How do you create a brand that your customers and employees can feel and build a relation to? At Re:act we invited some of the most experienced speakers to give their take on how to engage employees and spark the desire of your customers.
Leadership guru and former CEO at Irma, Alfred Josefsen, joined us at Re:act to take us through some of the crucial steps in Irma’s impressive turnaround from closure-threatened to successful supermarket chain. Alfred pointed out that the most important factor behind Irma’s turnaround, was the creation of one unifying story that set the direction for all activities. By building emotions and creating feelings, the story of Irma as much more than a supermarket chain, allowed Irma to create a unique standpoint that was hard to forget again.
To make sure that the story was implemented and lived across a large number of employees, Alfred explained how he introduced several occasions (e.g. parties, weekly personal newsletters and friday morning meetings with all HQ staff packed in his office) where employees could visit the headquarter and celebrate progress. These situations created a strong sense of community and a flatter structure that empowered the individual employee.
Another important, and perhaps easily over-looked catalyser in Irma’s turnaround, was the redesign of the historic brand icon “Irma pigen” (The Irma girl, Irma is a female name in Denmark). By giving her a straighter back and proud look as well as a more modern outfit, it became a strong icon that symbolized a shared and strong tribe-like feeling among employees.
However, the redesign of “Irma pigen” and the new communication activities did not create the turnaround alone. Alfred pointed out that a strong brand must have a strong, visionary, and visible leader that personifies the brand and create the intimacy and authenticity that customers and employees look for.
Director of Strategy, Nikolaj Stagis, presented the award winning case of how the Copenhagen bus industry went through a cultural transformation that improved the image of the job. At Re:act, he described how an anthropological mapping of the image of the bus industry, led to the insight that the meeting with the employees determine how the brand is perceived. The main strategy was to drive the needed paradigm shift from a commodified service to a respected experience. Over a four year period, Stagis orchestrated the change from a “form of transportation” to a “positive travel experience”. In order to do that, it was necessary to change the internal mindset around the job, the leadership skills as well as the behavior among the bus drivers.
Nikolaj went through some of the internal and external changes that was implemented to make sure that the new paradigm was carried out in practice. Many groups of leaders and bus drivers went to “Movia Academy” to reflect on their role and to start seeing the positive potential in their jobs. To support the newly found internal pride among the bus drivers, several external activities, such as press appearances and “bus driver of the year” was carried out.
Brand expert Nicholas Ind presented some of the key take aways from his newest book Brand Desire. Based on a series of workshops and interviews with customers and companies, the book argues that branding is increasingly about creating powerful experiences. According to Nicholas, this perspective isquite different from how we normally talk about brands (as products and services). In fact, the way consumers consume brands are increasingly based on very emotional choices and strong personal stories, and when we describe the desire we have for something it is quite profound.
Drawing on the cases of Nespresso and Adidas, Nicholas described how todays brands must, not only build awareness and availability, but increasingly build desire. Nicholas explained how Adidas heightened the desire of the brand through partnerships with e.g. Kanye West and by opening the brand up for new stories to be created with users and designers. Likewise, Nespresso has created powerful and luxury experiences for the consumers through clubs and a well-executed story.