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What are the Masters of Marketing Talking About?

Posted by: Kevin Perlmutter on October 16, 2012

The ANA Masters of Marketing Conference: It’s a time when we hear the thinking behind the work of some very well run brands. This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the conference and seeing some of the top leaders in marketing share the back-stories about their work and their lessons learned.

Having just launched Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2012 report, it was interesting for me to see the high correlation between key themes that emerged during the conference and what Interbrand recently highlighted as the key drivers of today’s top brands. This year, Interbrand rallied around the key theme of humanity.

“Today’s best brands are in touch with their own humanity and the humanity of others” according to Jez Frampton, Global Chief Executive of Interbrand. Humanity in brands takes many forms, ranging from what the brand does to serve society to how the brand relates to individual customers.

Jim Farley, Group Vice President of Global Marketing, Sales and Service at Ford Motor Company talked about risk taking and forging human connections with consumers. Ford understands that people are now looking for more authentic brands, and Ford’s marketing objective is “to be the brand that the most average consumer connects with,” combined with an underdog mentality.


The brand dedicates approximately 20% of its budget on pre-launch activity to build excitement with customers and through local dealer activity. Ford has seen its brand value increase over the past year by 6%. 

Johnson & Johnson strives to care for the needs of society and the greater good. It is a business and brand that, despite some faltering in recent years, continues to work to put into action its core values documented in the brand's Credo. J&J aims to put patients, doctors and nurses at the top of the list of priorities, and it guides them to focus on social and societal issues like the need for Blood Donations and the need for more Registered Nurses.

According to Kimberly Kadlec, Worldwide Vice President of Global Marketing, J&J is also shaking up the original 4 P’s: Price, Promotion, Product and Place. They are now orienting themselves around more human terms: Purpose, Presence, Partnerships and Proximity. In doing so they’ve launched bold marketing programs tapping into innovative uses of digital channels to closely connect with users of their consumer products. Thanks to these types of efforts, J&J continues to be a preferred brand, despite being plagued by product recalls and shortages, and has seen its brand value increase 8% in the past year.

McDonald’s Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Neil Golden, spoke about the success that his brand has had answering the call of those who were looking for healthier alternatives. Over the last few years, the brand has grown stronger by offering healthier menu options, including fresh apples in every Happy Meal for kids, and highlighting Favorites Under 400 – a selection of classic McDonald’s choices that have always been under 400 calories. Further, the brand continues to make the strategy of “Simple, Easy, Enjoyment” relevant in all markets that it serves. McDonald’s brand has had a healthy increase in value, up 13% in the past year.


Shifting toward the individual, humanity can also take the form of creating differentiation with a profound consumer insight. Approximately 15 years ago, Mastercard understood that credit card purchases were not as much a financial transaction, but a priceless moment being created. They have consistently ran the Priceless campaign all around the world since that time, keeping it relevant to local markets and making evolutionary adjustments over time.

According to Alfredo Gangotena, Chief Marketing Officer of Mastercard Worldwide, “When you go to heaven, it’s not what you take with you, it’s the experiences you’ve had.” He also praised the CMO’s he has succeeded for not bowing to temptation to change the campaign just because they were new to the job. Mastercard is a new entrant this year on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands, with a ranking of 94.

Humanity is also about being pure. At Interbrand, we often talk about the need for companies to constantly nurture their brands to keep pace in a rapidly changing world. For some brands, that means finding their way back to who they really are when looking for revitalization.

This was certainly true when listening to Alison Lewis, Senior Vice President of North America at Coca-Cola. She described how the number one ranked brand for 13 consecutive years has been focusing recently on revitalizing itself. They have rallied around a clear and simple idea: “Coke brings Joy.” To get back to iconic brand imagery and communications, the brand’s visual look was stripped back to its purest form and most foundational brand elements (red, the script typeface, the bottle contour, ribbon).


Additionally, they’ve been focusing on digital as the first screen to create 1-to-1 relationships with customers. Through an evolved CRM program that is aimed to keep people constantly engaged in a web of online places that they frequent, Coke understands that true relationships can be formed with customers that are not just cap to cap. Coca-Cola saw its brand value rise 8% in the past year.

Proctor & Gamble’s Global Marketing & Brand Building Officer, Marc Pritchard, highlighted an insight-centric approach when he spoke about the role of deeply understanding customers when developing marketing and advertising. He said that whenever a brand is performing poorly, he goes back to the brand’s launch. He looks at the original value proposition and the original creative, and then looks to see where it strayed off track.

He also spoke about finding deep cultural insights through observational research to help drive creativity that connects with people though real relevance. The winning formula he said is “consumer insight plus creativity,” because “creativity plus humor, without insight, is worthless.”

One example he spoke about is that diaper advertising for many years was about no leaks while toddlers crawled around, but P&G’s research revealed that everyone is happier after a good night sleep. So Pampers focused advertising on the benefit of dryness at night so everyone sleeps well. Pampers, P&G's number one selling brand in the world, was a new entrant this year to Best Global Brands 2012, raking at number 34 in brand value.


This year’s ANA featured many impressive speakers presenting their brands’ great achievements, the risks that they have taken and the lessons that they’ve learned. We believe that it was their drive toward forging greater human connections to society and individuals that helped make the difference. These connections were powered by deep customer insights, one-to-one relationships through digital channels and building admiration by doing right for the community it serves. It was even better to see that these success stories also helped to increase brand value for all ranked presenters – a demonstration that brand is becoming a more powerful business asset for their companies.

Kevin Perlmutter is Senior Director, Brand Strategy at Interbrand New York.

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