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Gap’s demise is a warning to any CMO who says ‘the customer is in control of my brand’

The Drum 05 Jul 2021 10:00

It’s time for marketers to take back control, warns Sid McGrath, chief strategy officer at Wunderman Thompson.

The sad news that Gap has shuttered all of its UK stores serves to highlight just how much the retail world has changed. Many of us remember how, in its heyday, Gap ploughed budgets into bold TV campaigns and ground-breaking creative to wide acclaim.

It was indeed a simpler world back then.

But, that said, the root problem behind the death of any brand is, more often than not, fractured brand syndrome. The sheer quantity of communication channels, touchpoints, data points and routes to market today means that brands have become sliced and diced, diluted and lost; sometimes to the point where there is nothing left.

And, with today’s retailers forced to navigate enormous, and continually expanding, marketing ecosystems, it is increasingly difficult to communicate a brand coherently. This complexity has resulted in unparalleled confusion for the customer too. In a recent survey we found that only around one third (34%) of customers felt the connections between the different parts of a brand were consistent.

This lack of consistency and control spells bad news.

Indeed, our survey showed that, in the grocery sector, for instance, only 20% of customers felt the connections between the different parts of a brand across different channels or the buying journey were consistent. Rarely is sufficient time spent in ensuring that employees know why the brand exists and how it operates. What this adds up to is a loss of control for marketing as it struggles to stay in charge of the brand – probably the single most valuable asset on the balance sheet.

Marketers have to be in control of their brands. That’s their job.

This single brand view has to sit at the epicenter of experience. It’s how we wish the brand to be witnessed, considered and engaged with.

With all that in mind, here is a four-point survival guide:

Alternatively, of course, you could decide the customer controls your brand, and assume that it’s their job, not yours.

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