Every “man and his Mac” is purporting to be a ‘brand agency/specialist/consultant, etc.', and many organisations are being offered short-term tactical solutions to long-term strategic challenges. At Interbrand Sampson we are regularly asked, “what is it that you do?”
Well, we develop brand strategies - yes, we do research and modelling, yes, we also do tons of design, (from graphic, to packaging, to electronic, to architecture, to retail, to corporate communications etc. etc.), yes, we provide IP services and align staff with the brand internally and we're well known for our brand performance metrics like valuations. But we're not only a design company, a research company, a strategy company, a training company, a communications company…
OK, but really, what do we do?
Well, we have a unique presence in all the key territories in Africa, we employ the smartest business/brand strategists and designers, we speak over 18 languages in our local offices alone, we partner with more than a quarter of all global Interbrand offices on African projects every year, we break down industry barriers by working with leading business consulting firms and other industry agencies - seamlessly and effortlessly (and critically, to our client direct benefit), we use SME'S (Subject Matter Experts) which ensures that we deliver intelligent solutions without learning at our clients' expense.
But still, all of the above is not what we do, they are tools, it is what we use to do what we do, which is very simply...
We close the gap between the business strategy and the market touchpoints.
For us branding is about the organisation's strategic goals and its ability to match the markets expectations - at every touchpoint - simple. We do this by understanding the macro-environment locally and globally. We do this by understanding the drivers of business strategy. We do this by clearly understanding the market touchpoints impact.
And finally, we analyse this through key brand analytics and metrics, applicable to multiple organizational touchpoints - Brand ROI, organisation behavioural alignment, Marketing spend optimisation, Trademark registrations etc.
Interbrand, in conjunction with the Economist magazine has just produced the second edition of the publication Brands and Branding. Writing the preface, Patrick Barwise is the emeritus professor of management and marketing at the London Business School. This is how he starts: “The past few years have seen the apparent triumph of the brand concept; everyone from countries to political parties to individuals in organisations is now encouraged to think of themselves as a brand. At it's best this means caring about, measuring and understanding how others see you, and adapting what you do to take account of it, without abandoning what you stand for. At its worst it means putting a cynical gloss or spin on your product or your actions to mislead or manipulate those you see to exploit. These are hardly new ideas. What is new is the ubiquitous and often confused use of branding terminology to describe them.”
This is highly informative for a few reasons, one being Professor Barwise's title: - Professor of management and marketing. That is exactly how we at Interbrand Sampson have seen it for some time. The symbiotic relationship between the business of management and the business of marketing. Some within the world of FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) such as Procter & Gamble and SAB Miller place brands and their marketing as the starting point, aligning the management of them to form the business strategy. Another key point is that everything and everybody has the potential to be branded and are therefore brandable. But that does not mean that all that strive for brand status achieve this position, far from it. And the very fact that so many claim to have jumped on the brandwagon should be a warning to all.
Interbrand Sampson has roots going back to January 1973 as Jeremy Sampson Associates (JSA) was formed in Johannesburg, whilst in London, John Murphy was setting up Interbrand in 1974. In those days neither of course were branding agencies, it was much too early for that. JSA was known as the thinking man's design company, focusing on major corporate identities (SAB, IBM, Nedbank etc.) and award winning annual reports (Edgars, Tiger Brands, Nedbank etc.), whilst Interbrand started as a naming agency, but with the realisation that the DNA of a company or product had to be defined before the naming process could begin (Ford Mondeo, Zeneca, HobNobs biscuits etc.) Today the Interbrand Group is 1300 people from a multidisciplined background of professionals, with nearly 40 offices in over 30 countries. Interbrand Sampson Group is four offices: Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya and Cape Town with the hub located in Johannesburg.
Interbrand Sampson believes in the power of being a trusted advisor. We are a unique mix of professionalism and intimacy. We find ourselves fulfilling the consultant role, understanding business strategy, detailing brand strategy and transforming this into creative solutions. Hence our core value being a reflection of the right and left brain thinking: Intelligent, Imaginative and Inspiring. In line with these principles we have recently restructured the business into consulting teams focused on a specific geographic region. All of our staff are strategic consultants, we do not provide client service, only considered strategic and creative solutions.
Many have been writing this year about the recessionary times we live in, but that is a little like closing the door after the horse has bolted. After all the recession bit in the USA in September, over six months ago. Last year already, we developed a programme ‘Brand-to-hand Combat™' which has created huge traction.
Interbrand Sampson came about in 1994, and immediately took off. Major projects included taking the Sasol symbol (designed by Trademark) and then over three and a half years, establishing it as a brand, activating and managing the process. However, being confined territorially to Southern Africa created some tensions as other competitors launched out into Africa. Finally in late 2006, it was decided that Interbrand Sampson had to be allowed to change, and Doug de Villiers joined and set up - as it was then - Interbrand Sampson Africa. As a direct consequence, this new chapter has seen the group of what is now four offices grow in leaps and bounds, 80% in '07, over 50% in '08, and in what could be an even more challenging period, projecting over 70% in '09.
The spectacular growth for '09 is expected following structural changes creating the Interbrand Sampson Group, with Sampson as Group Executive Chairman, de Villiers as Group CEO and Christopher Koller as Group Managing Director. There are separate companies for West Africa, chaired by Foluso Phillips, East Africa with Richard Mukoma as CEO, and South Africa (51% black empowered) with Managing Director Ms. Nana Nkosi. Another company, Interbrand Sampson Inside, focusing on brand engagement, is managed by Ms. Angela Bruwer.
The business of branding is now very much centre stage when the business of marketing is discussed. Those in business not totally at home with the term ‘brand' are comfortable with terms such as ‘reputation management'. Whatever! Business strategy must always be firstly defined, and then converted into touchpoint activation. At Interbrand Sampson we are a local resource of global best practice throughout Africa.