• Transform magazine
  • July 30, 2021

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Are you merely talking transformation, or really transforming your brand?

Ash Banerjee Headshot

Ash Banerjee, executive strategy director CEEMEA at branding agency Landor & Fitch, writes that for brand transformations to be meaningful and impactful, they must be data driven. Banerjee argues that a baseline of data will give brands and its advisory partners a good sense of the brand’s point of departure, a sense of the gap between its reality and ambition, and the trajectory of travel for the future.

Year after year, we see many brands in the MEA region talking about their ‘transformations’. However, deeper scrutiny typically reveals a brand evolution expressed through an identity and design uplift, sometimes without an underlying brand positioning review and evolution. Usually accompanied by an internal brand update and an external splash of PR and advertising. High on fanfare, low on substance.

To us, that’s a bit like hearing someone say, “I’ve just had a face-lift, and now I’m a better version of myself.” Would you put your hand on your heart and label that a real transformation? We wouldn’t. Transformations must be deeper – more fundamental, more meaningful, and more impactful. And to be able to do all that, they need to be data driven.

We believe it’s time for major brands looking to move to the next level to consider the right approach to transforming their brands. In a time when brand control is devolving away from brand owners to their constituencies, cosmetic makeovers aren’t enough anymore; therapeutic evolutions are the order of the day. And they must be holistic and organisation-wide, because you can’t say that you’re a markedly better organisation if your identity and marketing have improved but your experience hasn’t and your HR, legal, procurement and finance functions are still operating with a decades-old institutional mindset.

Brand isn’t what you say you are, it’s who you are... across every touchpoint, every interaction and every experience with every one of your stakeholders. What brands say and how they act must be coherent; if they’re not, then the dissonance will be clear, the gap between a brand’s promise and its delivery will become evident, and you should brace for reputational impact in the long-term.

So how should a business go about a brand transformation effort, ideally?

It should start with a baseline of data: how you’re doing on multiple fronts will give you and your advisory partners a good sense of your brand’s point of departure, as well as a sense of the gap between your reality and your ambition, and the trajectory of travel for the future.

From there on, it’s about defining a new brand positioning: one that you can credibly own and rally your people around to deliver as brand experience, because that’s what really matters to your stakeholders. At this point it’s always good to dimensionalise the various organisational demands your new brand positioning will make of your culture, your business functions, and your people. Plan out how you’ll need to evolve your culture, modify your processes and train your people to deliver on your new positioning.

In some instances, it might be necessary to test alternative brand positionings to determine which has the most potential to deliver optimal financial performance for your business.

Only then do we get to identity: how best to express your new brand positioning visually and aurally, and this too is testable for appeal, likeability, and impact.

Then we move on to how the brand behaves experientially. The experiential aspects matter far more these days, especially if you’re in a service business – because how you treat me matters far more than what you look like, what you say to me, and how you say it.

This gets us into the two most critical aspects of your brand transformation effort: designing the brand experience across the entire customer journey and designing the brand culture and employee experience which will enable successful delivery of the desired brand experience across all aspects of your business.

Your brand assets, programmes, and other efforts need to be deployed and managed optimally, so you’ll also need a brand guardianship framework with guidance on structuring and measuring brand performance. Ergo, we have to talk numbers again: the right way to track the post-transformation progress of your brand entails defining and tracking the right battery of metrics to measure how well you’re delivering your brand experience internally and externally, and how your brand’s performance is tracking on other key dimensions. 

In summary, this is a simplified high-level walk-through of a typical brand transformation programme. We do many of these in the region (you might have seen some of them awarded at Transform MEA over the years) and around the world every year, and we’d be delighted to help you with yours.