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Press release: AIM's 1st Brand Lecture with Rita Clifton

The AIM Brand Lecture series provide a new forum for the sharing of the latest insights from the world of brands and from thought leaders who interact with it. Brand manufacturers share EU policy makers’ ambition to create sustainable and inclusive growth. The Brand Lectures hope to enrich the debate on Europe’s future and how different actors in society can shape it together. The first Brand Lecture featured British “Brand Guru” Rita Clifton CBE.


AIM’s inaugural Brand Lecture took place on 30 September 2014 in Brussels and the guest speaker at the inaugural Brand Lecture was British ‘Brand Guru’ Rita Clifton CBE. The keynote speaker was introduced by Laurent Freixe, President of AIM and CEO Europe of Nestlé, and Robert Madelin, Director-General of DG Connect of the European Commission.

Laurent Freixe introduced the inaugural Brand Lecture by sharing his view that consumer brand manufacturers have a role to play in supporting actively the foundation of the European project, which is, and has always been, about sustainable value creation. He highlighted the need to bring the young generation on board in order to boost Europe’s competitiveness and how youth unemployment is putting the future of our continent at risk. Economic recovery must be sustainable and inclusive, thus we need an all-of-the-society approach. AIM’s strategic plan is called Sustainable Growth through Trusted Brands. Each word is important but ‘trust’ is paramount. Brands need to do more and better every day to earn the trust of consumers. This would also be a relevant motto for Europe.


In his introductory remarks, Robert Madelin pointed out that brand manufacturers have valuable expertise to offer to the EU institutions. However, some decision-makers are not ready to listen to them because they do not trust the multistakeholder model and their perception of lobbying is that it represents narrow interests. About trust, he praised AIM’s joint initiative with BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, on common principles of consumer information. Such trust-building initiatives are crucial to reconciling European values and the market economy. Finally, Robert Madelin argued that the skills and jobs to engage not only with digital matters but with economic activity in general are missing for the youth of our continent. We have to recreate a pipeline of resilient, problem-solving and lifelong-learning citizens who can be assets for companies such as the ones AIM represents and for the European economy in general.


In her keynote speech, titled ”What’s branding got to do with the future of Europe?’‘, Rita Clifton shared her insights from the world of branding and suggested how ‘Brand EU’ could benefit from them.

One of the starting points of her lecture was that branding is the way – for the most part, the only way – of generating sustainable wealth and sustainable value. Many, however, do not understand the importance of branding and how it must be integrated into every part of an organisation. ‘’A clue I think is represented by an iceberg structure: people can get obsessed with the top bit, the name, the packaging and the advertising. It is however the stuff that lies beneath that makes the big difference. The visual parts need then to do that justice but it is the substance, the culture, the people, the systems and the vision that really drive an organisation’’, she explained.

Rita talked about the evolution of brand strategy and how business strategy and brand strategy are now one and the same, when they previously were separated. ‘’It is just what you do that helps you succeed in all of your markets, and seamlessly across all your operations, policies and decisions. If you are not doing this, any one of your people or touch points can be the weakest link, and particularly in the digital age where everything counts’’.

Taking examples from business leaders and brands in different sectors, Rita Clifton identified three key elements for a successful brand: clarity, coherence and leadership. ‘’The challenge is to ask yourself if you are clear about what your brand stands for, how that is different and better than the competition. On coherence you need to ask yourself how what you stand for shows in everything you do, across the customer experience, and in your internal to external culture. On leadership you have to ask yourself how your leaders symbolise all the best values of your organisation’’.

Regarding ‘Brand EU’, Rita pointed out that the main products people often see and feel from ’Brand EU’ are bureaucracy or directives, not things that they feel will be helpful to their lives. Rita underlined how exciting ‘Brand EU’ would become if one could instead capture some of the positive things that Europe is famous and known for: culture, art, beauty, diversity and sport, just to name a few things.

‘’How clear are we about what ‘Brand EU’ is about? How does that show in everything we do?’’, Rita Clifton concluded.

DOWNLOAD the full lecture here.



AIM’s next brand lecture will be hosted by MEP Virginie Rozière on 6 May 2015 in the European Parliament. Professor Alberto Alemanno will give a lecture on nudge and the use of behavioural studies for better policy making. Professor Alemanno will also explore how behavioural insights can be used to drive consumers towards more sustainable lifestyles. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation will make introductory remarks on this topic.