Digital Brand Discussions is a series of articles that discuss, debate and elaborate on topics related to Brand - theory, practice, management and Digital - in the broadest sense of the word. And mixture of those two. Starting with articles from April 2016, I covered both basic topics such as "What is a Digital Brand" and "Why should your Brand be a Digital Brand" but also more strategic such as "Digital (as) Brand Equity Building Tool" and organizationally-oriented such as "The conflict of Brand and Digital in matrix HQs".
One of the topics that I find interesting is the question of organisational setup of brand management and implications brought about by digital. This particular topic should be most interesting to Brand Directors and Senior Brand Managers, especially those working in Headquarters of Brands. Centralizing Digital Brand Management: Yes or No? I lean towards a YES and I will explain why.
Managing Brands over time in Digital
Managing Brands over time is one of the biggest tasks and challenges of Brand professionals. Environments in which Brands exists - consumers and their habits, perceptions, values and mindsets are never idle. They are in continuous and perpetual change. Some are controlled, such as changes imposed by marketing programs of Brands themselves, which transform the consumer brand knowledge in certain, desired directions. Others are completely outside of Brand Managers/Directors control as they are induced by external environment - other market players, competitors but also non-competitors which influence (our) consumers and (our) brand knowledge and expectations. One rule for modern branding is that brands can never stand still. Brands must constantly be moving and desirably moving forward. Looking at the element of time and managing Brands over time, main source of challenge is the pace of change. Due to digital, things are now changing faster then ever in the marketing or brand's environment and dimensions of change have become not 2D, not 3D but multi-Dimensional or, simply put: Digital. Maintaining consistency while staying relevant is THE challenge for managing brands over time.
Looking at the organisational setup, it would seem plausible that moving, navigating and directing things at a faster pace of change is easier done from one central point, than leaving it to smaller regions and territories to handle or mishandle changes. Picking up market changes and market disturbances still seems to make sense as a primary role of local / regional teams but interpreting and reacting to it should be left out to a Brand CPU. Of course, key items here would be the link, quality and structure, between the CPU (Brand HQ) and format and method of information being collected and reported back to the HQ. Vertical reporting and communication speed makes a big difference. The only bigger challenge than Managing Brands over Time would be Managing them over Geographic Boundaries and Market Segments with Digital in play.
Managing Brands over Geographic Boundaries and Market Segments in Digital
Global Brands seemed to have become fans of the localization strategy. Having a Global Porftolio of Brands, establishing brand hierarchy to satisfy different market segments and developing brand migration strategies to attract new customers while retaining existing ones, localization played a big role. Most if not all Brand adaptations and translations were left to countries and territories as they were closest to the market and thus were able to respond best to their market needs. With the rise of Digital, even from just the level of corporate website, which is mostly managed and operated centrally, this - opposite direction seems to be acquiring pace, moving digital management from territories/local units to central CPU.
Namely, with Digital as a channel there is, unlike trade or retail brand management & marketing, ability to scale easily. Cost and efficiency gains from centrally managing digital brands are obvious. Having a centrally assembled team that runs global operations saves both time and money and budgets rather than having multiple national teams working with different vendors / agencies.
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