Donald Sexton‘s International Marketing class was scheduled for Thursday evening, an hour before happy hour at Columbia. In 12 sessions spread over twelve weeks Don planned on teaching us everything we ever needed to know about building global brands. Each class would start and end with Don’s personal collection of the best advertising done in the last three decades. In between amongst theories, practical exercises and street smart thinking we would get to dissect what we had seen earlier.
Don taught me everything I know today about branding. To him a brand was about connecting the wiring in our customers mind when they saw what represented our products, logos and images. When you saw Pepsi, you were meant to think Coke is evil; when you read the Journal you knew that FT was clueless. But you had to be careful with this wiring. You couldn’t aim for more than two or three attributes and you needed to determine upfront if they would be functional (speed for fast cars, flatbeds for business class travel) or psychological (lifestyle, image and perception for Mont Blanc and DeBeers, peace of mind for Fedex). The wiring and attributes were determined by your target segment and to really hit it off with them you needed to understand what defined them, drove them, controlled them and moved them.
Don didn’t just stop at segmentation or wiring. He then went on to build upon that foundation and showed us how to manage frequency of exposure, how to capture mind and heart share and how to structure businesses around the brands you were building. It was Don’s course that led to the business plan that later became Avicena.
By the time Don was done with us, we had all turned into advertising critics. Over the last decade I acquired a nasty habit of dissecting and classifying an add as soon as I saw it. It was Don’s gift to all of his students.
Which is the reason why I think Engro Foods got taken for a royal ride with the Omore Icecream campaign. I think they should not just fire the agency who did the campaign but also sack the brand manager for the product. Running a visually offensive power point presentation on HBO with a nice jingle but no branding elements at all just goes to show that the group behind branding at Engro Foods has no idea how to go about building one or has too much money to care about how it is spent.
It is not that the branding strategy for their other key products has been above par. The benchmark in this country when it comes to advertising is set so low that if you even put a small part of your brain to work you can outshine the competition. The Zong product may suck but the quality of their media output is certainly generations ahead from lesser mortals running the same function at Ufone, Mobilink and Telenor.
My kingdom for more halfway decent advertising campaigns from this country that can pass the Sexton critical perimeter!