Driving brand change

It takes passionate communications professionals to push a company outside its comfort zone

During my early days at Nasdaq, someone told me that the only constant at the company is change.

Perhaps somewhat of an exaggeration, but nevertheless something that has stuck in my mind. Maybe because my own personal mindset is that change usually leads to something positive.

But change is never easy – balancing aesthetics with politics is hard – and I think anyone taking on the challenge to move the perception of a brand needs courage. A lot of it.

Communication without courage pushing a company outside of its comfort zone is like a moonlit night without stars or a first date that doesn’t end with planning a second one. It lacks passion and isn’t pushing the emotional boundaries that encompass a brand.

Take a minute now and think of brands you admire. That you buy. That you enjoy. What emotions come to mind?

Nasdaq at its very heart is a financial technology company. We created the first all electronic stock exchange in 1971 and today we are a provider of trading, clearing, exchange technology, listing, information and public company services across six continents.

Our technology now powers more than 70 marketplaces in 50 countries. A full tenth of the world's securities transactions go through us and more than 3,700 companies are listed with us throughout the world.

But five years ago Nasdaq, was a company that defined itself simply as a developer of technology for trading platforms and exchange operator. No more, no less.

Today Nasdaq is leading the way with new technologies such as blockchain and machine learning. And that’s a perception that doesn’t end at a global level, with Nasdaq – the world famous stock company listed on its own exchange – but it trickles down all the way throughout the organisation down to each and every individual exchange be it in New York, Riga, Reykjavik or Stockholm. We like to think that we created fintech before fintech was a word.

In order to drive brand change, here are my Do’s and Dont’s.

  • Do celebrate change

Change is scary, right? You know what you’ve got but not what you’re getting. Better the devil you know. Well. Companies and industries evolve and so should brands and communicators. Static and stale communication is no communication. And this development increases exponentially as every blogger, facebook user or tweeter becomes a publisher.

  • Don’t stray too far from the soul

Say it with me: Brands are emotional. When looking at sustainability outreach in a company you look at the relevance of a particular measure for that specific company. Not printing paper or climate compensating won’t help a fashion designer using polar bear furs. Same goes for brand change, don’t stray too far from the core. Trying to turn your bakery into a molecular gastro restaurant might be pushing it too far, while making the bakery 100 percent organic is a more credible change. All of these actions evoke emotional responses from people.

  • Do remember the origin

News is local. Journalists are conservative. Remembering that your headquarters once were based in a small town, with big ideas, and passionate people adds a flavor to the communication and helps employees remember core values. Remember your origins but don’t let them set the limit.

  • Don’t forget to adjust the tonality to your audience

The development that we’ve undergone at Nasdaq has been global, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t adjusted the message locally. When the American company Nasdaq and Nordic based OMX merged close to ten years ago, the tech part of OMX played a significant role. As we’ve recently started talking about Nasdaq as a FinTech company globally, it’s important to remember that in Sweden, a significant start up and tech hub, our operations were FinTech way before the expression was even coined.

  • Do involve all parts of the organisation

Walking the talk. Living the brand. Talking the walk. We’re all brand ambassadors. Make sure you involve all employees in how the brand is communicated. But even more important – make sure all employees are proud to communicate the brand. That happens when you get the CEO involved and make the brand about people. Logos and slick ads are great, but no one will remember that front page story in the trade press – they will remember when the CEO took a photo with them that they could post on Facebook and talked to them about the brand and what it means to them.

"We’re all brand ambassadors."

Just by daring to redefine your brand, you build ambition and motivation among your employees, challenge and change the way you and your clients and the public perceive you and, most importantly, drive new business in areas you didn’t even know you were operating half a decade ago.

And then keep in mind that the only constant is change.


Image: iStock.com

Christina Malmberg Hägerstrand

Christina Malmberg Hägerstrand is head of communications Nasdaq Nordic & Baltic. Before joining Nasdaq in 2013, Christina was communication manager at Odin Fonder fund management and before that a journalist.