Computing brand strategy
When managing a complex, global brand, asset management can be as complex as supercomputing. Hassan Butt investigates the strategies behind brand asset management
In early 1996, multinational technology company, IBM, had finalised the development of its most intelligent chess-playing supercomputer to date, a monolith-like structure better known as Deep Blue. A few months later, crowds gathered at New York’s Equitable Centre to witness the machine face grandmaster and then-world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. After a six-game match, lasting several days, Kasparov came out on top, defeating the machine four games to two.
Yet the next year, after a series of recalculations, Deep Blue vs. Kasparov took place once again. Kasparov eventually lost game six, making Deep Blue the first ever computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a regular timed chess match, surprising millions and allowing a mainstream audience to better understand supercomputing. For IBM, however, the result was undoubtedly expected. Deep Blue was the result of years of research, constructed with the ability to explore up to 200m possible chess positions per second, amplified further by over 700,000 grandmaster games precomputed. Deep Blue vs. Kasparov spurred a global belief in supercomputer technology. Today’s multinational companies, like IBM with Deep Blue, continue to leverage complex assets to improve understanding about their brands.
Consolidating the inner qualities of a brand are essential in retaining its uniqueness. Facilitating widespread product campaigns and contributing to the synchronicity of a brand’s internal and external footprint, brand asset management (BAM) is widely used as a key method in managing such uniqueness. However, its varied uses contribute to the complexities of the tool’s position within the modern professional landscape, and as its technological capacity continues to blossom, gauging just how effective BAM can be is a question modern organisations must continue to ask.
Successful BAM can result in several developments for a brand, from synchronised internal communications to a succinct and cost effective consumer outreach. Likewise, understanding the nature of BAM software is critical in the modern marketplace, as sectors change and the tools for understanding a brand continue to transform, brands face the challenge of maintaining an asset base that can change at a rate faster than ever before. Driving collaboration through end-to-end digital asset management solutions remain one of the most effective ways of broadening the concept of a brand.
In much the same way, telling a brand’s story goes far beyond the frontline of innovation. Balancing the cipher of the more widely understood digital asset management with the existing nature of a brand’s internal identity demands a thoroughfare that, above all else, takes into consideration the multifaceted function of most modern brands. With that in mind, BAM has taken shape as a key strategy in unifying a brand’s voice with the marketing collateral needed for it to compete and adjust to not only the needs of the consumer, but the changing nature of its own internal teams.
“I would argue that internal marketing and brand alignment are more important for the marketing department to spend time on than external marketing,” Jens Lundgaard, CEO of brand management software company, Brandworkz, says. “That’s because, to a large degree, a lot of company’s marketing material is not created by themselves anymore, it’s user-generated content,” he says.
For Brandworkz, a recent study conducted alongside the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) sought to challenge the traditional notions of internal brand strategy from a marketing perspective, particularly through the consideration of BAM and brand management platforms. Through a survey of 2,200 marketing leaders, 43% of employees understood the strategic vision and direction of their company or brand.
Brandworkz research pointed to the ampli ed responsibility of CMOs within modern organisations in educating the internal audience of the company on how the brand message can reach the consumer. Yet the use of BAM in internal communications forms part of a wider discussion on the true impact of the platform. Its ability to transport the brand to new plateaus while carrying a uni ed, orchestrated and condensed catalogue of assets has transformed the inner network of brand management.
As the possibilities of BAM go beyond the strongholds of brand equity, Unilever’s launch of the Unilever Foundry global platform in 2014 integrated its established DAM systems into a venture capital agenda. With investment as a key driver, Unilever’s intelligent digital marketing strategy gives start-ups the chance to consolidate their ideas within Unilever’s systems, essentially allowing them to build a platform so that Unilever could manage, through its longstanding BAM strategy, other organisation’s assets.
Babs Rangaiah, vice president of global media innovation and ventures at Unilever, said in a release, “Technology companies continue to lead and shape the future of marketing and Unilever has been a pioneer in establishing global partnerships with the largest digital players. However, as the speed of innovation increases and distributions seemingly occur overnight, we understand the importance of recognizing these trends and connecting with the start-up ecosystem as well.”
One of the biggest challenges that brands face is making BAM platforms themselves remotely accessible to complement the increasingly immediate nature of live projects
But, the majority of brands are still learning about BAM.
As consumer trends are remoulded with each passing quarter, organisations must build BAM platforms that can handle the provisional landscape of modern digital assets. Furthermore, with the advent of cloud technology, one of the biggest challenges that brands face is making BAM platforms themselves remotely accessible to complement the increasingly immediate nature of live projects and on-the-spot implementations.
For international digital agency, Freestyle Interactive, building multichannel platforms and taking full control of digital data remains closely tied to both measurement and reporting, an aspect of BAM that can work to improving the influence of a brand. Freestyle binds both internal and external communications, allowing its interface to improve brand functionality and solve some of the discontinuities of brand reach. Its work with global automotive company, Volvo, sought to do just that, allowing Volvo’s wealth of digital assets, such as product billboards and internal presentations, to be consolidated through Freestyle Interactive’s systems.
For Alan Cooper, owner and director of Freestyle Interactive, the changing and varied landscape of how digital assets are used continues to challenge BAM systems in different ways. In catering to clients’ needs, Cooper says, “The challenge we had was that we were very used to working in an environment as an agency with clients who have deadlines and specific demands. But at the same time, we’re trying to develop a software that has a life of its own. Our software needs to have a roadmap and product development route, and selling software is very different from selling services. But the world has moved on and I think people are more receptive to a broader offering from technology driven companies.”
However, as the same challenge proliferates through the entire breadth of the branding arena, creative solutions continue to resonate as a key driver of successful brand consistency. PepsiCo’s recent deal with Chinese e-commerce company, Alibaba, punctuates the new age of leveraging marketing assets. The agreement allows PepsiCo to alter its product marketing to cater to the Chinese market, and although focused on e-commerce and omnichannel activity, the agreement affirms the precedence of digital asset strategy as central to large scale brand development.
With the current rate of rapid consumer growth and a gig economy piling pressure on brand promises, multinationals are often faced with the hard task of supercharging innovation. Yet the risks of missing target audiences all too common, brand asset strategy can sometimes overwhelm an organisation. Industries such as aviation and the highly competitive automotive sector have experienced setbacks in translating their brand stories internationally. Yet whether it is through commercial advertising or internal communications strategy, BAM offers a brand durability because of its marketing reach.
In 2014, British multinational alcoholic beverage company, Diageo, took its most in-depth approach towards BAM to date, establishing its own custom platform called SmartBrand. The platform, developed by DAM specialists, North Plains Systems, sought to streamline asset usage, trace its entire lifecycle and, ultimately, allow fast and easy access to Diageo’s growing network of brand assets. Responsible for over 370 brands, Diageo’s SmartBrand features an array of both internal and external asset tools, as well as a unique approval process called SmartApprove that allows agencies and distributors to sign commercial usage agreements within the system.
Beyond this, SmartBrand has over 5,000 Diageo users and over 8,000 external users, with a growth timeline that has seen the platform develop from a small asset library to a largescale business tool. Stephen McKillop, marketing production manager at Diageo, said in a statement, “SmartBrand helps us be compliant, which is massive in our business. It’s secure and it protects our assets. It’s a completely global solution and the success of it is that it’s largely embedded in our business. We have 100% of Diageo using this living tool, which changes and improves every day, and where it goes next is very much dictated by the demands of our business.”
As assets develop and platforms are created with greater intelligence, the need for departments to fall in line with BAM interfaces can outweigh their initial purpose of creating an easy, accessible and effortless nexus of brand assets. That said, the breadth of BAM systems continues to expand, with the examples of both Unilever and Diageo implementing company-wide systems to bolster brand reach. As BAM systems continue to advance, the potential for spillovers into other internal areas is perhaps a consequence of the tool’s success. Yet concise and well-executed brand asset management is certainly a proven tactic in yielding positive returns for a brand.