I read an interesting piece today which wondered if advertising wasn't giving up its role in the branding process. It got to thinking about the branding process and the role different marketing functions play in creating and sustaining a brand. At the end of the day, its not always the product that creates or sustains the brand -- although pop marketing wisdom will tell you differently. I'm reminded of the heinz ketchup case from years ago. Losing significant market share with what they believed was superior product, Heinz marketers were stumped. They final undertook research which demonstrated that consumers thought that the product poured too slowly. Product development said that there would be serious favor and texture trade-offs to acheive a faster pour. What to do? What to do? Give up important product attributes? Let the brand decline and die? No, of course not. We all know what these brillant marketers did...They made slow pouring an attribute. In no time, competitors were trying to get their products to pour slowly. It became a mark of quality!
So what's the point? The popular arguement about branding centers around vehicles. Is it advertising or PR or Direct or Online that will driving branding today. I think the vehicle is too granular and we need to be thinking more about the front-end. Develop a solid a strategy and your brand will flourish. Base your strategy on a specific target audience and create your tactics to reach that audience. All I know is that the two pieces that have to be in the mix are the customer and the product. Create a strong product and identify the right audience and you'll achieve a brand to be proud of.