Is brand advertising dead?

Al Ries asked in his AdAge article if we had killed brand advertising.  In his view, the constant stream of brand extensions has resulted in product driven advertising or sub-brand advertising.

He cites examples such as Ford (and the Ford Focus), Crest and Campbell’s Soups.

I tend to agree with Al on this. More and more, the focus on advertising is on the sub-brand rather than the mother brand.  I think ultimately this come down to greed.

Take Volvo for example.  Back when I was a kid (80s/90s) Volvo was THE car for safety.  It didn’t matter if it was Model X, Y or Z – they were all safe.  However in the late 90s, early 00s the market got too small for them.  They wanted to sell more cars, make more money and that meant having to appeal to a new customer based, with new needs (that were not centred on safety) and therefore requiring new messaging.  Suddenly the brand advertising stopped because it wasn’t a universally appealing message, so the focus shifted to specific models and needs.

Parity of production and distribution within categories has also got to such a point where the battle is to maintain market share within categories and therefore the advertising efforts are aimed at driving product preference rather than brand preference.

And whilst product-specific advertising is by no means wrong, the difficulty is promoting an overall consistent message through the plethora of touchpoints available now (both within sub-brands and across sub-brands).  I’ve met countless clients who (as a result of so much expansion) no longer know what their business’ core message is because they’re so far removed from it.

Branding isn’t dead.  It is alive and well.  It is just much more intricate than ever.


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