A look at football shows how this sense of urgency can be successfully institutionalized. As much as it pains me as a BVB fan, FC Bayern in particular shows in exemplary manner (unfortunately, when viewed through the black-and-yellow lens) how to remain constantly vigilant from a position of strength. Even after nine championships in a row, they don't just sit back and relax. Instead, they secure the defensive leader of the league's fiercest rival in good time - and shortly thereafter their coach as well. Their only serious problem comes when (ex-BVB) Robert Lewandowski takes one of his rare injury breaks.
The analogy to the dominant Munich football team suggests that successful brand management is first and foremost continuous training with permanent improvement and preferably not an emergency medical service. To stay with the metaphor, a brand refreshment or rebranding should not be a desperate change of coach three match days before the end of the season (HSV sends its unsuccessful regards), but a well-structured training camp to get fit for the title fight before the start of the season by developing a clear concept and working out the corresponding processes and structures – basic work that can be built on in the long term. But what is the best way to approach such a training camp?
First things first
The first step in any brand project is, of course, a careful analysis of the initial situation – the lactate test, so to speak: Where do the company and brand stand today? What are the strategic objectives? What are the core competencies? What about innovative capacity? Is the company still attractive and competitive as an employer? How can new customers be acquired? Is the business model fit for the future? And how can the brand contribute to optimally exploiting existing potential? Very important: In this analysis, the cultural perspective of the company must always be considered in addition to the strategic one. Is there a homogeneous, grown culture or are there internal subcultures - for example as a result of a merger? And is it possible that new impulses and activating elements in the self-image and culture are needed in order to continue to be successful in the future?
The strategy for the advancement of the brand must therefore be developed in the context of the corporate strategy and in alignment with the corporate culture, and the brand identity must be formulated as a target picture that can be staged outwardly in an authentic and attractive manner via performance, behavior, design and communications, and that mobilizes and motivates inwardly. The most important thing here is to bring the central ideas behind the further developed brand from the PowerPoint presentation into the heads and hearts of the people you want to infect with the brand – in a positive light, for a change. Because people, at least most of them, can be inspired by a brilliant idea and not by a 300-page business consultant's analysis with big goals in small letters, no matter how well-founded.
Why & Wow – or: the search for the spark of inspiration
You have to get to the heart of the matter with brand identity and find simple formulas. The difference to "classic" management consulting services is that beyond the analysis of the status quo and the derivation of concrete recommendations for action, we also take the step of emotional communication. The goal is to use clarity and creativity to condense the advanced brand identity into a spark of inspiration that makes abstract strategic concepts tangible and memorable for employees, customers and the public.
There are two perspectives to consider, at least when it comes to corporate brands: the internal and the external direction of the brand's impact. Internally, the evolved brand should mobilize the entire company in the direction of a common, identity-forming idea for the future – for some years now commonly referred to as a purpose ("Why") – which should also contain an aspect of corporate responsibility. Externally, the brand must be condensed even more strikingly, in a brand promise ("Wow") that sums up a clear, preference-creating customer benefit. Purpose and brand promise are thus two sides of the same coin, linked if necessary by a concrete, action-oriented mission and in any case by some (few) character-defining values which provide action-guiding orientation in the implementation of the purpose and delivery of the brand promise.
In terms of content and strategy, the task of a brand refreshment or rebranding therefore consists of consolidating the framework conditions, strategies and objectives formulated in the analysis into a new, relevant and differentiating formula that the company can actually claim in a credible manner. Great complexity must be compressed into a clear essence, a catchy phrase. This formula must take the entire organization on a journey and inspire concrete action steps, touch and motivate employees, and convince and fascinate customers. Examples of perfect essence communication can often be found in politics. And for good reason. Because here in particular, it is fundamentally a matter of bringing complex and multi-layered backgrounds down to a mobilizing core that remains permanently in the minds of as many people as possible – like Martin Luther King's "I have a dream," Willy Brandt's "Daring more democracy," or Barack Obama's "Yes, we can." Of course, a strong brand is much more than such an essence – but without a clear, inspiring idea as nucleus and impetus, there is no strong brand.
A shining example: LEDVANCE
The example of LEDVANCE illustrates how this claim can also be met at brand level. The lamps and luminaires specialist was spun off from its parent company OSRAM a few years ago and found itself in a difficult market environment as a supposed "bad bank". Against this background, together with a committed, multidisciplinary team on the client side, we set out to find the "spark" that would make the now independent company shine as a new brand. The strategic challenge for the company and the brand was to focus on its own strengths and make the best of the new situation – combined with both strategic and cultural further development. All this is reflected in the self-confident purpose we developed with and for LEDVANCE: "We redefine the role of light in a connected world". We supplemented this - especially for external communication – with the compact brand promise "Advancing light" and with the programmatic value statements "Winning together", "Striving for excellence" and "Breaking new ground", which have since become an integral part of the company's daily language.
Of course, powerful messages on a stable analytical basis are only one aspect of a successful brand refreshment or rebranding. Our Creative Director Sebastian Becker will soon discuss how design also plays an elementary role as a visualizer and emotionalizing element. But now it's your turn: Which companies or brands have successfully institutionalized the „sense of urgency" for you? Who regularly reinvents themselves and always stays true to who they are? What is your most catchy branding formula? And from your point of view, what has been a really inspiring brand refreshment or rebranding recently?
I look forward to your thoughts and views!
Truffle Bay is an owner-managed, integrated strategic brand consulting and design agency based in Munich. With clarity and creativity we help ambitious companies and entrepreneurs to discover, define, design and bring to life their unique identity – to create strong brands as the compass and catalyst of entrepreneurial change processes as well as attractive and differentiating brand experiences to win and retain customers and employees.
Truffle Bay is a member of bvik – Bundesverband Industrie Kommunikation e.V.