Rupert Brendon: Building the brands of tomorrow

Canada's business schools turn out graduates with BBAs to become future corporate leaders. Many choose to major in marketing, and can graduate without taking a single course in communications! Marketing is still being taught based on the four Ps, with nary a word about brands.

BY Rupert Brendon, principal with Toronto-based AD ROI and founder of NABS, the Cassies and the Marketing Communications Education Trust

Canada’s business schools turn out graduates with BBAs to become future corporate leaders. Many choose to major in marketing, and can graduate without taking a single course in communications! Marketing is still being taught based on the four Ps, with nary a word about brands.

Unilever would hire the graduates and then have to spend two years teaching them about brands. This realization motivated it to become the lead donor to the Marketing Communications Education Trust (MCET), the industry effort to establish Canada’s first university degree program in brand communication at Wilfrid Laurier School of Business and Economics. Only Laurier grasped the issues, and was innovative and entrepreneurial enough to collaborate with the industry to develop a curriculum.

Laurier is beginning to graduate the program’s first students, and the ripple effects should begin to have an impact on how marketing is taught in other business schools. If other universities emulate Laurier and focus their marketing curriculum on strategic brand communication, marketers and agencies will get graduates who will hit the ground running.

There is also room for improvement for those of us already working. Many professional qualifications require continuous professional development (CPD). In communications, the U.K. agency association IPA has embraced CPD and made it a requirement of membership. AFA in Australia has followed suit.

In Canada, there are as many courses available to communications industry professionals as there are trade associations and business schools with executive development programs. The ICA, ACA, CMA, AMA and so on all compete, representing different but overlapping industry sectors and creating educational silos. I would like to see these organizations collaborate to create the equivalent of the public relations industry’s APR. An APR can be earned by anyone with the relevant experience and expertise, regardless of the sector they work in: PR, marketing, government or

not-for-profit. An APR is valued and recognized ‘career-currency,’ regardless of the organization. Brand communication needs the equivalent. Generally accepted high standards of professional qualifications are the proof that individuals know what they are talking about and have the knowledge and experience to give advice and provide solutions that will work.

Rupert’s pick: Unilever

Unilever, undoubtedly, singlehandedly has done more to bring about radical change in Canadian brand communication. The consumer goods marketer has won the most Cassies (of proven advertising effectiveness), including two Grand Prix for Sunlight and Dove. They nurture their agency relationships, and demand and receive out-of-the-box thinking.

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