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Branding comes before advertising says new WPP study

A gaggle of WPP companies – brand consultancies The Partners and Lambie-Nairn (we used to call them designers) and researchers Millward Brown – have been looking into the relative importance of branding and advertising.

This might be seen as akin to considering chicken and eggs, although it’s true that some companies have strong brands on the back of little or no advertising.

Their ‘Brand Value Growth Matrix’ global research report (based on WPP’s proprietary BrandZ data) purports to show that growth in brand value* is led by a strong brand proposition and identity. Also that great advertising drives significantly greater growth in brand value when supported by great branding, but is vastly less efficient when branding is weak.
Well-Known World Brand Logotypes

Key findings from the study are:

· Brands with a strong brand proposition & identity and strong advertising have increased their brand value by 168 per cent over ten years.

· Brands with strong advertising but weaker branding have grown in value by only 27 per cent compared to 21 per cent growth where both advertising and branding are weak.

· Growth in value of 76 per cent occurs where branding is strong and advertising is not.

Which presumably means that you can be pants at both but still grow your brand by 21 per cent.

Here’s a handy aide-memoire.

The Partners and Lambie-Nairn CEO Jim Prior says: “The data from the study enables brand owners to prioritise, plan and manage their brand building efforts more effectively, drive superior value into their brands and significantly enhance ROI.

“The most remarkable finding from this study is the extent of the brand value growth that comes from establishing a strong proposition and identity at the heart of a brand. The data clearly demonstrates that great advertising is, by itself, insufficient and inefficient – it needs to be underpinned by broader, deeper strategic and creative definitions. While brand consultancies have long argued this point in principle, this data clearly shows it.”

Some WPP ad agencies might not agree, so mind your back Jim.

But he probably has a point. One of the interesting things is about such surveys, and the marcoms business in general, is the way ‘brands’ have come to be seen as entities in their own right rather than products owned by someone.

In reality a brand is the combination of a product or service and what people think about it. It doesn’t just float around in the ether generating money, however skilful the brand consultants may be. My friend George Parker made this point recently – Branding Bullshit Bollocks! – in relation to Apple and the way Steve Jobs did things.

The full report is here.

*Brand value is the dollar amount BrandZ estimates a brand contributes to the overall financial value of a company.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.


  1. What a load of old bollocks… Coincidentally, here’s what I posted on AdScam yesterday…

    Branding Bullshit Bollocks!

    As a follow up to my last post about brand douchenozzelery, the news that Sir Jony Ive has been promoted to Chief Design Officer at Apple reminds me of the number times I have heard branding guru’s go on and fucking on about how Apple has put all its marketing efforts against building a “brand.” No, they may have incidentally built a great brand… But they have done it by building great products. I know for a fact that GodJobs would rip people a new arse if they described Apple as a great “brand.” No, he would insist, we are a great product company, and Jony Ive was an essential part of that operation. GodJobs did not believe in consumer research. He believed in himself. That’s why he gave consumers products based on his gut. Not something inspired by a dozen focus group fucktards eating M&M’s in a Mississippi mall sub-basement.

  2. OOOooops!!!
    Stephen… What a fucktard I am… Didn’t read the final para in the piece. Probably ‘cos I couldn’t get past the “Brand Value Growth Matrix.” Time for a drink.

  3. Stephen Foster

    I never read the last para either George – even though I sometimes write it.

    Best S

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