Jez Frampton is the global CEO of Interbrand Group, the leading global brand consultancy. In his 17 years with Interbrand, Frampton has partnered with clients from around the world—and in virtually every sector. He has also been instrumental in driving the growth of Interbrand’s widely respected Best Global Brands report. Under his leadership, Interbrand was awarded a Gold Design Lions award at the 61st Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France.
He is a member of the UK’s Marketing Society, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Market Research Society, the Design Business Association and the Institute of Directors. In an exclusive interview with Campaign India, Frampton speaks about a host of issues from brands indulging in valuation shopping, to AI impacting the future of the consumer goods branding.
Why is a valuation company dabbling into the business of creativity?
As a business, we started in the world of naming. That was 45 years ago. About 25 years ago, we invented valuation and that fascinated everyone around the world. It was a genuinely world changing idea that had a methodology that’s now enshrined in the ISO.
But to put it in context, the business is equally split between strategic thinking (consultancy services) of which valuation is a part and design and execution. A good strategic approach to market is by definition, creative.
How do you see Interbrand being described a decade later; as a design company that also does valuation?
As a platform we want to be known as the company that understands how brands create value. We grow brands and businesses. At the same time we also want to be known for bringing that to life creatively. From a competitive perspective, we can beat the management consultants. They can think in a straight line, but they cannot think around corners. And we can beat the ad agencies and other design houses because we can also think in a straight line. Our strategic capabilities and our design calibre is very strong.
But aren’t management consultancies now buying the creative firepower that they lacked?
Yes, the big four are buying the capability. But the one thing that I would like to say is that creating a culture where those two different ways of thinking can happily co-exist is not easy.
In the advertising world, the creatives tend to rule the roost. In management consulting, the suits rule the roost. A number of people have tried this in a different way. Making it stick over the long term is a lot harder to do. We welcome it, because it shows that in order to deliver good strategy, you have to execute. That’s how we feel. It also shows that it’s important for businesses to be doing this. It makes everybody better and makes brands more important.
In India valuation shopping is a problem. If brand owners do not get the desired valuation from one consultancy, they just go to others and shop till they get the desired value. What is the business doing to tide over this issue?
We have had this conversation in various parts of the world. For some reason, people want brand valuation consultancies to come up with the same answer. That’s a little bit like asking three investment bankers to make the same point of view about the value of a company. They would never be the same. In some cases, it would be widely different. That’s because of the way you look at the information you have, the assumptions you make and the skill and judgement.
If you are looking at the valuation of a business, there is only so far that you can go with the calculation. Then you have to take into account other factors. If you are in the ice cream business and there is global warming, is that a good thing for an ice-cream maker? These are probably things that you need to factor in. These are probably things that you should expect.
Going by the traditional brands versus the new-age brands, are the new-age brands rising phenomenally but might also burn out faster?
Who knows? Is Apple another Nokia? I don’t know. If Steve Jobs was alive, he probably would have said, “no chance”. Will Google continue to dominate our lives? Will Amazon kill the entire retail universe? Possibly.
There was an article which recently said that Amazon’s development spells the death of CPG (consumer products) branding, which is a pretty big statement to make. In other words, once Alexa is your friend and it decides that you need new milk or new washing powder, are you ever going to buy branded products again? Brand loyalty disappears.
These are not business changes. They are cultural changes. The rise of the AIs over the next 2-3 years is quite an interesting challenge. Your primary relationship will no longer be with Apple or with anything else. It will be with Alexa or Siri and she will do shopping for you. It’s a cultural and a generational threat and it’s definitely a threat to many, many businesses.
Is the combination of a simultaneous shift in culture, generational and technological, something that the world has never seen before?
That’s a big statement to make. But maybe because of the changes caused by the combination of AI and robots. Look at the car industry talking about autonomous driving combined with AI inside your car that can negotiate with restaurants or a cinema or whatever. Is it going to be as fundamental as the industrial revolution? It’s a big statement. But it could certainly be as big a development as the internet.
In positive ways it will enable us to do things that we were never able to do before as society, consumers and businesses. The downside is what do we do about people who do not have jobs, how will it affect our communities, what about the future for our young? All of these are some big fundamental questions that go with it.