From bean counters to brand champions
In the early 1990s, Ford Motor Company embarked on a massive internal branding project. The project involved articulating the brand’s promises for the corporate brand, car brands and car models of each brand. There was a huge 3 day employee event held at Cobo Hall. As part of the event, each employee received a newly drafted marketing manual. The brand project manager was the CFO.
When this author joined McDonald’s as Global Marketing Director, my biggest supporter was CFO, Matt Paull. He understood that the way you run your brand is the way you run your business. Mr. Paull recognized that brand management is business management. From the CFO’s perspective, the strength of the McDonald’s business rested on the strength of the McDonald’s brand. Keeping the McDonald’s brand relevant in the minds of customers was essential for sustainable and profitable growth. Matt Paull was one of the biggest promoters of the McDonald’s brand.
While some financial services have been complicit in the ugliness of financial engineering, many branded companies have benefited from CFOs who are brand champions. These CFOs understand the absolute necessity of investing resources in their brands. For this to happen, however, financial services must be fully involved in running the brand business. The effective management of the brand business is not an academic exercise. It makes commercial sense.
Some say CFOs see brand marketing as a bottomless pit where money is going to die. Some people see the finance function as just about reducing costs. But, these ideas are outdated stereotypes. The CFO is the financial conscience of the brand.
In response to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, a finance official said, “We used to be the bean counters. Today we need to understand how the beans are grown, how they are harvested, how they are brought to market, so that we can provide advice in addition to insurance. It is no longer enough for the company to know how many grains it has.
Finance helps ensure that brands focus their resources on the strategies and activities that really matter. In 2002, Matt Paull knew that McDonald’s needed to become more efficient in allocating resources, improving productivity and investing in new restaurants. But he also knew that McDonald’s needed to invest in modernizing existing restaurants, increasing the quality of innovations, and revitalizing McDonald’s brand communication.
There are several definitions of the word “finance”. This makes sense in the current context of branded companies: “finance” means “the management of a mass of money. In other words, “finance” helps ensure that branded companies properly manage their limited supply of money.
We also often hear that the CFO only cares about the bottom line. And, yes, being profitable starts with improving productivity and eliminating waste. The more effective brands become, the more resources branded companies will have to devote to these critical brand building activities. However, to ensure profitable bottom line growth, CFOs know that brands need to have quality bottom line revenue growth.
As the corporate financial conscience of a branded company, CFOs and their finance departments have a responsibility to optimize the allocation of limited resources for those items that will build brand preference. As brand preference increases, customers will buy more often. As brand preference increases, price sensitivity decreases. Building a brand preference pays off.
Market segmentation based on needs and opportunities is a fundamental marketing construct. The finance department can help you by answering questions such as:
What is the financial size of the opportunity for each brand?
Where are the white spaces?
What are the priorities ?
A marketing partnership with finance helps ensure that branded companies allocate resources to the right geographic markets and to the right brands in the right market segments based on needs and opportunities. The real challenge for the CFO is making sure to focus on the things that will really make a difference. Finance is the filter to help us prioritize.
A Q2 2018 study by Deloitte (a global professional services company) of 172 CFOs showed that the CFO’s role had expanded to areas such as business planning, strategic planning, business technology, information, data management, purchasing, risk management, compliance and other operational aspects. the functions.
The coronavirus has added to the responsibilities of the chief financial officer. As one CFO described it, being on top of operations has become essential. CFOs, he said, learn quickly. CFOs need to be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. By using technology for things like forecasting, capital management, and efficiency across supply chains, finance is paving the way for organizations to become more data-driven. According to a company’s chief accounting officer and global controller, “we are able to leverage access to data and our functional expertise to help drive strategy and inform business decisions.”
In the future, brand business planning and financial processes must become so integrated that business management and brand management are inseparable thoughts. Revenue, cash flow, profit margins, ROI for all stakeholders depend on having strong, powerful, preferred and growing brands.
Beth Kaplan, Managing Director of the Center for Controllership, Deloitte & Touche LLP, said: “The added value that controllers and other financial leaders can deliver to their organizations comes from providing proactive and predictive information rather than historical information. transactional and reactional. “
Marketers are passionate about being the voice of customers for brands. Finance is the voice of fiscal conscience. CFOs and finance keep brands from straying on the wings of our hopes. Finance is the guiding and stimulating inner voice while marketing builds brand preference. Often these two voices contradict each other. It’s a healthy debate. Too often, passion can hinder the best strategies.
With the passionate conviction of branded business leaders combined with the awareness of strong financial discipline, branded businesses will move forward in generating profitable and sustainable growth.