Future-proof your brand

Data-driven insights to implement, manage, and optimise your brand performance

Brands are an organisation’s most important intangible assets, and their management is absolutely critical.

According to branded business valuation consultancy Brand Finance, in 2017 brands account for 18 per cent of the top 500 global brands’ market-value. Traditionally, brands have been created by agencies, and brand management has been undervalued. Fortunately, that mindset is now shifting, and we are pleased to have been part of the effort to build awareness about the value of brands.

My co-author, Laurens Hoekstra (managing partner at VIM Group) and I have recently published our new book, Future-Proof Your Brand, with the goal of helping organisations deliver and manage brand change – continuously. From our 25-plus years of experience, we have found that smart integration of data-driven insights, mission-critical logistics, and predictive analytics for future change make that delivery possible and successful.

We began with a deep understanding that strong brands drive competitive advantage and shareholder value. Research by respected organisations supports this fact. Brands are built from the inside out, helping you recruit and keep the best employees who are essential to your marketplace success.

Welcome to the future

Whether you are prepared or not, your business is being disrupted, impacting all aspects of your brand. Four innovations that will both challenge and inspire are:

• 5G: fifth-generation wireless standard. 5G solves the issue of not having enough data speed – bandwidth will no longer be a limitation

• AI/ML: artificial intelligence and machine learning. Think of services like Google Now or Amazon Recommendations: from analysing data today to predictive analytics tomorrow, artificial intelligence is already reaching into healthcare and defence and will reach into other industries, led by technology companies like ABB, Siemens, General Electric and others

• Internet of things. Devices connected with each other digitally – always.

• Virtual, augmented and mixed reality. Currently a gaming hype, but tomorrow relevant to mainstream business, radically changing the possibilities for new customer experiences. Imagine the cost of refurbishing a car dealership, for example, and imagine how that changes when VR/AR and MR reach maturity

The main consequences for an organisation and its branding are:

• Increased transparency. Inside is outside. Effectively, this means that communications must start internally, before bringing the branding to the outside world

• Continuous change, which requires an agile organisational set-up to deal with the new dynamics

• Full availability of data, providing more real insight than ever when unleashed and utilised properly. Also, data-understanding and interpretation have traditionally not been incorporated in the curricula of strategic communications and marketing directors . but that is changing

• Totally new brand experiences continue to emerge, offering lots of opportunities to disrupt traditional customer and company journeys

• Community thinking will prevail over policing the brand: a huge challenge for organisations as they’ll have to re-assess and define their brand governance

Brand performance strategy for the C-suite

From our experience, we’ve addressed 14 topics in our book that are most common in our conversations around brands with boards. Let’s briefly mention two here.

1. How brand licensing and brand valuation affects the C-level debate: board members want to understand how the financial value of brands can be grasped, and how it relates to the necessary investments over time. They understand that brand is their most valuable intangible asset.

2. Brand governance and management return on investment: the way brands are being orchestrated over time has the attention of senior management, much more than the creation of a brand. Branding is moving at a rapid pace, and organisations and consumers expect consistency and coherence. For brand governance, this means that re-assessment of how you organise the branding is needed, from simply policing the brand to community thinking, and investigating what this implies for the organisation at strategic, tactical and operational level.

Brand management and change process that drives ROI

Our Brand Life Cycle Model shows how you can organise your brand manifestation. Over the years, we’ve developed two proprietary processes that have achieved results for 1200-plus organisations around the globe:

• Brand Performance Improvement

• Brand Change Delivery

Brand Life Cycle Model

So let’s have a closer look at the overarching approach to Brand Performance Improvement. The way you organise your brand directly influences the brand manifestation. Our straightforward process facilitates decisions that impact your employees, customers, and prospects. Our process has been derived from our Brand Life Cycle Model. Within the model, brand organisation has a central role. It then fans out through Brand Management and Brand Manifestation into Brand Performance across all touchpoints and channels. Continuous measurement across all dimensions provides the right insight for an optimised Brand Performance with all stakeholder groups.

In assessing the current and desired situation, what we call the status quo, we use our Brand Performance Scan. We’ve benchmarked brand management at approximately 50 organisations, and created a scoring based on five dimensions of brand management – versus the benchmark.

The dimensions are: Internal organisation; Brand strategy; Brand development; Brand implementation; Brand evaluation

With the results of the Brand Performance Scan one gets the insights and actions to improve brand performance over time, which are then detailed in steps two to four. A very specific insight we’ve obtained is that most brands have data on branding - the problem is they have so much they often don’t know where to start in order to translate that data into insights. This is where the development of a Brand Dashboard delivers a solution – which is step four in the Brand Performance Improvement.

To summarise

Boards regard brand as their most valuable intangible asset and treat it as such. The top concerns of board and C-suite are usually questions about investments and costs, risk, timing, and return on investment (ROI). We address these concerns to help you move forward with confidence. The book is a collection of our methods and solutions for solving brand implementation and management challenges. Choosing aspects you need from Future-Proof Your Brand and putting them into practice will help you achieve your desired results.

Marc Cloosterman

Marc is head of VIM Group, which specialises in delivering brands consistently around the world. The implementation of brand properties across all touch points, both digital and on the ground is VIM’s business. Marc is a regular speaker on these topics and has written several articles on his ambition to create global recognition for brand implementation as one of the process disciplines within the brand management domain. Marc is also EACD ambassador for the working group Brand Leadership.