The importance of brand building in generating business growth is the subject of Putting Brand at the Heart of Your Financial Strategy, a leadership seminar aimed at directors and senior business leaders. The event is run by IAPI, the institute of advertising practitioners in Ireland, the representative body for Ireland’s commercial creativity and communications sector, in partnership with the Institute of Directors (IOD) in Ireland.
Speakers include Benjamin Granger, chief financial officer at Irish Distillers, and Louise Bannon, head of marketing at Dublin Airport Authority. Deirdre Waldron, chief executive of advertising agency TBWA\Dublin and Brian O’Sullivan, managing director retail at fruit giant Keelings will also speak.
“We established this line-up because they are all great examples of what a brand can do to create long-lasting growth,” says Charley Stoney, IAPI’s chief executive. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of CEOs and CFOs are still unaware of the power of a brand to deliver transformational growth.”
Ecommerce hasn’t helped, offering quick wins to some businesses.
“It enables some to sell stuff fast without building a brand. But ‘stuff’ can be copied. The reason so many early ecommerce success stories run out of steam is because they are easily copied if they don’t build a brand,” says Stoney.
Giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, exemplars of pure-play ecommerce companies, “get it”, she says. “They understand that until you build the brand into your financial strategy, you won’t get the power of it. That is because your brand is not just advertising and marketing, it’s customer services, its retail outlets, it’s how you operate online and how you treat your employees. Your brand is who you are, what you do, and how you come across.”
Consumers are leading the way on this, but the c-suite is lagging behind— Charley Stoney
Consumers’ antennae have never been more sensitive to brand values, Stoney says. “What with the pandemic, fake news, war and climate change, they are crying out for brands to connect with, that are authentic and that aren’t damaging the environment. They are looking for more than just the cheapest thing they can find.
“The consumer is leading the way on this but the c-suite, the high-ranking executives within an organisation whose titles usually begin with this letter, CEOs, CFOs and so on, is lagging behind because they don’t understand what the consumer wants,” she adds.
Marketing teams do. Deirdre Waldron’s agency has managed highly successful campaigns for major brands such as Jameson Irish Whiskey, SuperValu, Centra, Laya Health Care, the National Transport Authority, the HSE, Audi and Britvic.
“IAPI is the organisation for commercial creativity and communications in Ireland, and that word commercial is really important. At the heart of every creative campaign we do is a commercial strategy,” explains Waldron.
That means delivering data on both quantitative and qualitative metrics.
“It’s about how people feel about a brand, as well as its reach. A brand is way more than a logo and a tag line. It has a lot of other purposes in terms of engagement with the customer. Whether we trust a brand is more important than ever. Consumers are wary of so-called ‘purpose-washing’, where a brand’s purpose is not aligned with what the business is. Creative agencies can help.”
A strong brand can help you command a premium price, one that is higher than competitors and, in an inflationary era, “if you’ve been investing in your brand, it will help you deliver news of price increases in the years ahead,” Waldron points out.
And, in a tight labour market, it can help with employee engagement: “People want to be proud of the brand they work for.”
IAPI runs the Effies in Ireland, a series of awards considered the global gold standard for creatives and given on the basis of campaign effectiveness.
“Effectiveness is something we focus on hugely at TBWA, and in fact all IAPI agencies do, with clearly defined key performance indicators and metrics for return on investment,” says Waldron. “We don’t just provide them at the start of a campaign, but right throughout, tweaking as we go to make sure it’s on track.
That culture gives us a great shared language between creatives and c-suites— Deirdre Waldron
“That culture gives us a great shared language between creatives and c-suites, so that we can all share in the progress and growth of the brand.”
Brian O’Sullivan, managing director of retail at fruit giant Keelings, has a strong track record of delivering sustained financial success through building iconic brands, including in his role as head of both Cadbury Ireland and Fulfil Nutrition.
“I am not a marketeer by profession and I will be speaking from my experience of managing brands within multi-functional business environments that often have competing views on the role of brands, and whether brand investment delivers a sufficient financial return,” he says.
“The reality is that because brands are built over time and investment happens in the moment, the level of brand investment is a strategic decision rather than an in-year operational one.”
O’Sullivan is a firm believer in the value that brands bring to a business and that brands need investment if they are to survive and thrive.
“The critical question is what is the right level of investment and where should it be spent? There is no one answer to this question as it depends on how mature your brand is today, how profitable it is, what its potential is and the organisation’s appetite for risk.”
For him, the challenge is as much about putting your financial strategy into the heart of your brand as it is about putting your brand into the heart of your financial strategy.
The critical question is what is the right level of investment and where should it be spent?— Brian O’Sullivan
“This can be achieved by strategically understanding your brand’s competitive advantage, reflecting it fully in pricing and debating the long-term benefits of brand investment versus the short-term implications on profitability,” O’Sullivan explains.
“I’m delighted to take part in this event not because I think what I will share is necessarily right but it is a point of view which might be thought-provoking and lead to robust debates around budget time, resulting in better long-term decisions being made.”
This year, IOD Ireland and IAPI are again running the event online only to accommodate demand. “We simply couldn’t find a venue big enough to cope with the interest in the seminar, because it’s a masterclass in what a brand really is these days,” says Stoney.
“If you’re a business leader looking for inspiration from successful brand-led organisations, this is the event for you.”
This free, invitation-only online broadcast for IOD members, IAPI agency leaders and industry directors takes place on August 25th from 2.30pm-4pm. Register your interest to attend at IAPI.ie