two? Many companies will use more than one of these – if not all three. It depends on what the sub brand calls for. The danger here is obvious - brand confusion, clutter and proliferation. You need some good policing forces on the ground (at least one nanny per sub brand) to make sure all the rules are being followed and no-one is behaving too big for their boots!

From the options above it is easy to see how has basically, by default, opted for an endorsed strategy by choosing to include a prefix at the front of our domain name to differentiate our products. But here comes the argument. What makes us different to Virgin who has a monolithic strategy? If you feel the need to object, please sit tight. There are those who will argue that it is an endorsed strategy because of the fact that Virgin looks like it has many sub brands with their own logo's and colours etc but I don't believe that is true. Virgin is the brand – not Active, not Atlantic or anything else – just Virgin. Simply put - when the corporate identity is dominant, you've got a monolithic brand. When the individual product name has the upper hand, you're dealing with endorsed branding. If you're just as confused as when you started – don't worry – you're not the only one. It can be quite hard to distinguish the difference and there is another name for that – brand confusion! This is probably the single biggest danger faced by endorsed strategies – but it need not be of concern if managed correctly – just like any pitfalls of any strategy.

So I'll ask the question again – what makes us different from Virgin and why are we not going with a monolithic approach? Virgin is Virgin Mobile/Virgin Active/ Virgin Atlantic and we are / / Apart from the fact that monolithic approaches can often be the result of corporate egotism, or brought on by the desire to influence stock market investors it can also be an incredibly effective means to extend the reputation of one well known dominant brand into similar or even different markets. For now I feel it is probably a very limited approach for what we are looking for. For now that is...

As our identity and products start to fall in place we may choose to make me eat my words...literally.

Until next week – over and out!


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