Full Effect Marketing is all about efficiency, getting extra bang for your buck, stretching budgets, better ROI and for years I have been introducing my clients to the power of a well developed brand in the shape of revenue-generating partnerships. It’s not always going to finance a space shot, but as one of my favourite brands would say “every little helps”.

This is nothing new, of course “The Brand as a Medium” has been around for years. The stuff of loyalty scheme operators, supermarket retailers (where there’s far more appreciation of the concept of brand community anyway) web marketers and a few clued-in consumer brands, but it strikes me that it’s a concept that’s finally coming of age.

I have had conversations recently with a clutch of media owners about the potential of their brand communities. It seems they are all beginning to view themselves as integrated communications consultancies – a no-brainer in my book, but an opportunity that is really nowhere near harnessed by the owners of these brands – and mobile operators – folks with the same kind of opportunity, but far greater entrepreneurship, who are my tip for the next owners of this “space”, a space that, unlike the modest returns that some brand owners might settle for, knows no limit.

Talking of space, its all there in Jim Taylor’s “Space Race” and you don’t even need to read between the lines. Jim was quite clear that media owners would come to represent a real challenge to advertising agencies (remember them?) in the race to establish an integrated marketing model with a consulting approach, which you’ll not be surprised to hear is just how I feel it should be. Its not that traditional media are redundant, its just that with an ever-widening range of communications options and a growing understanding of what marketing is really all about, they take on a different relevance and we are using them in different ways.

I guess The Brand as a Medium was seeded in retail marketing where the brand over the door provided a showcase for the brands on the shelves and the key lesson, which remains the key to new players, was quickly learned – The company you keep will reflect on perceptions people have of you (your brand image). We’ve all received a warning at some time that someone might be “a decent sort of chap, but he mixes with some weird people”. A prestige retail brand stocking inferior product brands will quickly be relegated to the same league as its suppliers. The converse is also true of course – a social-climbing brand can gain a little lift by being seen in the right places. Again this is nothing new to fmcg manufactureres, but it applies equally in any sector. When I was at Saatchi & Satchi (the original and best) we often had organisations in crisis offer to give us their business because they knew that the announcement of the partnership would tend to buy them a little time from their creditors or even give their share-price a filip – hey, the good old days!

Supermarket retailers have in the past been the closest thing their suppliers could find to an integrated marketing communications solution. An fmcg brand could appear in the retailer’s advertising, door drops, DM pieces and TV spots, be a feature of in-store demos, in-store radio and TV, appear on floors, check-out conveyors, staff T-shirts, till receipts and more, all before the customer even arrived at the point-of-sale (Unilever call it “The path to purchase”). A communications solution like this is high value because the target is narrowly defined but people like Tesco took the definition even further with their data-rich Clubcard scheme. Integrated marketing like this builds relationships between all stakeholders, provides incremental sales for suppliers and additional revenue for the retailer. The good news is that any organisation can play in this space.

If your brand community is tight and loyal other brands will pay to mix it with you and yours. They know that the invitation alone is worth a premium because community members will at least give them a hearing, but be picky about who you invite – you can’t issue ASBOs to unruly guests and their behaviour will always impact on your credibility for better or worse.

Its an area that fascinates me (My retail heritage I guess) so for those of you who are suddenly intent on fully leveraging your brand I’m always up for a discussion on the subject. Meanwhile here are my top five pointers to success.

  1. Understand what “community” means
  2. Know your community members (customers, distributors, employees, advertisers etc.)
  3. Beware who you invite over (esp. partners, advertisers, contributors)
  4. Be sure to give value to everyone
  5. keep a grip on what you stand for (but understand that your community will continually evolve).

Welcome to the world of integrated media solution ownership!

Michael Weaver
July 15, 2008

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