COMMENT: Platform; Can PR change the fortunes of a brand?

A couple of years ago, a full page article in the Mail on Sunday created a huge stir in the skincare market. Thousands of pots of anti-wrinkle cream marched off the shelves, in fact, sold out all over the country.

A couple of years ago, a full page article in the Mail on Sunday created

a huge stir in the skincare market. Thousands of pots of anti-wrinkle

cream marched off the shelves, in fact, sold out all over the country.



Brand share points were gained overnight, never to be lost. One famous

high street retailer still refers to this ‘piece of PR’ as an example of

excellence in its immediate and lasting impact on sales and the status

of the brand.



So, would we claim that PR can change the fortunes of a brand, not just

in the long term, but overnight? And, if so, what are the ingredients

that make this possible?



One of the most esteemed chief executives of one of the most powerful ad

agencies in London is convinced that the role of PR in brand marketing

is in the ascendancy. He understands that blasting your sales pitch to

millions of people via expensive television advertising is beyond the

financial reach of most brands.



Small spenders urge their creative teams to mirror Haagen-Dazs or

Wonderbra to achieve column inches and the valuable third party

endorsement that only PR can bring.



For so many years now lip service has been paid to the benefits of

integrated communications. And yet, has it really progressed beyond the

expensive, time-consuming and now familiar ‘away day’ scenario? Client,

ad agency, PR and sales promotion teams - meet to chew over brand plans

with flip charts full of neat little diagrams to explode clients’

marketing strategies. Thought provoking they may be - and informative

too - but integrated? Not often.



To look for some answers we could turn to one of the most powerful

international industries - the car market. As cheeky newcomers from

countries of origin as diverse as the Czech Republic and Korea challenge

the mighty brand values of established favourites, they are stirring up

more than just car sales figures. At the moment the story behind

‘alternative marketing’ (that is the alternative to big bucks spent on

TV campaigns) in the car market seems to hold as much fascination for

Miss London and Company magazine as it does for Business Breakfast and

the Money Programme.



The starting point for an approach to alternative marketing is to ‘think

more and spend less’. And in my experience, that means much greater

rigour applied to the planning process. This, coupled with the

determination of brand managers and their agencies to test new theories

and challenge established communications practices, is increasingly

supported by an inalienable conviction - integrated communications are

not an optional extra.



Brands under pressure, no matter whether they have a more modest

marketing spend than major rivals - or because they are facing other

pressure like the growth in retail strength, can build and drive home

their points of difference through innovative communications.



It is in this environment that public relations really flourishes. At

last we can truly support the premise that PR can challenge and change

consumers’ views of companies and their brands as an equal partner with

advertising, direct marketing and promotions. This turnaround can

certainly succeed in the short-term, if not overnight, so long as the

client is bold enough to not just to believe in the power of public

relations but to invest in it properly too.



So where in all of this is our pot of anti-wrinkle cream? Well thanks to

strong brand values, and a real understanding of the power of editorial

to shape peoples’ views, the brand in question is becoming younger and

more contemporary as the years go by.



Diane VandenBurg is deputy managing director of Countrywide

Communications (London)



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