The Wonderful World of Brand Books
They never win Pulitzer prizes nor are they considered worth shelfspace in the Library of Congress. But they‘re simply the best medium to deliver the brand to an audience that needs and wants to learn about the Whats, Whys and Hows behind a trademark.
Between the lifeless semantic graveyards of boardroom powerpoints and happy-clappy mood videos for sales conferences that re-run the same little library of favourite Hollywood moments, the best brand books tell an engaging story about the customer and the gap in his life which the brand fills; and deliver everything else on the side where it belongs: wordings, guidelines, properties, values. When you do it right, the heart is your reader, not just the mind.
Even in these digitized times, actually printing a real book has its merits that make it superior to flashy multimedia shows. But most of all, and quite selfishly: They‘re so enjoyable and rewarding to do! „Bringing the brand to life“ – this is what it feels like. Here are some examples from our production which are no longer „for internal use only“.
Poet Software Inc., Palo Alto, CA, 2000
The Challenge: In 2000, this small but eager coding shop in the heart of Silicon Valley, formerly specialized in embedded database systems, threw the switch for a total re-invention of their business model. eBusiness was exploding and offered an opportunity to manifold the leverage from their programmers‘ unique talents. So Dirk and his board brothers didn‘t hesitate for years, like any other company would have, and got their hands on the wheel for a U-turn.
The company wasn‘t exactly a tanker, but with 120 employees in 2 offices in California and Hamburg, the need to communicate exceeded by far the time management could afford at this moment.
The Solution: Poet asked Lokomotive to develop a document for distribution among all employees that would explain the background of the new strategy and how everybody would have to contribute to bringing it to life. We suggested to center the content around the Poet brand, which was so far just a strong internal identification mark but would now have to gain traction fast among new target customers and opinion leaders.
Results: Poet managed to repurpose the business and convert most of its opinionated smart-ass staff into eBusiness evangelists in less than 6 months and gained a foothold in its new market in record time.
Skoda Auto a.s., Mlada Boleslav, CZ Republic, 2001
The Challenge: Ten years after its acquisition by Volkswagen and 5 years after the launch of the first VW-based model, the Octavia, Skoda was about to set foot in a category which had been unthinkable for more than 40 years in which the company had mostly produced low-tech transportation for the few who could afford it behind the Iron Curtain. With the launch of the Superb, the brand returned to its roots in manufacturing highly acclaimed luxury cars, the most legendary of which was called: Superb (1934-49).
The Solution: Lokomotive developed a brand book that translates the traditional values of the brand in a contemporary way to start from within a new, credible perception of Skoda as „a different kind of luxury brand“ based on quality, not prestige.
T-Mobile International AG, Bonn, D, 2006
The Challenge: Mobile communication is an industry between a rock and a hard place. While the traditional voice business, after 20 years of ever climbing curves, has finally entered that classic state of over-saturated price-pressed hypercompetition; the high hopes in mobile data and internet to compensate for the stagnation in voice revenues were as yet disappointed. Worse than that, online service brands like Google, Last.fm or Skype seem to leave no other role for the carriers than as „dumb pipes“.
T-Mobile was determined not to accept its industry‘s fate but to respond by building a brand that stands for more than the generic service of, in Nokia‘s words, „connecting people“.
The Solution: A new brand positioning was developed to reflect the mobile operator‘s evolution from voice carrier to a provider of services tailored around people‘s need to stay closer in touch.
„Simply closer“, the then new endline, was carried through the organisation, comprising ten countries in a decentralized culture, with a brand engagement program which included a „Brand Storybox“ – an internal seminar program that cascaded down into every store and office – and a brand book for reference and as the „magenta thread“.
We developed the book while I was in charge of T-Mobile International’s Brand Strategy team together with agency Saatchi & Saatchi Design, London.
Deutsche Telekom AG, Bonn, D, 2008
The Challenge: Two years after DT‘s most important division, T-Mobile, pushed forward to unite a multicultural organisation behind one common brand and business strategy, „Mother“ did the same on a higher level. T-Mobile, T-Home and T-Systems – the mobile, fixed line, and IT solutions branches -, with a combined footprint of more than 50 markets worldwide, were about to miss the boat on the one trend that played into the hands of the rare species of companies among which Deutsche Telekom is one of the biggest: convergence. Consumers, and businesses all the more, were expecting telcos to integrate all the communication they need; to make everything work together seamlessly and to reduce the chaos of wires and contracts to the absolute minimum.
The Solution: DT‘s re-centralization turnaround – from state agency to satellite system of swift entrepreneurial units to integrated information and communication service global player – was a huge manoeuvre and brand activities were only a small fraction of the program. But an important one, because DT needed to build a common higher identity quick. Would the staff of 140,000 around the globe be facilitators or barriers to the change needed, that was the question. A brand book, once more, was one important element of the brand engagement program.
I was on the DT team as representative of T-Mobile International and we developed the book with Hamburg based agency Philipp & Keuntje.