Fulfilling the brand promise
Jan Jizelle Ang is the hair care category leader of Procter & Gamble (P&G) Philippines. She used to be the country marketing manager of P&G China and is a three-time P&G key manager awardee, a recognition given to the top 10 percent of P&G brand managers globally.
A Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards winner in 2017, Ang turned around numerous P&G brands across regions and categories via sustainable brand model solutions, which she expounds on here.
Q: What are sustainable brand model solutions?
A: From the word ‘sustainable,’ these are interventions that a brand can keep, maintain and defend for a longtime period; to achieve its purpose and role for the company/customer/consumer. These are interventions that can either be simple or complex—but ultimately addresses a fundamental problem that the brand is perennially trying to solve—usually on establishing a winning market proposition.
Q: The market is dynamic. What makes the model sustainable?
A: Market dynamism is a constant, but oftentimes it is also distracted by two phenomena: trends and hypes. A good brand manager needs to identify which is which, and strategize what the brand’s position will be when the phenomenon arises. That said, 10 years in the industry has taught me that it will always be a balancing act of these three pillars:
1. Mandatory to protect your core business – ensure that this is truly a strong foundation, since this is the bank where you get your cash flow from.
2. Attach to trends that can be big for your brand – Balance innovation versus what your brand purpose/equity is. A trend may be determined big, but if it does not help your brand positioning long-term, you shouldn’t get into it.
3. Activate hypes only when your business is healthy – Hypes are typically short-lived and entail a lot of energy as these drive tactical executions more than anything, so invest only when your structure allows for this extra effort.
Q: What have you discovered as common reasons why brands get in trouble?
A: There are three common pitfalls I observe:
• Brands are not clear with their purpose. This lack of clarity makes brands vulnerable to tap into even the nonstrategic/nonbrand building executions. There is a high chance to get attracted to what’s sexy, which oftentimes just end up to be a waste of money.
• The second biggest mistake is that brands give up too early. Most of sustainable brand solutions take time, but arguably, it is also the best dipstick as to whether the intervention will also last long/ not a band-aid.
• The third biggest mistake is to sacrifice profitability. If the business is not profitable (or doesn’t have a line of sight to be profitable via top-line growth), suggestion is to look again at the operational structure first and make that work.
Q: You have used the sustainable brand model in turning around brands across regions and categories. Where do you start? What is the “secret sauce”?
A: The secret sauce I think is generating that discipline to finding the right problem and the right solution.
• Step 1: Be the brand expert. There should be no other person who knows your brand better than you, which also means that you need to know which will drive your business the most to the least. This business knowledge will eventually allow you to be [more prudent] on resources and efforts.
• Step 2: Be rigorous in finding that fundamental problem. Never stop until you find the why to the “why” to the “why.” I’ve always told myself, if the solution was that easy, it shouldn’t be the answer (because someone else before me should’ve figured it out). Use your brand knowledge to guide you and merge that with your gut.
• Step 3: Know your brand health by heart. Health defined by both profitability (ability to invest) and equity position in the market. Reality is that we cannot do everything—not because we have limitations—but because it’s a brand manager’s job to not make the brand about everything.
• As a last check, you should also know the sufficiency of plans. Never go with a short-changed plan, because that is as good as launching with a failed plan. —CONTRIBUTED
Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc.
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