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By Tom Adams, Senior Consultant, Dragon Rouge London
When we start working with an organisation to either create a new brand or to evolve an existing one, there are a lot of different considerations that are often brought up.
Keeping it simple. Including perspectives from inside and outside the business. Aligning the process to existing organisational programmes. Engaging employees in the journey. Bringing different business functions like operations, marketing and HR together.
They’re all important aspects that we always have a point of view on, and which can mean different things for each brief. But the one we hear that is probably the most misunderstood is the need to ensure any and all work is “futureproofed”.
It’s not surprising that the idea of futureproofing is such a key issue for clients. An often sizeable amount of money has been signed off for brand, something that many organisations aren’t always focused on, and they want that money to be a one-time spend that sets them up for as long as possible so they don’t have to spend it again.
“But what if one of the foundational elements that the brand will be built on changes? What if the business expands to a new region? Introduces a new product? Alters its route to market? Is threatened by a new entrant? Can we make sure that our new brand is protected against any and all future change?”
As brand professionals we work with all the information and inputs that we have available to us, and much of this is based on conversations on the future direction that a brand may take. But with the greatest will in the world, agencies cannot predict the future with anything approaching 100% accuracy (and buyer beware of any that would claim otherwise).
A truly futureproofed brand is not one which is stoically fixed in place for the next 10, 20, 50 years, but one that is able to adapt in order to succeed. So how do you build a brand that is up to the challenge? Here are three key considerations.
1. Establishing unifying ambition
It should start, as many things do, with ambition. Working across the business to set the right ambition for the brand is essential, so that when circumstances shift and opportunities arise, the brand can shift with it. This means thinking beyond current products and services to really define what the brand does (why it exists, and what it is trying to accomplish) based on understanding the role the brand plays in the eyes of its audiences. It’s essential to establish the greater benefit and broader experiences that it creates. This ambition needs to be something that all that can be expressed simply but with a broad depth of meaning, which will be a cornerstone of establishing the brand strategy.
2. Putting brand thinking in context at launch
With ambition driving brand strategy, you need to embed that brand thinking across the organisation. Connecting the dots with dedicated launch events that put the brand into context so that everyone understands how they are helping deliver the brand and how it affects what they do each day across their roles and responsibilities will shape individual and collective behaviour. It’s often felt most keenly in areas like communications, people strategy and customer facing roles, but it applies to everyone – from commercial strategy to research and innovation, everyone has a role to play that’s influenced by brand.
3. Brand champions
It’s important to always remember that a brand is never “finished”. A futureproofed brand is one that doesn’t stop thinking when the guidelines are completed or launch activities have ended. Its people must be vigilant to the fluid nature of customer behaviour, industry innovation, competition and other context that effects brand. While everyone has a responsibility and a part to play, building a team of brand champions across different business functions with regular meetings to discuss potential brand impact helps provide structure for that essential self-reflection, and a mechanism to share it within the organisation.
Of course there are many more ways we support our clients in creating successful brands. But fundamentally, while a futureproofed brand can act as a protector against threats and an accelerator toward new opportunities, that also means it cannot expect to stand still, however strong its foundations.