This quote by Ian was featured on Interbrand’s website around the time that Brand Engagement was first published. A fairly provocative, but as it turned out, game changing statement.
Ian was reacting to what had, up to that point, been an accepted practice of developing brands in a so-called creative ivory tower and then policing them internally and externally by attempting to enforce employee and supplier compliance with the brand standards. It wasn’t very effective.
We’ve recently seen theoretical models, two by academics and a third by a lapsed engineer, professing to have reduced the creative brand management process to a sequence of clever models, thereby alleging to have bottled the behavioural brand magic. Again, nice try. But as anyone who has worked in the field for long enough knows, you can’t “manage” brand development in that way as you simply can’t engineer engagement.
Between us, we’ve had the pleasure of working with at least half of Interbrand’s Top 100 brands at one stage or another and, perhaps more importantly, have partnered with many more challenger brands down the years. We know that any brand engagement programme clearly needs to ensure that people processes like communication, performance management, recruitment et al are included and appropriately focused. But the involvement of people, two-way communication and consultation are absolutely vital.
Theories are often interesting, sometimes thought-provoking and occasionally useful. But as a battle-hardened general once said, the theories, models, plans and strategies “only last as long as the first engagement”. What is most important is flexibility, openness, actively seeking multiple stakeholder involvement and keeping an open mind. It requires confidence and maturity. But you can’t take a shortcut to experience.