By Andrej Kupetz.
The brand as a driver of corporate success is something that the vast majority of companies grasp intuitively. But consistent brand experiences are still the exception, and the digitalisation of products and services creates uncertainty where clarity ought to prevail.
Successful brands deliver a consistent, holistic experience, offering customers a comprehensive package – a grand idea – consisting of the product range, message, design and behaviour, all based on brand positioning. Successful brands are carefully managed. However, rather than being the sole preserve of the marketing and communications departments, brand management ought to be firmly anchored throughout the entire company. This is the only way to ensure that all contact with the brand pays into the “brand account”, and conveys a comprehensive and convincing brand experience; whether this experience is analogue or digital is of secondary importance. What counts is that all corporate media convey the same message; not necessarily in identical form, but always unambiguous, clear and recognisable.
Current study on brand management practice now available
So much for the theory. The results from the “German Brand Monitor 2019/2020” study, the largest German study on the subject, recently published by the German Design Council in collaboration with GMK Markenberatung, provide insights into the actual practice of brand management in Germany, as well as analysis of the central challenges and trends in the management of German B2B and B2C brands. Particular attention was paid to the impact that the ongoing digitalisation of products and services is having on brand management.
Digitalisation undoubtedly poses new challenges for brand management: “nowism” is the order of the day, i.e., customers have developed new expectations with regard to delivery times for products and services – with same-day delivery, as offered, for example, by Amazon Prime, becoming the new norm.
New challenges through new points of contact
Another challenge is the rapid increase in points of contact through online networks and platforms, or even digital language assistants such as Amazon Echo, which are increasingly bringing brands and target groups into contact with each other. Change is also happening at a higher level: brands are no longer restricted to simply offering their customers products and services. Instead they are morphing into ecosystems in which the boundaries between products, services and communications are becoming increasingly blurred. These are just a few of the developments currently confronting brands and brand management.
Eye-opening results and insights into brand management
The study revealed some alarming results: over 55 percent of the decision-makers questioned during the study cited consistent brand management across all digital points of contact as one of their biggest challenges. Almost 44 percent of respondents see the development of characteristic brand content, and over 43 percent, the development of digital added-value services as challenges for digital brand management.
Further results from the decision-maker study shed light on the question of why companies find it so difficult to position themselves in the digital arena in a way that characterises their brand. On the one hand, brand management is not given a sufficiently high priority: the significance of brand management was only rated as “very high” or “high” in around 58 percent of the companies surveyed – this is particularly fatal in the digital environment, as the constantly increasing number of contact points demands that sufficient resources be put into assuring consistent brand management.
Brand management permeates all business divisions
The fact that digital brand management is seen as a challenge by many decision-makers may also be due to the fact that branding often does not have sufficient influence on all of the departments within a company: some 53 percent of the decision-makers surveyed would like branding to have a greater influence on product development, over 58 percent on sales, around 59 percent on customer service and 35 percent on marketing – all corporate areas currently undergoing significant changes as a result of digitalisation and in which brand management must be thought of in digital terms.
Strategic competitive advantages
Brand management in the digital age is both a challenge and an opportunity: companies that take embrace the transformation and the changed conditions and orchestrate the transfer of their brands into the digital world with confidence can develop a strategic advantage over their competitors, thus ensuring their long-term success. However, it appears that analogue and digital brand management are still regarded as parallel topics in the majority of companies. Any connection via a strategic corridor is often described as impracticable. In this context, brand consistency – a prerequisite for attractiveness and relevance to the customer – remains the central challenge of brand management.
More information on the German Brand Monitor on www.deutscher-markenmonitor.de
The author: Andrej Kupetz
CEO German Design Council
Andrej Kupetz (*1968) has been CEO of the German Design Council in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, since 1999. He studied industrial design, philosophy and product marketing in Berlin, London and Paris. In 1997, after various positions in design management and university liaison, Andrej Kupetz joined German Railways (Deutsche Bahn AG) where he was responsible for brand management in the DB Group and for the implementation of various corporate design processes.
Kupetz is member of the advisory board of the Design Management Institute Boston. Since 2011 Kupetz has been a member of the higher education council of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main. That same year the European Commission appointed him to the European Design Leadership Board. Kupetz is married and has three sons.