#REACH2014 – The Politics, Power and Values of Corporate Branding: David May ’80

(By ANEESH RAI)

“It’s not about the product, it’s also about the politics” stated David May, CMO of AIG. His talk, titled “The politics, power, and values of corporate brands” focused on the power struggles and challenges faced by corporate brands in maintaining their worth and influence, and the value of having that brand-name.  In the realm of corporate brands, where a company’s every move is closely scrutinized, “you have to think a step ahead of where the media is going” in order to manage the company’s reputation. Mr. May spoke from personal experience with AIG, which experienced a crisis of performance and faith after the financial disaster. But since then, AIG has recovered spectacularly, as has people’s faith in it.

Reputation is supremely important in every aspect of a company’s functioning. Mr. May spoke of how marketing people “desperately try to quantify the value of what we do” in order to maintain and improve their company’s name. Reputation influences investment decisions, and is intertwined with quality of management, financial results, and even a company’s overall competitive position. But how exactly is a brand, and its reputation to be valued? Mr. May shared one popular hypothesis, wherein the value of a brand is equated with the value of investment in that brand. But the real value can be determined by a company’s success, and to ensure that success, it is necessary to focus on many things apart from just the product or service that is produced. Companies need to think about what their audience cares about, and talk to people about their brand and why it should be important to them.  “Never be afraid to listen to the customer” as Mr. May succinctly put it, should be the mantra adopted.

In his closing remarks, Mr. May offered some advice for all budding entrepreneurs or marketing personalities. He spoke of the importance of perseverance, since “You will fail, and you will fall down, but sheer persistence will help you”, and when working across the globe, companies “Have to get out of their cultural biases in order to actually listen to your customers and figure out what they want.”

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