• Transform magazine
  • September 26, 2022

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The death of equity: disposable branding

Gregg Headshot Horizontal

Gregg Lipman is the managing partner at New York-based CBX. He discusses here the use of the word ‘equity’ in the branding world and describes how his agency simplifies the concept.

‘Equity’ is a very popular word these days. By definition, “the quality of being fair and impartial,” is at the forefront of many of our social discussions. The other definition of equity is “the value of ownership, the value shares issued by a company” plays out both in business and at home.  

Since we’re in the business of creativity (and the adage ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ applies), marketers have ‘borrowed’ the word equity and enhanced it by putting ‘brand’ in front of it. Brand Equity is the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of the brand assets of a particular product or service, rather than from the product itself. In terms of proactivity, we spend billions of dollars a year in this pursuit of increasing the value of a brand.

Or so we think.

At CBX, we aim to simplify equity by bi-secting marketing communications into two related but distinct disciplines: foundational branding and campaignable branding. Each has value and each is best utilized when complementary. 

Foundational branding assets include the brand name; the identity and system; the package (for CPG); the product design itself; and a retail environment. These are the things that stand the test of time, either because they are integral to the brand and/or they are a logistical nightmare to change.

Campaignable branding assets have a different role. They are used to drive both awareness and sales. These are more transient in nature. There is more elasticity in how they are utilized; they are often less valuable over time.

So here’s a little truth—most foundational branders do not understand campaignable assets. They can provide the assets, but they do not necessarily know how to apply this work to advertising and promotion.

The flipside is also true. Campaignable branding folks often don’t understand the importance of foundational branding. Foundational assets require discipline, in use and application. To become part of the brand’s muscle-memory, these assets must be cared for and nurtured. Their use is purposeful; they become short-hand for the brand. These assets also tend to ignore short-term market-reactions. 

But campaign assets are…sexier. They’re measurable. Their measuring stick is eyeballs reached, or revenue produced, not the qualitative measure of ‘a brand I trust’ or ‘a brand that is for me…’. The visceral impact to the business drives focus and investment to this area.

Which is why today we see so much brand noise out in the marketplace. TikTok and its predecessors are steeped in the commercialism of brands now. The short attention spans we propagate with undisciplined marketing teaches us that ideas and images are fleeting. “New” is ubiquitous.

To counteract this “disposable branding,” we have found that marketers who leverage both foundational assets and campaignable assets in complementary fashion are in the business of building brand equity. They know their assets and what to do with them. They balance long term equity building with short-term market selling.

When you’re looking at those foundational assets, ask yourself:

1) What is recognizable? 2) What is identifiable? 3) What is the relevance?

Here’s to achieving positive equity, no matter the definition.