Transformation is taking place in virtually all aspects of our lives at an unprecedented speed. Corporate-design and brand managers must face it, too. Welcome to the world of VUCA.
By Dirk Huesmann, CEO of wirDesign.
“VUCA” summarises the four main phenomena of our time in one short acronym:
1. Volatility – nothing is enduring
2. Uncertainty – uncertainty makes confident predictions impossible
3. Complexity – the world’s complexity is rapidly increasing
4. Ambiguity – contradictions are taking the place of simple answers
Branding in unclear times
The German Brand Monitor 2019/2020 shows that 85% of the 300 decision makers surveyed credited branding with having a “high degree of relevance to a company’s success”. This is unsurprising given that many successful brands are showing how it should be done. They prove that an identity based on nuanced brand messages can make businesses a successful anchor of a market environment, even in unclear times.
Yet how do companies give their brands charisma and personality in this environment? It is essential to understand peer groups as precisely as possible, to know where they are and at what times, and to know what points of contact a brand uses to interact with them. It is about building trust and long-term relationships, and this, in turn, requires a concerted approach and means that brands need management. When outsiders look at a successful brand, they find that brand management is a strategic core discipline within the company behind it. This discipline is arriving at companies of all sizes because there is a key finding that is becoming more and more clear: in a global market environment with maximum transparency and increasingly similar products and services, it is branding that makes all the difference.
Brand management has a direct influence on the success or failure of a company.
How can a dynamic corporate-design concept be managed?
How does someone control a brand and its visual appearance? Many of the previously foundational rules of corporate design are being overturned in the digital world. The expectations to design and maintain a well-functioning visual identity are steadily growing. That is why corporate-design management no longer concentrates solely on a company’s recognisability. Corporate design must have maximum flexibility so that it can enable different communication contexts and a dialogue with peer groups. It must incorporate this dialogue into its communication during the development stage.
The answer to VUCA is VUCA
The times of minutely detailed, static corporate-design policies have passed. What has replaced them? Boundless freedom? Or is design still subject to limits? VUCA, when interpreted differently, also provides an answer: with Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.
To find success now and in the future, brands need a clear identity, a broad, practised understanding of it within the company; consistent communication in all directions, and simple, agile foundations for design and technology.
Principles, not stiff rules
Flexible design principles have proved themselves, especially in the development of digital applications. At a time when the number of media and applications keeps growing, principles safeguard the main guiding idea. Using them provides flexibility when working with the small basic elements that a brand employs for communication.
Thinking »digital first« requires the courage to consolidate and simplify.
Brand managers function more like curators when they use modular design principles, while clear positioning and a guiding idea provide guard rails for the brand. The brand’s essence and a clear attitude are used as a basis for developing various small elements.
These elements of course include a logo, colours and typeface. But they also extend to the interaction and animation behaviours and tonality. All these elements combined are the key determiners of a brand’s personality. Together they form a set of building blocks that can be used as needed and that allows for the necessary degree of flexibility at all times. These building blocks can always be recombined to suit the application and occasion. They offer a great number of freedoms while still remaining inherently consistent and recognisable. This flexibility makes it possible to be prepared for forthcoming contingencies.
Branding processes are change processes
Building-block design systems and comprehensive corporate-design manuals are important milestones, but there still remains actual work to do in the process. The sheer existence of a high-quality manual or brand portal does not motivate people to use it willingly or extensively. A seeming lack of purpose can also hold people back from getting excited about new things. Often the principles that have been defined are not put into practice properly.
Turning bystanders into stakeholders
Throughout the corporate design’s development, revision and documentation, all important stakeholders should be informed and included at the right intensity at the right time and thus also intrinsically motivated. The aim is to make these people partners who actively bring new ideas to the company and champion them with conviction. Even in this early stage, the task is to provide security for the investments that have been made or planned – often in months-long work with design, workshops and meetings with countless stakeholders.
A tactically smart implementation is not just a single event that occurs at the end. It begins with strategic planning for the coming months and a precise participation strategy right from the outset.
We believe that clear positioning and a scalable guiding idea make a brand future-proof.
Consistency, scalability, flexible application principles and a cultural as well as a technical implementation are the deciding factors of success in branding and change projects.
wirDesign Workshop “Corporate-Design-Management”
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