[column] Out of love for the brand

All projects that can still be stopped will be stopped. Cash is after all King. This also applies to the clients of the Brand Preference Center (a company owned by Ed Stibbe, ed.). This will take a while was my first reaction, so let me put the time that is now available to write a book about a subject that has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember, growth from the strength of the brand .

From a young age I fascinated the question why people have such strong emotions about brands. You really have to be an expert to taste the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. After studying Business Administration in the field of Consumer Behavior and Advertising in Groningen, I graduated from Unilever, where I learned two lessons.

* The first …: the brand is the most powerful marketing tool on the road to growth.
* The second…: I should not start my career at Unilever but at a leading advertising agency. Because all questions related to the brand were presented to the consiglieres of the advertising agency.

And was I lucky. I was hired at the Ajax of advertising: at FHV BBDO. In retrospect, excellent timing. The nineties and the first 10 years of this century turned out to be the heyday of advertising.

Daaerna, about 10 years ago I started to realize that advertising was still just one engine of growth. At the same time, the importance of the brand increased. I discovered how important this broader role of the brand really is during my search for the new growth engine. My path crossed with it ‘Marketing Accountability Standard Board‘ in the U.S. This club of accountants and scientists appears to have made great strides: in measuring the value of marketing and in particular that of the brand.

With the help of data from major advertisers such as Disney and Pepsi and the analytical capacities of famous universities such as Wharton and Kellogg, they unraveled perhaps the greatest mystery in the marketing profession. Namely: the causal relationship between marketing efforts and business results. This turns out to be a game between brand preference and market share. This conclusion is important for two reasons. It proves that the brand is your most powerful tool on the road to more customers, more loyal customers and more margin. And … if we can find out what the drivers behind brand preference, then we can finally answer the more than 100 year old question from the American entrepreneur John Wannamaker ‘I know that 50% of my marketing budget is wasted, but not which 50%‘. Together with Epiphany RBC, a particularly innovative research agency that works for major brands from all over the world from Amsterdam, we set up the aforementioned Brand Preference Center. To hunt for the drivers of brand preference.

The lockdown gave me the opportunity to write down all the knowledge and experience that we have gained with this in the past period. And to share with new and old generations of marketers and entrepreneurs. Now it is always said that you should only have one goal in writing a book, I failed. Three of them kept buzzing around in my head.
1. How do we make all marketing performance-based (and not just digital marketing)?
2. How do we end the tremendous fragmentation of the marketing discipline? And do we put the customer and growth central again instead of our own silo?
3. And finally: how do I create a new and at the same time simple process to move from all the knowledge and insights we have to better creative ideas? Because those creative ideas (whether it concerns a value proposition, a virtual shopping experience, a visual identity, a sound logo or, for example, a good-old commercial), they must ultimately lead to concrete growth results.

It meant five months of writing… or rather, scrapping. And seclusion. Because writing really is the loneliest profession in the world. It is as if you write a song yourself, work out all the instruments and then play those instruments yourself. Quite a task, especially for someone who is used to performing in a team. That is why I soon decided to gather auxiliary troops around me, in the form of readers. I’m so glad I did. And what a team. A top marketer in the form of Marketeer of the Year Arno de Jong, the great brand strategist Margot Bouwman and advertising giant Simon Neefjes. These three have helped me, all in their own specific field, to achieve the three objectives, completely against all advice.

Unfortunately, the vernissage was digital. I keep saying unfortunately. Because although it all works fine online, I refuse to regard the new normal as normal at all. Despite the fun apps from everyone, you still miss the party feeling of cheap peanuts’ s bad wine and lukewarm beer that seems to belong to a book presentation.

“What have I gained myself?” That is of course a logical question. First of all, the great reviews from both critical colleagues and professional critics on stages such as I would not have dared to hope for that. I’m very happy with it! A lot of new contacts, also with companies from outside the sector.

It is great to see that the conviction of the importance of a powerful brand is also shared far beyond the field. And finally many new plans and initiatives. What’s the best of all? The plan to hold a Masterclass at a major marketing conference with the Netherlands’ largest keynote Emperor René Boender next year. We already have the title: Winners give it all! Gen Z wants it all ….

Ed Stibbe
brand strategist agency ES + C and Brand Preference Center
author Why Winners Take it All


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