Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: In with the In-Crowd

Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: In with the In-Crowd

Article excerpt

While involving internal stakeholders is often useful, it is crucial to avoid marketing by committee.

Last week, Marketing reported on Chevrolet's decision to crowdsource a new TV ad, and speculated on its wisdom in doing so. There's no reason it shouldn't work.

Through online intermediary Idea Bounty, the business will have access to thousands of creative people, including many currently working in agencies, conceivably its own. The senior team at Chevrolet can use that digital distance to be ruthless with the stuff that doesn't cut it, and ensure the final ad is a sparkling reflection of its new brand strategy.

A far more questionable practice is the one that many senior marketers are adopting to arrive at those upstream marketing decisions in the first place: let's call it 'in-crowd sourcing'.

This is the practice of involving numerous internal 'stakeholders' in decisions about areas such as brand positioning, brand strategy and NPD Typically, these stakeholders will number about 20-50, and will include marketers from across the global territories, as well as cross-disciplinary representation from functions such as innovation, operations and HR.

With people scattered all over the world, emailing in opinions and after-thoughts at different stages, the process is rarely simple (I speak from experience). The reason senior marketers engage in it is a respectable one: they understand the necessity to carry people with them in their big decisions, and figure that's more likely to be achieved by involving them.

The downside is that the method virtually guarantees bland, colourless results. Why? Because the number of people consulted is at the worst possible point - neither tight nor huge. Ask 1000 employees for input and you can review the answers, gain a sense of the deep themes and motifs, and use that as fuel for a tight team to develop. One thousand is a crowd, and behaves like one: no one expects individual feedback, or wonders why the bee in their particular bonnet has been ignored.

An in-crowd of senior stakeholders, each making their opinions known under the gaze of colleagues and rivals, is another matter. This combustible mix of hierarchy, envy and insecurity, with its propensity to break into cliques, can present the chief marketing officer leading the initiative with a delicate problem. Do you make ruthless choices in the best interest of the brand and risk the lingering resentment of those who thought a different way; or do you merge things a little, and seek to accommodate all shades of opinion? …

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