05
Nov
2013

Brand management is dead. Long live the brand shepherd.

I must firstly admit that the title of this piece is not mine, I borrowed it from a friend and PR guru Hamish Thompson who is the MD of what he, tongue in cheek calls ‘the best PR agency you have never heard of’’; 1238kmh. Hamish and his team are very creative and a great asset to any brand wanting to create truly valuable PR.

The reason I lifted the headline is that a mail from Hamish on this subject triggered me to think about brands and brand management in China in particular. The point was being made that in the past, the staff of a brand were the people who defined where it was to go and put processes in place to get it there, which is a fine idea when your customers are happy to follow your lead. The challenge in the current market environment is that customers want a connection to a brand that means something to them and over which they may have an influence.

This is particularly true in China as consumers have become more knowledgable and more cautious how and where they spend their money. Brands have had to change their strategies and rather than push themselves forward under their own impetus assuming the consumer would do as they had always done, they have had to keep a a close eye on the customer to make sure that they are actually following their lead. In many cases, they have had to give the customer exactly what they want in order that they take notice of the brand whereas in the past, they would have blindly focusing on the brand name and not its value.

This throws into question whether, as Hamish puts it, ‘are executives actually managing a brand, or purely shepherding it in a direction that it has some tendency to go in’. These executives no longer own the brand, their customer’s do and importantly the Chinese luxury consumer now knows the boot is firmly on the other foot. Like the green field with the gate at the end, the sheep are unlikely to head directly for it unaided any more, but will need shepherding to avoid them making a detour en-route, being distracted by something else more interesting or missing it completely.

This is not a new mantra from me as I have blogged on the subject a number of times before, but I am pleased to say that other thought leaders like Hamish are clearly on the same page. Executives in China, and in fact globally must accept that they maybe custodians of a brand for the moment, but in reality they are just brand shepherds.

If you would like to know more about Hamish and his business, you can reach him at Hamish.thompson@1238kmh.com or at www.1238kmh.com

Ken Grant
Ken is the publisher of Luxury Insights China, he is regularly asked for his comments and opinions of the luxury sector in China by the media, and speaks at conferences on the subject. His international marketing experience covers 25 years, and most territories of the world.

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