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Smart companies will act now to reposition brands & mindsets
Mar '10
In today's world, companies must tend their brands more diligently and painstakingly than ever, according to The Conference Board Council on Corporate Brand Management in a report published.

“When the world emerges from the depths of the worst recession in two generations, it will certainly be a different and more difficult place to effectively manage a corporate brand,” says John Dodds, director, Global Brand and Communications, Air Products, and chair of The Conference Board Council of Corporate Brand Management. “Companies simply won't be able to do things the way they always have. But they can succeed by adapting their brand strategy to reflect what changes the recession has brought to their business and what it might mean for customers. This will poise them for growth when the economy rebounds.”

The global recession coupled with cases of unethical corporate behavior worldwide have eroded trust in business, and consequently, in corporate brands, according to the report, Corporate Brands—Meeting the Challenges of Changing Times, part of the Council Perspectives series. Moving forward, the operating landscape, or “the new normal,” will be characterized by consumers who are much more educated buyers and have much less brand loyalty or trust than they used to.

Technology has also made the world a much “smaller” place and brands need to focus heavily on translating internationally. Everyone seems to have access to a website or social media network where they can write—often critically—about any company, product, or service of their choice, the report states.

In previous downturns, smart companies successfully positioned themselves and their brands to emerge stronger, healthier and more primed for growth than when the economic downturn began, says James Andrews of Boston Consulting, a guest presenter to the Council, citing as an example how, in the wake of World War I, DuPont eventually outpaced competitors by focusing on a few key strong products and investing heavily in R&D. Equally, he added, there are many examples from today and yesterday of companies that were distracted by profit worries or product recalls and lost sight of their brands, suffering dramatically.

Marketers need to monetize the conversation, highlighting to their CEOs the link between the brand and revenue and customer preservation, according to Jeffrey Burchill, CFO of FM Global, who addressed the Council as a guest. Although the C-suite and the board of directors instinctively know there is positive value in corporate name recognition and a strong brand, they are unsure how that relates to the bottom line.

Branding professionals' mindsets need to be about strategy and impact related to revenue and customer retention in the short term and potential growth in the long term. “Talk the language that the C-suite and especially the CFO understands, not the jargon of marketing and brand positioning,” says Burchill.

“Building an internal brand culture is as critical as building a strong, external one,” says Dodds. “The corporate brand is not only used to improve competitive positioning and express company aspirations, it can be a powerful tool to motivate employees, who act as the brand embodiment when dealing with customers.”

The Conference Board Council on Corporate Brand Management, founded in 1999, is a forum for off-the-record discussions focused on key branding issues and state-of-the-art management practices. Through the exchange of ideas and knowledge, the group seeks to enhance the professional development of its members and improve the corporate brand management function. Members also advise The Conference Board on its communications research and meeting program.

The Conference Board

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