Deja Vu can be irksome – niggling at you especially when you cant recall where you’ve seen something before & finally when it hits you… well.

I am watching the global leader of a super brand present her brand’s essence/ footprint. She is taking the assembled group through what the brand stands for globally. This group contains experienced managers from various parts of the clients global network who have worked on the category/ brand and are ‘huddled’ here to develop a roadmap to revive & resurrect the brand.

I am working at one of their affiliated research agencies, and my presentation is supposed to be the first one where my team and I summarise all the market learnings across various research studies.  But as I am setting up, the global manager decides to do a short introduction and take us through the brand in a five minute capsule and what it means globally.

She’s one of the finest presenters I have seen and its very clear she’s passionate about the brand and I know this is going to be one hell of an act to follow.   As I am looking at the slide she’s referring to cant help getting this strong sense of Deja Vu.  Now I have seen nearly many kinds of frameworks for brand imprint/ footprint/ dna/ essence etc. there can be and so this isn’t about the framework.

And then it strikes me, …and I need to cough loudly and reach for the water to mask my ‘laugh out loud’ moment.

That slide about this brand reminds of ‘the sheriff’, one of the interns from a research agency  I’d worked at (in a different region) a long time ago when this brand framework was just introduced.  He was called sheriff because of the Clapton song and the name stuck and he was one of the popular kids with a very whacky sense of humor.

When the brand framework was introduced the local client  made a desperate request to the qualitative research teams to help them fill up & create the local brand imprints. The qualitative research team was headed by a true Diva – a renowned expert.  She agreed to help out for the brands her teams handled, even though she and team were seeing this framework for the first time when it was emailed to them.

This took place just before the beginning of the holiday season when nearly everyone including clients, staff, every member of our agency would go on leave for about two weeks.

After sending the initial brand imprints the head of qualitative got another desperate call asking for help on more brands – ones our agency rarely worked on (as they are assigned to a competitive agency). After a lot of wrangling she gave in and warned them that she was  going on leave and assigning this to an intern (i.e. the sheriff) who’d send them a ‘draft’ version which needs to be vetted by the client and worked upon. The client agreed.

I was also going on my vacation and before leaving looking around as the office has emptied and not many folks to say goodbye to. I meet ‘Sheriff’ who seems knee deep in work. He tells me he needs to finish these brand footprints before he leaves the agency. He’s going to get married soon as his girlfriend has given him an ultimatum (‘must have knocked her up’ he says).  But first I’ve got to finish this he says and recounts to me how this landed on his lap.

And he’s being as creative as he can be about it (‘and anyways I am leaving’).  He tells me in graphic detail & using his hands, some of the ideas and experiences the consumer has when s/he is using the product which frankly cannot be published or discussed in mixed company. I can’t help suspecting that he will however manage to suggest it slyly as he writes different elements of the brand essence.

And frankly its howlarious if you can ‘see’ it.  I am trying to imagine how the client is likely to miss this and if anyone will get this at all.

Cut back to the present where I cant help the feeling that what the global brand manager is presenting so passionately is what was written by the sheriff – well, at least some elements of it. There were some turns of phrases and terms he used and mixed, which were unique and memorable, and I think its his work but cant say for sure.

But if it were true, all it tells me is that this was passed by the regional client (and its advertising agencies and planning teams) straight to the global HQ and all of them accepted and adopted it. And while the framework has been modified across the years, the content in the cells remains the same for this brand.

I complete my session and decline their offer to stay back for lunch. My team and I are joined at the lift by the head of customer insights from the client side. I ask her why she’s not staying back for the full session?

She tells me plainly that she and her teams were not required there as  ‘No one thinks the market research teams can contribute anything to brand strategy…’



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