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Ask the Experts: A Conversation on Branding

In the world of marketing, the concept of brand can be interpreted in many different ways. In an effort to explore best practice, consistencies and complexities in branding, the Jones Journal brought together experts to discuss top brands and some of the challenges they face in building brands.

Lisa Gordon, director of brand at Waste Management

Vikas Mittal, J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at the Jones Graduate School of Business

Robin Tooms ’04, V.P. and principal at Savage Brands

Ask the Experts
Left to Right: Lisa Gordon, Vikas Mittal, and Robin Tooms ’04 

1. What are the qualities you look for in a top brand?

LG: A brand is much more than a logo. A company really needs to live its brand. The brand positioning and personality should be ingrained into its company culture and should guide every business decision. A brand isn’t just owned by marketing; it’s owned by the entire organization.

VM: I have many favorite brands, including Coca-Cola, Honda, Hercule Poirot, Sailor fountain pens and American Express. I like them because it’s absolutely clear what they stand for, they perform consistently, and they never disappoint.

2. How do you build an authentic brand experience?

RT: In B2B branding, the people are the brand, so their actions and behaviors are what brings the brand to life. Most brands list a set of core values, but these words are intangible to customers — it’s the behaviors based on those values that they see. When you connect behaviors to core values, that’s when your brand experience becomes true.

LG: Building an authentic brand goes beyond the traditional touchpoints of logos and marketing collateral. You must consider all the ways a consumer or customer may interact with your brand — everything from advertising and websites to frontline employees and invoices.

3. How, if at all, do brands contribute to shareholder value?

VM: What do IBM, Coca-Cola, American Express, Wells Fargo, Walmart and Procter & Gamble have in common? They comprise over 70 percent of Warren Buffett’s portfolio. In 2009 some marketing scholars published a large-scale study to understand how brands contribute to a firm. They found that strong brands decreased cash-flow variability and increased customer loyalty, quality perceptions and market share. All of these in turn increased the firm’s long-term value as measured by its stock price. It’s my opinion that nobody understands this better than Warren Buffett.

4. What is a big brand challenge this year and how will you address it?

RT: For our clients, there is still an environment of change and consolidation. This change may be driven by internal organizational needs or external M&A activities. Regardless, the need for separate teams to work together is critically important. Branding can make huge strides here, as once a group of employees starts to identify with common values, then it’s easier to meet goals. That’s the power of branding — to connect people to a shared purpose.

This article is from the Spring 2013 issue of Jones Journal