Michael Brandtner

03/05/2009

Brand Strategist

May 2009

Michael BrandtnerWe caught up with Michael at the Styria Digital Congress in Austria where he was talking about the changing nature of branding. Brandtner is a leading thinker on brand strategy (and lives in Rohrbach, Austria). He’s an Associate of Ries & Ries (www.ries.com) and a vocational lecturer at the Graz University of Applied Sciences (Campus 02). He consults with national and international companies such as Dr. Schwabe, Neuburger, Internorm, Kodak, Müller-Milch, Wagner Pizza/Nestle or Unger Steel. We also enjoyed his book “Brandtner on Branding” that applies Darwin`s theory of evolution to the world of marketing and branding. Beside his consulting work he is a frequent speaker on the topics of branding and positioning. His website: www.michaelbrandtner.com.

60 seconds with Michael Brandtner

Digital Thought Leader


What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen online recently?

The coolest thing – in my opinion – is still the simple and down to earth design of Google.

What most excites you about digital marketing?

The interactivity! Most of the traditional marketing tools are “one way” communication tools (TV, Radio, Newspapers, …). They lack the chance for people to take part in the conversation. The Internet is different. It is a mass medium and it is an interactive medium. That really changes the way of communicating with customers or clients.

What was the ‘ah!’ moment for you – the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business…

It was when I realized the power of the internet in building personal networks – for me that meant building my own brand as a brand consultant. In this context my absolute hero is Mr. Karsten Kilian, the founder of Markenlexikon.com, the leading website on branding in Germany. He is the perfect networker in the internet and perfectly building the brand “Markenlexicon.com” and his own brand as a leading brand expert.

What do you say to senior directors who just don’t get it, senior directors who treat digital channels as a minor add-on?

I try to convince them with a lot of examples. But I think it is not enough to talk with senior directors to convince them. It is really a PR game. You digital guys should write as many articles as possible about digital media, you should do as many speeches as possible, you should write as many books as possible, do as many studies as possible. That`s the best way to convince those senior directors. Let`s build the digital media brand with PR, PR and PR!

What’s the difference in thinking managers need when their firms enter this space?

I do not think that manager should think differently entering the web. They should think about the new possibilities, especially in brand building and building relationship with their customers. They should have an open mind. In his book The Reengineering Revolution Michael Hammer calls human beings` innate resistance to change “the most perplexing, annoying, distressing, and confusing part” of reengineering. I think that is also the main problem of the Internet. Many managers try to ignore it, because they don`t want to change their thinking. Or as John Kenneth Galbraith once said: “Faced with the choice between changing one`s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” I think it is all about having an open mind, to try a lot of things, to learn a lot of things and to make also some mistakes.

Most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?

I think that the most common mistake is that too many marketing and advertising people still think in 30-second-television spots. The Internet is different. You have to think more like an editor than like a classical marketing or advertising guy. In they internet it is not enough to be creative. You really have to be interesting and relevant.

If you could go back in time to a key ‘digital moment’, where and when would it be?

I had my first website back in 2001. Today I think that I should have started my own web presence five years earlier.

Where do you spend your time most online?

My favourite websites are AdvertisingAge.com, Absatzwirtschaft.de, Google.at, Amazon.de and Markenlexikon.com.

Digital channels a step-change in communications or simply a natural progression in marketing?

The internet is the most revolutionary new medium of all time, because of its global presence and its interactivity. But it is still only a medium.

How do you see social media changing marketing?

There will be no change in the basic marketing strategies, but there will be lot of change in the successful implementation of these marketing strategies.

Take warfare! The basic strategies in warfare have not changed since Alexander the Great or Carl von Clausewitz. We still have defensive warfare, offensive warfare, flanking warfare and guerrilla warfare. That is the strategic level. But war itself on the battlefield has changed dramatically due to new weapons like the machine gun (World War I), the tank or the aeroplane (World War II). We see the same development in marketing. The basic strategies are still the same since the 1950ies, but first TV and now the Internet have changed the implementation dramatically. The most changes I see are in the process of brand building. Most companies still think that one should build brands with a huge advertising budget. But that does not work anymore. If you want to be economic today you will build brands with PR. In this case big established companies can learn a lot from the so called start up companies. Brands like Microsoft, SAP, EBay, Amazon, Google, Botox or Ryanair were all built without a big advertising budget. They were all built with a lot of favourable PR that started a lot of discussion in the outernet and today also in the Internet. In our opinion you build brands with PR and you maintain brands with advertising. PR is the nail to get your brand and your brand message inside the mind of the customer. Advertising is the hammer to keep your brand and your brand message inside the mind of the customer. Ryanair was built with PR. Today Ryanair should invest in a massive advertising programme to defend its position as European`s leading low fare airline. But to use the full power of this approach it is not enough to shift your communication budget from advertising to PR or to digital media. You really have to develop a PR-driven brand strategy. You have to have a first idea. A lot newspapers and magazines wrote about the first internet book store. (Amazon.com). Nobody is writing about the second internet book store. Do you know who is the number two internet book store? I don`t know. Google as number one search machine is hot. Who remembers Cuil.com? They claimed to have the better search machine. But that is not interesting. The same thing will happen to Bing. The main rule in successful brand building is: “It is better to be first than to be better.” And that is also the best way to get great PR and a great discussion in the outernet and in the Internet. People are interested in news not in companies that are claiming to be better than the competition. So you really have to develop a brand strategy with a powerful news-factor in order to build a powerful brand with PR, PR and PR and a lot of discussion in the outernet and in the internet. The Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 may be better and more powerful than the generation before, but the Nintendo Wii was and is really new and different. That`s the way to build a powerful brand. The same goes for the iPod. And who remembers Zune?

How does consumer generated content sit with traditionally authored and published content, what’s the relationship?

The main problem is that companies have no control over consumer generated content. And at the same time consumer generated content has more credibility than company generated content. That will be a big challenge for many companies in the future, because as in the outernet also in the internet bad news is good news, not for the companies, but for the people who are generating the content. Badmouthing a company can make one a hero in the internet community. So as long as traditionally authored and published content and consumer generated content have the same message everything is great. The problem starts when the consumers write other things than the company people. It is as always in life. You can`t have the honey without the flies. That means: You really should always monitor the internet in order to react very quickly to bad consumer generated content. That will be a big issue for companies in the future.

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation: brand/marketing, agency, technology team, other?

I think top management together with brand/marketing and the technology team should own digital strategies in an organisation. They have to work together, being supported by agencies and consultants.

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