Magazine article Management Today

MT Business Lifeforms: The Queen of Branding

Magazine article Management Today

MT Business Lifeforms: The Queen of Branding

Article excerpt

Can Deborah Hoar, chair of Brand Job, meet the biggest challenge of her career?

It's Tuesday morning and the good folk of Brand Job are sitting around the round glass table in their glass eyrie atop the firm's Clerkenwell warehouse for an 'ideation' meeting. The room (the younger staffers call it the mental wank tank) has been the scene of more rebrandings than the OK Corral. Presiding is founder Deborah Hoar, resplendent in designer hippie kit that dates her formative years to the late '70s as surely as a taste for Sting.

First up for discussion is a chocolate bar that was a bestseller in the '80s. Rising star Miles tells the group how he is struggling with the bar's 'point of view' and mumbles about boomers and nostalgia. Hoar listens indulgently, then tells them they are not letting the bar speak, tell its story... She is, of course, right. And woe betide anyone who says - even thinks - that a chocolate bar with a voice and a meaningful narrative is utterly ridiculous.

From candy bars to cars, from the food on your plate to the nation state... there is little that Hoar hasn't sprinkled her marketing pixie dust on.

Like many iconic creative careers, hers consisted of a lucky break followed by years of hard work. While at St Martin's in London, she did a summer placement in an ad agency and wound up designing a small campaign on her own. They offered her a job on the spot. She dropped out of art school and was soon winning awards for her precocious, eye-catching poster and magazine work. Product branding was just emerging as a lucrative discipline, but the agency didn't believe in it. So Hoar left, taking eight staffers with her and setting up Hoar & Company. Since then there have been the endless splits and spats that characterise the creative world, and her business has changed its name, location and identity half a dozen times.

People have been saying she's gone stale for years, that she's a relic of an earlier period, that she got lucky. But if she hits the odd bum note, now in her mid-forties, she is still capable of astonishing surprises.

Witness her audacious rebranding of the Forno chain of restaurants, dubbed Fornography by the tabloid press (to the agency's delight). …

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