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A Master Class in Brand Planning Launch Event – Imagination Gallery, London October 2007

Book Cover

Neil is one of the top strategic practitioners who has contributed to a new book which showcases seminal articles by the late Stephen King, a leading intellectual and the founding father of advertising strategy and strategic planning. Neil was a guest panellist at the recent book launch.

I can’t exactly remember why I missed Stephen King’s paper on Brand Building in the 1990s when it was published first time round back in 1991 – which is truly annoying because when I finally got my hands on a copy my reaction, to be totally frank about it, was s***!

What Stephen said was that brands would evolve from being defined by products, to services and ultimately to organisations. Organisations not defined by their scale, structure or output but by their people - and more specifically by the dynamic culture their people created.

S***, because here, in black and white, was exactly the reason why I left the brand planning world – to help organisations grow their brands by closing the gap between their vision and the behaviour of their key people.

Except that King first laid down the challenge to agencies and clients alike some 16 years ago. Reading his paper, well it felt like I was finally coming home.

I was more than happy to share that cathartic moment with the audience gathered for the recent launch of A Master Class in Brand Planning: The Timeless Works of Stephen King, but I’m not sure that absolutely everyone in the room actually got it. And that’s exactly why King’s last published article, his epitaph if you like, remains so relevant today.

So here’s a second warning shot to blast across the bows of those in the marketing and advertising industry who chose to ignore Stephen’s parting challenge.

Today, as we move from push to pull economies, process is being displaced by people at the heart of business. This leads to a dramatic shift from hierarchical organisations to more fluid human organisms in which the talent of the business can flow to the point of greatest need.

In this new business paradigm, the potential of brands is unleashed by aligning the value of each person with the vision and values of the organisation.

This alignment and fluidity allows for a culture of productivity, innovation, localised decision making, knowledge and learning capture, transparency, interdependency and trust.

Had we as marketing and advertising fraternity paid more heed to Stephen’s advice at the time, I believe companies would not be looking so hard now for the suppliers/partners with the right skills set to help them succeed.

Many have taken the luxury of ignoring Stephen’s advice but from where I sit with my clients today, the time to act is now, Otherwise, the large global management consultancies will eventually acquire the necessary skills and further displace advertising and marketing from the top table in business.

Sure, some Super CMOs and Organisational Transformation consultancies are fighting for the same cause, but many more need to join to convince clients of their true value.

Back in 1991, Stephen King used his penetrating insight to give us plenty of clues as to how to proceed in order to meet the challenges. No better time than now then to finally begin the journey.

So here’s some practical advice:

The first thing you can do is read up on the subject. I recommend From Push to Pull: The Next Frontier of Innovation (McKinsey Quarterly 2005) and Authentic leadership development: Getting to the route of positive forms of leadership (The Leadership Quarterly 16 2005). These articles represent only one from each publication and there are many more worth a read.

The second and perhaps most important thing is to question your own behaviour and in particular the limitations you place on yourself.

Really think about your personal, inherent value. Answer the question, why me? What is it that differentiates you from your peers? How can you bring that unique value into work most of the time? What are the challenges you will face and what are your plans to overcome them?

Think of all this in the context of your ‘story so far’. Then project forward into your ideal world and write your ‘story to come’. Share both stories with those close to you professionally and personally. See how your stories affect them and also how they affect you.

Shape the company you work for around you, not the other way round.

Practice that behaviour and manage its implications and you will be in a position to advise your clients in response to their new demands and beyond the confines of your existing role.

To read more about Stephen King’s work, visit the room for the hacks new releases section of our website.

For further information about Cassie events, please contact Susann Jerry, telephone 07725 091814.

For further information about Cassie events, please contact Amy Seaman at The Media Foundry, telephone 020 7612 1170, mobile 07796 445691, email amyseaman@themediafoundry.com