Breakaway brands with Fran J. Kelly III, CEO of Arnold Worldwide, Boston

It takes a huge marketing budget to build a breakaway brand, right? Nope. According to Fran Kelly it simply takes 'more guts, vision, leadership, collaboration and creativity. A breakaway brand can make a small budget bigger or a big budget more successful.'

It takes a huge marketing budget to build a breakaway brand, right? Nope. According to Fran Kelly it simply takes ‘more guts, vision, leadership, collaboration and creativity. A breakaway brand can make a small budget bigger or a big budget more successful.’

The author of The Breakaway Brand: How Great Brands Stand Out, was in T.O. recently for a Canadian Marketing Association conference on branding.

During his presentation, Kelly asserted that achieving breakaway status requires strong CEO leadership, a clearer understanding of your target and brand, and a great marketing campaign that everyone wants to be a part of. Also, ripping down silos is mandatory. ‘When an agency is successful inside a complicated organization, they build good working relationships within a lot of departments, and I’m a believer that if you have a good campaign, every department or division can be a partner,’ says Kelly, whose agency has worked on Jack Daniel’s, Royal Caribbean, and until recently, Volkswagen. ‘You fail when the agency ignores 80% of the company, [because] now you have 80% of the company waiting to fire you and bring in someone else. Breakaway branding is an attitude. Your company and people have it or they don’t.’

Strategy sat down with Kelly after his speech to hear more.

 

Is building a breakaway brand getting more difficult?

In general, the business is different – now the average CMO is in the role for 18 months, so with that and the quest for measurability, it’s harder to take a risk. In the old days, it was about building a relationship at the top – and that person preaching the gospel.

 

Is it possible to do effective work without CEO support?

At [Arnold client] Ocean Spray, the CEO isn’t necessarily a breakaway brander. But 15-18 months ago, he brought in a CMO from Hasbro, Ken Romanzi, who came in as COO with a fresh perspective. Just with one new person like that in the mix, we’ve been able to get to a very exciting campaign, called ‘Straight From The Bog.’ It stars these two Broadway actors, one old, one young, and they stand in the bog, knee-deep in cranberries. It’s different, it’s true to the brand, but it’s very modern and fun at the same time. And it’s also very ‘integratable.’ They just did an annual grower meeting where we created a bog. The growers were allowed to come up and wade into the bog and get their pictures with these guys. So it’s not just an ad campaign, it’s a brand rejuvenation vision.

In the first year, sales rose 8% for the first time in 10 years, and this year, it looks like we’ll go another 5%. And the CEO is now a great champion of the campaign, but he needed a little help. There has to be somebody who gives you permission to go for great, partly because it usually takes a year or two to get there, and you don’t even know that you’re onto a great success story for a little while.