Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Aviva Is Right to Embrace the Single Life

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Aviva Is Right to Embrace the Single Life

Article excerpt

Farewell Norwich Union. After more than 200 years, it is about to be buried in the big brand graveyard. As we speak, a plot is being dug, right next to Midland Bank and opposite British Rail.

Whenever a company buries an asset that has been two centuries in the making, questions will be asked. However, what seems like a radical move actually makes perfect marketing sense for parent company Aviva.

For starters, Norwich Union, like most financial-services brands, is no longer an organically built, single-branded house. Recent consolidation in the sector has seen Norwich Union merge with CGU, which was created by an earlier merger between Commercial Union and General Accident.

Consolidation makes sound strategic and financial sense, but often leaves a mess when it comes to brand architecture. The residue of remaining brands, combined with the continued acquisition of other international brands, can make coherent brand strategy virtually impossible as the company suffocates under the weight of so many different, yet allied, brand equities.

Aviva's major competitors have streamlined their brands into single global operations. To build awareness and distinct associations against these big global players, it has recognised the need to create a single global brand and pump its resources into it.

The strategic advantage of uniting an organisation around one brand is huge. Most big companies struggle to manage one brand well, and as you add more to the portfolio, the chances of market leadership and differentiation fall. As Aviva chief executive Andrew Moss put it, 'one Aviva, twice the value'.

It is no coincidence that the key leaders and growers - Vodafone, Tesco, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, McDonald's, Toyota, McKinsey - all operate a virtual single global brand operation. One positioning. One employer brand. One global marketing strategy. One brand tracking system. One culture.

Aviva's textbook approach is one that others would do well to study.

First, the chief executive is leading the charge, saying some very smart things, and taking his time. Rather than thrusting Aviva onto consumers out of nowhere, a la Consignia, the brand was introduced six years ago and has gradually built familiarity. …

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