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March 30, 2004
I find the following extract from an interview of Etienne Wenger doyen of the Community of Practice World very interesting for several reasons:

1) It explains how professional associations need to go beyond themselves, and if there is an association reader ready to try I can promise you open space will do that and give you a facilitaot catalogue

2) Its we learn and practice through our identities. Exactly

3) Put these 2 ideas together and if the brand was seen as a living association, the potential to innovate living of any brand would be so huge - any takers chris at
According to Wenger, associations that function solely as a centralized knowledge resource are ignoring the critical role of active engagement in effective learning and knowledge sharing. “Learning is best understood as an interaction among practitioners, rather than a process in which a producer provides knowledge to a consumer,” he says. “If associations view their members as consumers of knowledge produced by the association, they are forgetting that learning means engagement.”
According to Wenger, many associations have failed not only to consider the role of engagement in learning but also something even more fundamental: identity. Wenger asserts that “identity” in the context of how
associations relate to their members means much, much more than simply “belonging” or “shared interest.”
“A person’s identity is their engagement in the world,” Wenger says.
“This has not been part of our models. To engage effectively, one must ask the questions: ‘What will it take for our professionals to really feel they are learning – to really feel that membership in our association is transformative? What are the specific kinds of activities they should be engaged in with one another to draw this out?’”
Wenger cautions that there is no universal answer to these questions; every group has its own nuances, and different methods must be used with each group to, as Wegner says, “draw out” learners’ identities.

“When you have engineers, the most wonderful activity to engage them in is a design problem,” he says. “When you give them a design problem, it draws the engineer out of them,” he continues, adding that the key to drawing out members’ identities is through powerful storytelling.
“What does it mean to draw somebody’s identity out?” Wenger asks.
“This is what a good story does. When you hear a good story, you say ‘Yes! I can identify with that!’ This is because it is drawing you out. And so, this is the key to being an association: to find the activities that will draw out the identities of engaged learners.”
How often do we think of the learning opportunities associations provide in such a way – as venues not just to provide knowledge but to do something much more profound and transformative: to draw out and engage the very identities of those we serve? If association leaders were to find ways to accomplish this, imagine the drawing power of such events and, more important, how valuable they would be to association members.

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March 29, 2004

Neuromarketing is being used on children 

Jennifer at Brand Mantra is having a great blog debate with various other bloggers about the virtues, application and ethics of neuromarketing. She writes,

When people misuse low-tech options, it's quite probable that they'll misuse newer high-tech options. I'm not averse to new technology; I am averse to making it available to users who don't often understand the basic principles... Few companies bother to actually initiate conversations with customers, build relationships with them, and involve them on the front end. Rather, they come up with some ideas while sitting around a conference table and decide to 'test' those ideas with customers. Hmm.

I couldnt agree more. Neuroscience has all the features of a classic "little marketing innovation boulder".. which back in December I stated were an outcome of the consummate failure of marketing to meet and understand the needs of a "new society of individuals" shaped by self-determination and unfilled, intangible wants. Today, there is a widening chasm between new forms of individual value and values on the one side and the corporates' "neo-con consumerist" objectives, behaviour and actions on the other - actions characterised by an "incremental tinkering" of, rather than a radical and discontinuous breakthrough in the means to identify, create, design and deliver "consumer" value.

This adaptive market incrementalism failure is generating the “innovation scree" that lies deep in the rift between commercial organisations and individuals. The marketing profession in particular is engaged in a constant and desperate search for the next breakthrough in efficiency and insight and as you'd expect - when all else fails, the last resort is to turn to science. For me, Neuroscience is just one very big boulder just waiting to "plop" off the side off the chasm on its long journey to the foothills of oblivion ...

Consider the following statement from Oxford-based Neurosense (or should that be Neurononsense)... at

Human brain imaging techniques have now reached a level of sophistication that make it possible to unravel many of the brain processes that contribute to perception, emotive evaluation, decision-making and behaviour. Understanding these processes is vital if we are to comprehend and predict how consumers will react to novel products, brands and advertisements. At Neurosense, we are committed to working closely with our clients to design and implement functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments that directly address such questions. The results of these studies are then fed back to the client in the form of deliverables - novel insights in to a marketing problem that are presently unobtainable from any other measures.

Yeah right. And please, is this an image of the future marketing department ....?


Funny, but I thought marketing was originally about matching, connecting, conversations, relationships, trust, shared values and mutual profit...

But the true horror of neuromarketing science is revealed in the following section taken from the Neurosense web-site:

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a safe, non-invasive technique that allows us to locate and quantify brain activity associated with thoughts, feelings and action. It can be used in children as well as adults and can be carried out rapidly (an experiment typically lasts only a few minutes and a whole session less than an hour).

Used in children? They are kidding? If true, that makes me absolutely sick with rage.. If this is being used on children then it should banned immediately - Now who agrees that Neuromarketing is a "good thing"...? Maybe we can all give this particular boulder one big shove....

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Researching the Communal Loops of Communications 

What I hear you say? One reason why you are asking this question is that communications research is often short-cutted. It looks at immediate responses and fails to see what communal waves will be amplified.

I first learnt this in the 1980s when I tested markets in over 30 countries in projects commissioned by many of the world's bigest brand owning companies of that era.

Historically advertising researchers had:
focused on testing responses to a product brand's (USP) unique selling proposition but we found big brands impacted the (UOP) unique organisiing purpose of a company; the view you take leads to 2 entirely different calculuses of brand valuation that never meet. Wrong brand valuation has killed off at least 10 large companies to my personal knowledge.

Next we found that when multinational companies were rolling out brands across countries, they thought they only needed to measure the response of consumers; however when you measure societal responses you would change your marketing programs completely. It is societies/nations that permit a company's future evolution to be narrow or broad; and agian big global brands are now to be judged like media in their own rights with impacts on local cultures. People know that and yet remarkably few companies analyse that social responsibility. An extraordinary failing of leadership which is costing shareholders dear according to company chaoirman and risk expert Sir John Banham of Whitbread plc, and formerly director general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Next corporate identity experts set about making barnd promises internally and externally, and recall of these. But perhaps its more valuable to measure whether the walk matches the talk. Certainly this is the only way a company can audit the dynamics of all its intangibles as a whole relationship system of productivities and demands. And certainly if you make a promise and then visibly demonstrate no competence of keeping it , society will devalue your whole as fast as Andersen's brand vanished.

There are methods for doing these kinds of research: they look at system circles beyond the immediate object; they analyse consistency of connections; they work a bit like an investigative journalist would; and they dare to report back unexpected or bad news to leaders who dare to act on such feedback. This bad news inquiry process - who'd shoot the messenger? - may explain why this is the most undervalued family of methods in the communications profession, but now you know:- members of Chief Brand Officers Association are always ready to lend a hi-trust communications researcher a helping hand.
chris macrae
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March 28, 2004

Worst ad campaign of year so far 

Obviously this is a competition -email me your nomination at

Example UK government is wasting taxpayers money with a campaign designed to get people to vote. What's worst is its well executed to propagate its lie. Two cartoon men: one asks the other a question; the other cuts the conversation off with "I dont do politics". The rest of the ad is 6 stories where the second guy tries to start a conversation, and is reminded he doesnt do politics so what's the point of talking with him about A, B, C, D

what ****ing arrogance- doesnt government know yet that the main reason for voter apathy is that a vote giving a party carte blache to represent every decision for the next 5 years is well past the sell-by debate of what democracy means- especially with a choice of governments like we have in the Uk whose decisions no longer listen to the people before big business interests. I suggest taxpayers send an invoice to 10 Downing Street To Tony Blair for the price of this ad campaign copy the Inland Revenue. Tell me if you are game to post or in any other way revolution against such a patronising campaign paid for by us the common folk
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March 23, 2004

New site feed 

For those who like to read our site through a news aggregator...

We've been having problems with the existing XML feeds for this site. We've now replaced them with an Atom feed which is now built into Blogger and should be more reliable.
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Disappointing marketing by a mutual 

(Cross posted at Mutual Marketing)

The Britannia Building Society has launched a new ad campaign. I saw it for the first time last night on the telly. It involves a scene in which a customer and a Britannia person discuss money, and simultaneously feed each other cake and some catering person comes along and adds cream to the cake. The "big idea" being that mutualism is all about sharing. The campaign is called, Lord Help Me, "Mmmutual".

To me, this is just deeply dull, image-based, marketing as usual. The idea of mutualism has been dumbed down and trivialised.

According to (a marketing website, in case you wondered), Britannia's marketing director, Alan Long, says:
"This campaign really focuses on what's different about a mutual society and what makes Britannia, Britain's best mutual. It's an exiting time for us and we think it will help us to clearly stand out from the competition."
This is, of course, one of those quotes that betrays the dead hand of scripting; real people don't actually talk like this. In my experience, marketing directors do get excited when they change images because for a few days they can feel as if they have made a difference; whether the "us" Mr Long refers to amounts to more than him and his department... well I doubt it. And I'm afraid a slightly nauseating ad of people stuffing cake is not going to make Britannia "stand out from the competition". What it does, I think, is totally blur them into the competition, the great mass of financial services advertisers peddling trivial friendly imagery that lacks passion and conviction.

Britannias says here
We hope you find the new communication style informative, practical and eye-catching. And dare we say, tasty?
and once again, with "tasty", we're in the weary territory of copywriters' laboured puns. The idea of mutualism, sorry "mmmutualism" is rendered dominantly as "you'll get more for your money"...
Britannia is a mutual building society. So there are no shareholders to take a cut of our profits. Instead, every year, we share the profits with our members and invest in far tastier deals.
There's that laboured pun again. (And the site is full of them... "feast your eyes on our successful partnerships", are you "after a yummy deal" ?, get "a tasty rate", "mmmm feast on this", "serving up great insurance deals")

If you dig into the website, you'll find that Britannia does have a member council that seems to play some sort of advisory role. It's made up of 24 people picked at random from branch visitors. All very well, but it's hardly the way to create active, engaged members, is it? Join the Britannia and have a 1 in x thousand chance of being on the member council... that's bound to encourage me to step forward with my ideas and enthusiasms.

Now I am quite willing to believe that Britannia is a friendly sort of organisation full of good people trying to do the right thing. But what is absent from their image-led, sickly-sweet advertising, is any kind of real passion. And by opting for safe blandness they offer me, as a customer, nothing I couldn't find elsewhere - in a mutual or indeed in a for-profit organisation. They say there's more money for members, but actually, it's always possible to get better rates by shopping around. Membership expressed predominantly in terms of a financial edge is not actually a distinctive or engaging idea; it amounts to little more than a Tesco Clubcard.

Elsewhere on the site, it's clear that Britannia has been active in developing partnerships with trade unions and football clubs. This suggests that they have been thinking more deeply about creating a sense of affiliation and community.

But to reduce the powerful idea of mutualism, a sense of people taking some joint responsibility, to a set of financial benefits and a truly wearisome and sugary adman's conceit, is very disappointing. Rendering mutualism in terms of a selfish consumer model of "what's in it for me" misses the point - a braver and far more enaging platform from which a more radically-minded mutual could really stand out.
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March 19, 2004

just too much image tricks for my taste 

Coca-Cola is to recall all bottles of its Dasani water in the UK, after levels of bromate were found to exceed legal levels.
The recall is an embarrassment for the drinks giant, which has faced criticism for selling what is treated and purified tap water.

Coca-Cola said it had consulted the Food Standards Agency, which agreed there were no immediate safety fears.

The recall of about 500,000 bottles is expected to be completed in 24 hours.

It's now going to be next to impossible for Coke to relaunch Dasani in the UK

Allyson Stewart-Allen, International Marketing Partners
Coca-Cola produces Dasani from mains water at a factory in Sidcup, Kent.

The company says Dasani - recently launched in the UK - is "as pure as bottled water gets" thanks to a "highly sophisticated purification process".

Coca-Cola said the recall was a precaution.

One marketing expert said it could be costly. "It's now going to be next to impossible for Coke to relaunch Dasani in the UK," said Allyson Stewart-Allen of International Marketing Partners.

"This is very surprising for a company as careful and deliberate as Coca-Cola, and a blow to the trust they're aiming to build with consumers as well as their strategy to diversify into drinks that can't be linked to obesity, such as water."

Less stringent

The Food Standards Agency describes bromate as "a chemical that could cause an increased cancer risk as a result of long-term exposure, although there is no immediate risk to public health".

In a statement, Coca-Cola said the contamination had been initially caused by its regular practice of adding calcium to Dasani, calcium which in this case "did not meet our quality standards".

As a result, bromate went on to be formed during the manufacturing processes.

"Immediately after we identified this issue we consulted with the Food Standards Agency," said Coca-Cola.

"The FSA has confirmed that there is no immediate health or safety issue. The withdrawal is a precautionary measure."

The firm added that the withdrawal only affected Dasani in the UK.

Manufacturing process

The UK limit for bromate in bottled and tap water is 10 parts per billion, while the Dasani samples had tested between 10 and 22 parts per billions, Reuters reported.
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March 15, 2004

can we escape the twin powers of disastrously executed globalisation & branding in time? 

As you can see from this extract from a sister-space , the conversation has taken a joking-but-deadly-serious turn. Perhaps just like knowledge management graphic description of its catch 22 schizophrenia and twin powers, brand management needs a similar view of every dead-end that wrong globalisation of branding systems will lead us to

below is sketch of Knowledge-Management's double schizophrenia; our network economics and societal learning experts have been collaboratively studying this since our 1984 book storytelling the first 40 years of the networking and global/local revoltion; we wrote this to ask whether George Orwell would be proved right if 40 years too early, or whether humankind would open space until the old twin powers collaborated with the networked people of the world at every locality
Emotional Intelligence

In chapter 6 our timeline turned to the year
2005"The gap in incomes & expectations between rich & poor nations was recognised as man's greatest danger. The crossroads of knowledge depended on how all the people used the nets and webs to openly reconcile conflicts".

Some people involved in 'trying' to find a way out of the wrong 'dead-end' of globalising the administration of organisations are:



If you have more links of this kind you could post them at our temporary KMNGO thread

Glossary: Text Virus
Open Space /Conversing Organisational Architectures1,,,2

Chris Macrae, Community Roll- Chatq Feb04
, BA 1ST Maths York Uni, Black Swan OSUK & Maheo, co-ed EU KMEI&valuetrue&net-Economist

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March 11, 2004

4 reasons why marketing no longer exists in many big companies 

This mini article rests its case on a definition which makes marketing core to value: helping everyone to look after and be motivated to identify with the most unique human purpose of the organisation. There is plenty of literature which proves this to be the focus around which the majority valuation of the corporation spins, though you may have to search terms such as goodwill or intangibles. What are the 4 tests to see whether leadership teams are supporting marketers in systemising true value building?

First, the marketer must be encouraged to take a stand so that nobody gets bullied too much by short-term metrics. We now know that purpose is governed by different kind of maths from short-term numbers. A management culture that is weak enough to be governed only by short-term numbers erodes its purpose. NASA had 3 main goals: scheduling and costs were contained by the numbers but safety was eroded by them. Purpose is an investment in the whole system and context. NASA failure of purpose lost its challenger’s crew; Andersen’s practice loss of True and Fair purpose destroyed all of the organisation’s value and destroyed far more when you account for other organisations and industry sectors which its non-purposeful measures weakened.

Second, the marketer must stand up for reality-making as well as image-making. I like a little bit of advertising amplifying the corporate brand’s mix but I see no future value in brands that get hijacked by advertising. Both because there is no end to the inflation of costs of being so addicted, and because its dangerous when global image-making takes over from local reality-making. Unfortunately, the same monopoly forces of accounting that believed that the backward-term of the last 90 days should be separated from everything else in the way that boardrooms rule measurements also did a deal in the late 1980s that defined brand valuation to be mainly about imagery. As globalisation and service economies accelerated, a company’s forward progression of human goodwill became more valuable than all the stuff in accounting books so they did a deal apportioning a large part of this goodwill to brand and checked with the advertising industry how they would like brand value to be spreadsheeted. It suited the communications industry to link brand valuation with image spends and short-term ups and downs in market shares; this was a definition which was in most ways opposite from purposeful reality-making. It may have chained increasing numbers of marketers to cost adding instead of value multiplying.

Third, the marketer must not get functionally positioned as representing only the customer interface. Purpose is valuable when it unites all stakeholders in relationship win-wins. Technically, the dynamics of goodwill can be modelled around the trust-flows that are systemised by detecting any conflicts emerging between stakeholders and then innovate resolution of such conflicts before they compound period after period eroding purpose. It is worth noting that any big stakeholder can be the vicious beginning of conflict unless a company’s purpose is united enough not to be distracted. For example, I once worked in a Big 5 accounting firm where framed above the senior partner’s desk was a message signed by Robert Maxwell: “I recommend XXX because they always do precisely what I say.” Although this particular customer endorsement was hurriedly taken down, with the likes of Ken Lay we can ask who in this sector learnt what over the next decade. In contrast, a very wise piece of advice on stakeholder integrity comes from a wholly different captain of British Industry. If you want to be a world leader, ask what risk or responsibility issue society depends most on your sector’s knowledge to transparently govern and make this the hallmark and accountability of all your stakeholder relationships. This is particulary salient advice, if you know that 51 out of the world's largest economies are now corporate not nations. As the most important movies of the new century helps us to imagine, the corporation has positioned itself as the big challenge to worldwide democracy being our local way to respect human diversity not terror as the 21st century's founding lifestyle.

Fourth, the marketer must not be positioned as only identifying purpose with stakeholder demands. He or she should be involved in running the organisation’s hotdesk which any employee can ring or email for confidential mentoring: our purpose is this but the activity I am measured on seems to be conflicting. Please help. If you feel such an internal value exchange task sounds idealistic, let me leave you with one more statistic. In conferences popularising the latest book to come out of Harvard’s Balanced Scorecard and strategy schools, an unusual soundbite catches my attention. Survey data shows that in many companies 96% of the workforce does not know how to execute the strategy. That is the internal scale of the communications crisis existing in companies that do not agree that marketing’s chief role begins and ends every valuation cycle by branding the Unique Organising Purpose (UOP).

We now have many taskforces benchmarking this perspective of marketing around human contexts of value building - ask me for our open listing or nominate one you need help in convening if you wish to give these 4 health tests of marketing's sustainability a whirl
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March 09, 2004

Beyond Branding reviewed 

We've just had a nice review of Beyond Branding in Argent, the journal of the Financial Services Forum in the UK.
..challenges, in a very practical way, the narrow, short-termist, shareholder-focused approach to marketing that drives many companies today.

... The message is blunt: brands are in trouble. They still act as shorthand for the often complex ideas that are combined as the manifestation of a company, its products and its interactions with its customers, but their power in also conveying trust to customers is failing.... The real concern is that, every day, brands strain the trust and credibility of customers by not doing what they say – or, in banking terms, words and figures do not match.

...Reading this book won’t give you all the answers – the authors would surely argue that you must work those out for yourselves in your own contexts – but it should stimulate some pretty searching questions about your approach to business, and illuminate the other side (arguably the real-life side) of the usual marketing perspective.
You can read the whole review (pdf) here.
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March 08, 2004

The volatile math of branding 

Here's another lesson in the volatility of the value of a brand - and the mathematics of relationships. As David Young points out
Still, the most amazing thing to me about the Martha Stewart story is that she risked and lost over a BILLION dollars in value of her own company to save about 50 grand in speculation on a medical stock. No wonder she's a former stock broker.
And thanks to David and to my namesake at Brand Autopsy for highlighting Roy Disney's daming comments on the Disney Brand
It is often said that our company's most valuable asset is the Disney name. You'll get no argument from me. I kind of like the name myself. But, in recent times, there's been a tendency to refer to it as the "Disney brand." To me, this degrades Disney into a "thing" to be bureaucratically managed, rather than a "name" to be creatively championed. And lately I've been seeing Mickey receive this treatment too, as well as Pooh and a lot of others.
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March 04, 2004

Sample 3 of the great questions from the big tent 

I am doing my MBA course in Marketing from one of the premier Institutes in ASIA.
I would like to know how can a Brand act as a risk reduction tool with respect to not only a consumer but also the company ?

How real world is the proposition that a corporation would allow every keyholder to participate in building the brand? From my own personal experience, much to my disappointment, I've seen brand building dictated from afar (foreign ownership) to a regional management approach that has left the decision unmade. And at worst, has left the employees frustrated, angry, confused and in a state of limbo. Clearly this cannot be good for a brand and what you propose is a wonderful idea. My difficulty here is seeing how you move from the hierarchical structure of corporate life (top-down) that seems to discount the role of those persons you would empower, and get past the ego-driven business model that, at least in my case, leaves the critical decisions unmade.
I started out to change the structures in our organisation with little result as this did not change behaviour where it matters most: CEO giving the good example, then I tried the grass roots approach with more success. Explaining my take on things at every opportunity, and introducing little steps towards change. Creating different learning environments for my colleagues for instance. Trying to alter the character of meetings. Making sure information that was normally not spread, even it wasn't in any way controversial or confidential, was readily available. Asking people time and again what it was that our company is about. The question is how long those small changes will last now I am in the process of changing jobs. The CEO is already actively breaking down some of the progress I made. Not very rewarding I can tell you
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