Putting brand at the core

The role of marketing is often misunderstood and undervalued, yet
its remit is now expansive. Marketers must elevate their role to
unlock the real value of brand, and data is the key.

Many organizations think they have a clear view of their brand, but few truly embed its purpose and values in everything they do, understanding what it really stands for to the business more broadly. Every single interaction – website, email, video, phone call, in-store, product experience or word-of-mouth conversations between consumers – has an influence on brand perception. Yet marketers struggle to persuade other business functions that brand is more than just the logo, the identity and the ad campaigns.

By viewing brand only as a function of marketing, companies are limiting its value. Equally, by operating in their own silo, marketers are undervaluing the scope of their remit, leaving other departments to take actions that can damage the long-term growth and profitability of a brand. Clearly, this makes it more likely that marketing is undervalued by other decision-makers in an organization. The reality is brand and business strategy are intrinsically linked, and that means marketing’s remit should be wider than ever.

To liberate the power of a brand and place it at the business core, marketers need to champion it beyond marketing, elevating their role above its traditional function. Rather than defending their own space, they must partner with other parts of the business, leading a brand ecosystem sponsored from the top and cutting across the organization. Marketing should be the connecting tissue that sustains brand value.

To persuade executive peers and convince chief executives and chief financial officers of the connective, amplifying potential of brand, it needs to be powered by data, hard numbers that genuinely substantiate the strength and perception of the brand. A company that can’t quantify its brand value will never be able to measure its impact. Only with data can a business understand how its brand is performing for or against it.

As a multi-brand fast-moving consumer goods, or FMCG, business, Winterbotham Darby seeks to distinguish itself from other food manufacturers through innovation, and its brands are integral to ensuring new concepts are understood and well received by shoppers. To monitor this effectively, guide decision-making and ensure brand messages are balanced with the overall purpose of the business, the company relies on accurate and timely data.


“There is a lot more data available to marketers now, much of which is instantly available. The skill is knowing what to act on and what to ignore,” says Simon Day, head of marketing at Winterbotham Darby, which manufactures chilled olives, antipasti, Continental meats and plant-based foods. “On top of that, we must be totally connected to all functions because the stories we tell can originate from anywhere in the business.”

Brand measurement tools and data are crucial in offering chief marketing officers much-needed support when making the business case for investing in brand. For example, with GfK’s brand insights, the company is able to quantify a brand’s contribution to success by outlining comparable sales data from organizations selling the same size and spec of a particular product. Crucially, it can also measure the overall value of a company’s brand.

METRO AG, the global cash-and-carry giant, develops all its brand elements to give a strong and consistent approach across all markets. However, the company realizes that without tracking these elements, it cannot improve. Supported by GfK’s brand intelligence, METRO AG is able to monitor how its METRO and Makro brands resonate with customers, as well as how its brand equity evolves in each local market.

“This allows us to adapt, improve and galvanize growth,” says Alicja Korkosz-Foltyn, head of global branding at METRO AG, which operates around 670 wholesale stores in 24 countries. “We then use these rich local insights to refine our global strategy and amplify it locally, designing products, services and communications that are relevant to our target audience. By doing so, we provide additional value to our customers, independent businesses around the world, while driving our sustainable growth.”

Marketers hold data whose usefulness stretches far beyond the traditional narrow conception of the marketing function, making this role invaluable. While this enables marketers to be a service provider to other functions, it also means they harbor valuable brand insight. A brand at the core of a business has impact internally and externally, from the way companies onboard and interact with customers, to benefits, wellbeing, and even environmental and social impact. Those who understand this, invest in their brand and measure its value will unlock untapped business potential.


Business impact of an integrated brand
Gonzalo Garcia Villanueva, Global Chief Marketing Officer at GfK, explains what happens when organizations really place their brand at the core of their business

If you get two cold calls on one day, one from Nike and one from a brand you don’t have a strong perception of, which company are you most likely to engage with? As a runner, I know I’d feel far more inclined to engage with Nike because of its brand strength and the impression it instinctively makes on me. Brand is an extremely powerful influencer of consumer purchasing, yet many companies don’t understand or quantify its value.

How many people are proud of the brand of their fridge or kitchen appliances? Not many unless, perhaps, it’s Samsung or Smeg. The same is true for laptops. There are great products out there, but it’s only a handful of brands that consumers really show off. It’s no coincidence that these companies invest heavily in brand and how it integrates with product design.

Put simply, brand is the foundation of a successful company because it sets off a chain of events, a virtuous cycle. It articulates the mission and purpose of an organization to the market, defining how it wants to be seen by consumers and the values that guide its decision-making. A strong brand also reduces the cost of acquiring new customers, illustrated in the example of the Nike cold caller able to engage with more people. Then, in the example of Samsung and Smeg, a cherished brand means you can charge more for it.

Once customers are acquired, and willing to pay a premium price, an integrated and consistent brand keeps them loyal. Other things being equal, companies with a strong brand will find their customer retention is much higher.

Having a strong brand also makes it easier to launch new products or existing products in new regions, reducing the investment case for entering new markets. And higher advocacy levels speed up pipelines. For business-to-business companies, speed to market is accelerated because sales teams don’t face the initial barrier of convincing buyers of their expertise and credibility. The brand tells that story for them. In business-to-consumer environments, consumers are already receptive to the strongest brands from the outset, which enhances conversation.

But brand doesn’t just impress on customers; it also attracts better talent. When you have the best people, and the systems and processes that place the brand at the heart of day-to-day decision-making, they’ll continue doing the right things for your customers and brand, which means the cycle of better customer acquisition, retention, advocacy and ease of entering new markets continues. Brand at the core of business, including consumer and market insight, product and service design, go-to-market strategy, operations and customer service, ultimately, helps grow profit and revenue.