Global Brands Adapt To Meet Changing Economic Climate

Luxury apparel and accessories company Louis Vuitton and global management services company Accenture have little in common except that both are keeping their marketing budgets intact despite the economy.

For Theresa Poggenpohl, metrics are her ammunition. "If you have been successful, [senior executives] are much more likely to listen. In March we launched a secondary campaign related to our image campaign; we got increased money based on performance. Management must know every dollar counts."

At Advertising Week's Best Global Brands Summit, marketing brass at the two companies and at Xerox and BMW held forth in general terms about the economy and how it is and isn't changing how they go to market.

"I think what we did at Mini and BMW is to challenge ourselves," said Jack Pitney, VP at BMW. "You have to ask yourself what you would do if it were your company."

Poggenpohl said measurement is key. "Measurement shows the value of marketing, especially when you have to cut spend," she said. "What I do doesn't correlate to a sale; we aren't selling consumer goods. We do sophisticated metrics around perception, consideration and preference of our brand. It's important because it helps management feel confident in the investments we are making."



Heather Vandenberghe, vice president of marketing for Louis Vuitton, said the company began selling products online for the first time last year and supported it with online advertising. "Our challenge was to create ads so compelling that we could build the brand online. Our challenge as a marketing team is making the medium work for us. We found success by focusing on a call to action."

The consumer home page is the hub of the company's entire marketing machine, per BMW's Pitney. "We will generate more than 225,000 leads annually on the web site; we track those leads to dealers and follow up. The Web is this wonderful place where you can explain who you are and what you're about and what you stand for: it's better than print, and TV because people will spend more time provided you are engaging with them."

He said that in the last three years, floor traffic at BMW dealerships has dropped a lot, although sales have increased. "There's a reverse correlation online. Traffic is way up online. Dealers tell us they are getting floor traffic, but [those coming in] are much more qualified--they know what they want; they've done the research. It's a whole shift, so even dealers are focusing more on the Web because it's the Web leads that are generating traffic."

Vandenberghe said Louis Vuitton was experiencing the same thing. "Sixty percent of people who visit our Web site are going into the store after doing their research online. They walk in and know what they want. Our average purchase has gone up since the Web site [launched]."

Pitney said marketing support for brand identity efforts means fighting for budget. "Marketers have to advocate for the brand within the company. In the end, we are brand advocates." He said BMW assesses consumer perception of the BMW brand quarterly in the top six U.S. markets. "The essence of that needs to be consistent with what the brand stands for. We all help form that brand impression--so we, as brand advocates, have to make sure everything we are doing supports that ultimate goal. Strong brands are better than weak brands, so we fight," he says.

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