Does the lions share of branding and communications lie in the name?

by Alex Benady

A journalist friend of mine met the communications chief of an extremely large organization last week. (By large, I mean the size of small nation state.) After a couple of drinks talk turned to the topic of difficulties this comms chief has been having communicating important messages.

His organization has been having problems with one of its services recently and has received a good kicking in the press for its failure to provide what its customers need.

“It’s a bit unfair,” lamented the comms chief, “because we’ve done everything we possibly could to stop people using this service until it is improved.”

He explained how his organisation has even run campaigns explaining the problem, advising people not to use this service and giving them better alternatives.

But all that happened as a result of his carefully plotted ‘don’t buy’ campaign was that use of the service went up instead of down.

It could still be that the campaign was successful. Maybe not as many people used the service as would have done in its absence.  But the comms chief didn’t think so.

It could be that the campaign was just poorly thought out or poorly executed.  Maybe. But again the comms chief didn’t think so.

Far more likely he thought was that despite all the thought and planning that had gone into creating and targeting a carefully nuanced message, most people, don’t engage with details.

All they hear is the brand name. They don’t pay enough attention to hear any qualifying message. So the message ‘don’t use service x’ merely highlights the existence of service x in people’s minds.

Perhaps that’s why they say “all publicity is good publicity” and “make the logo bigger.” Maybe getting the name/brand name across is the most important thing and doesn’t much matter the context or the thing that is being said about it.

If this is true, the implications for marketing communications would be immense, pointed out my journalist friend. Why bother with costly branding, design, PR and advertising agencies when any chimp could put up a sign with your company’s name on it for free?

Surprisingly the comms chief sprang to the defence of these disciplines.  Yes, name alone may do sixty, seventy or even eighty per cent of the communication work, he conceded. But it is in the other thirty to fourty per cent that branding, design, PR and advertising works its magic and earns its keep.

It is precisely because well thought out branding and communications can help consumers go beyond the top line communication of the brand name alone, that they are worth while.

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