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March 29, 2004

Researching the Communal Loops of Communications 

What I hear you say? One reason why you are asking this question is that communications research is often short-cutted. It looks at immediate responses and fails to see what communal waves will be amplified.

I first learnt this in the 1980s when I tested markets in over 30 countries in projects commissioned by many of the world's bigest brand owning companies of that era.

Historically advertising researchers had:
focused on testing responses to a product brand's (USP) unique selling proposition but we found big brands impacted the (UOP) unique organisiing purpose of a company; the view you take leads to 2 entirely different calculuses of brand valuation that never meet. Wrong brand valuation has killed off at least 10 large companies to my personal knowledge.

Next we found that when multinational companies were rolling out brands across countries, they thought they only needed to measure the response of consumers; however when you measure societal responses you would change your marketing programs completely. It is societies/nations that permit a company's future evolution to be narrow or broad; and agian big global brands are now to be judged like media in their own rights with impacts on local cultures. People know that and yet remarkably few companies analyse that social responsibility. An extraordinary failing of leadership which is costing shareholders dear according to company chaoirman and risk expert Sir John Banham of Whitbread plc, and formerly director general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Next corporate identity experts set about making barnd promises internally and externally, and recall of these. But perhaps its more valuable to measure whether the walk matches the talk. Certainly this is the only way a company can audit the dynamics of all its intangibles as a whole relationship system of productivities and demands. And certainly if you make a promise and then visibly demonstrate no competence of keeping it , society will devalue your whole as fast as Andersen's brand vanished.

There are methods for doing these kinds of research: they look at system circles beyond the immediate object; they analyse consistency of connections; they work a bit like an investigative journalist would; and they dare to report back unexpected or bad news to leaders who dare to act on such feedback. This bad news inquiry process - who'd shoot the messenger? - may explain why this is the most undervalued family of methods in the communications profession, but now you know:- members of Chief Brand Officers Association are always ready to lend a hi-trust communications researcher a helping hand.
chris macrae
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