Thursday, September 18, 2008

Too big to fail

Image by emily-well-mannered

It’s dangerous for us advertising types to sound off about industries we know next to nothing about, but when has that ever stopped us? In fact, you could almost say that’s our business.

The news this morning that AIG has been adjudged to be too big to fail struck a sour note.

We’re glad there are people who can divine the difference between too big and not big enough.

What’s disturbing is that this is coming from an industry that has advised all of us to never put too much into one basket – to balance our portfolios.

So, AIG, a collection of mostly successful, profitable businesses, is pushed to the wall by one division. Their own portfolio was unbalanced.

And the financial industry as a whole has allowed a number of companies to become “too big” - in effect too much of our collective money has been placed in the hands of too few. The portfolio of the entire industry is unbalanced. Catastrophically so, it appears.

What can we learn from all of this, in our own small corner of the world?

Well, to us, it’s one more reason to embrace the brand molecule concept put forth by John Grant in his milestone (IMHO) book Brand Innovation Manifesto.

Having one, monolithic (love that word) brand communications idea is essentially unbalancing your communications portfolio. Much smarter to have a cluster of efforts, all working towards a common goal.

Obviously, the metaphor only goes so far. While a small investment portfolio can be balanced, a small marketing budget needs to be more focused. But somewhere into your brand’s growth, idea diversification becomes very wise business.

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