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Disruptive identity

Manage the gap About the importance of dual policy in respect of brand and identity Saskia Dijkstra TOTAL IDENTITY

Disruptive identity; Manage the gap About the importance of a dual policy in respect of brand and identity. Saskia Dijkstra

2010 TOTAL IDENTITY Amsterdam

Disruptive identity; Manage the gap About the importance of a dual policy in respect of brand and identity and the conditions to achieve it. Identity and brand are inextricably linked to each other. A brand without identity is heading towards dismantling its ‘being’. An identity without a brand doesn’t generate any volume. What is important is that we know the difference and the necessity of understanding both concepts, as they are both essential. The brand achieves according to the actual demand of the target groups. It focuses on distinguishing capacity and communicates unique selling points. Following on from this, the brand expresses a promise from which temptation or activation stems, which makes it a strategic instrument for achieving marketing objectives. Diametrically opposed to the brand, sometimes at the same height or at a varying distance, identity maps out the transformation task. Identity is ahead in time and touches the next paradigm. Identity strives for relevance and seeks connections to organisations’ next strategic task. As I have said, there is a distance between the brand and identity that varies. Both are needed for organisations’ continuity. The distance between them becomes clear when the current relevance is compared to the next step. How current are we at this moment, and to what extent are we preparing ourselves to take the next step in these surroundings? Developments - identity and brand The history of the brand and the development in brand thinking makes us aware that a dual policy is imperative to the continuity of organisations.


Until the Fifties: the brand as a guarantee seal A brand’s original task was simple: the brand name on a product was meant to instil trust in the consumer that the product was of consistent quality and was always available (market penetration). Whereas the quality of raw materials i.e. natural products, for example coffee beans, often used to vary, the brand ensured that a single quality level was here to stay. Douwe Egberts in Groningen was exactly the same as it was in Zeeland. The brand was a guarantee seal that represented intrinsic value and engendered trust in the buyer. From the Fifties to the end of the Sixties: the brand as bringer of prosperity It was in America in particular that we saw brands develop an enormous appeal. Mass industry was taking off and a bright new future lay ahead, thanks to technological growth. It was a time of increasing leisure time and change of lifestyle. Car ownership became commonplace, just like vacuum cleaner ownership. Brands led the way in this progress and gave substance to the American dream. This was the beginning of the consumption society that we still know today. Companies such as General Motors, Ford, General Electric and Philips were extremely successful in those days. The development of these organisations’ identity almost seemed to happen of its own accord. There was still so much more to discover and so much that needed structural improvement in the life of the consumer. Convenience and comfort reigned and this was reflected in the new branded products that emerged. The current relevance of the brand as best practice and the development of the identity as next practice were spreading, and never again would we be able to take them so much for granted. Managing all this was almost something that happened naturally.


From the end of the Sixties to the Nineties: the brand is developed as identity provider At the end of the Sixties, the market changed. There was more competition, and the brand had to be more than a bringer of prosperity because the innovation curve was slowly disappearing. Another way of bringing the brand to people’s attention was needed. In the Eighties, this was expressed the most explosively by literally printing brand names on T-shirts and proudly showing them off. It was the yuppie period, the time when the curious job of the brand to endow the wearer with status was at its strongest. Innovations were less evident than in previous years. The CD was invented by Philips in the Eighties. This was a structural change, the like of which we had known in previous years; however, there weren’t many structural changes, at least not visible ones. The best practice remained current thanks to the innovation curve that went before. Brands were able to respond successfully to the consumer’s need to identify with ‘Winner Brands’. Complete lifestyle segments were born, containing descriptions of your behaviour and need patterns. At the same time, we must have felt that something was going wrong as we entered the Nineties - which is when the distance between brand and identity was at its largest. A new paradigm formed in the wake of a crisis. From the Nineties until 2009: the brand is in crisis The Nineties saw the rise of a new phenomenon. Consumers seemed to have had enough of all the choice. There was too much choice with too many flavours. The brand was a money spinner and got stretched as far as it could. Even the government had become a brand (VROM) and people too marketed themselves a brands (A brand called You). During this


time, the brand came in for a lot of criticism. There were only cosmetic innovations and micro-segmentation without a users group. In summary, the brand was too much about maximising profits and lacked social relevance. You could almost say that the internet bubble had turned the tide and made the business world realise that a brand always needed meaning in order to be relevant. The price war of 2004 was the beginning of a growing awareness of brand and identity. Brands represent value, but this value is influenced by stronger forces. Having current relevance is no longer enough to create value. Early anticipation of changes and new developments, i.e. facilitating new paradigms and then introducing them within a new current relevance, turned out to be necessary for survival. Proper management of these two influential instruments of continuity is the task that organisations and institutions are facing in the 21st century. Identity and brand are inextricably linked to each other. Contrary to what is often claimed, we do consider it important that brand and identity are not aligned with each other. In fact, the space between them needs to be carefully managed. Ideas come and go Whether we live in a capitalist world or under a communist regime, it is human nature to form ideas and bring them to life. History has taught us that some systems are better at facilitating the speed of ideas than others. In a capitalist system based on market forces, the importance of the formation of ideas, and their feasibility, is proof of a properly operating system. An idea becomes a product or service, and that is proof of progress. New products or services are introduced to test markets and are adopted if there is sufficient identification. First by a small group,


but quickly followed by a larger body of consumers. As a result of its success, competitors put a similar product or service on the market. The more successful, the greater the competition (with the exception of the monopoly position which a select few command). A product or service has a lifespan which, when plotted on a graph, forms a parabola. The more the market becomes saturated, the more competition and price competition sets in. In a hypercompetitive market, we slowly start to see special offers and discounts in order to achieve a certain sales volume. The product or service no longer has enough of a lead to make it unique. The way the market works is that you introduce a new idea which in turn finds its way to the consumers. We call this a new paradigm that has another life cycle. There is a certain rhythm here that we also call the market metronome. Some markets have a slow rhythm and others (e.g. FMCG) a fast rhythm. Knowing and playing the market is a quality that successful organisation manage very well. They put a introduce a new product or new service to the market at the right time and cut back products and services that are no longer profitable. We are all familiar with the increasingly rapid product life cycles of software systems. Whereas we used to be able to count on five years’ support, nowadays support is stopped after a year or two because the cost of maintaining what has become an obsolescent system is too high. On a larger scale, the same thing happens not only to products and ­services but also among organisations. Mergers and takeovers have a


Develop staff

Select staff

Present skills

Define skills

Adopt culture

Understand culture

Values and Hyper competition Price competition

Limited growth Branding

Unlimited growth

Business Role Playing

Landscaping Story telling

Stable innovation Experimentation

Corporate Identity

Professionalisation phase Pioneer phase ‘Current culture’

‘Current skills’

brand line identity line

figure 1. The dynamics of identity and brand (Hans P Brandt, Total Identity)

‘Current staff’

Suitable/ unsuitable people

Work structure Develop staff

Organise structure Select staff

Implement system Present skills

Design system Define skills

Internalise strategy Adopt culture

New values and norms

Saturation phase Decentralisation phase

Desire for volume

Formulate strategy Understand culture norms

Professionalisation phase Pioneer phase Definition of strategy

Definition of methods

Definition of structure

‘New culture’

‘New skills’

‘New staff’

Desire for innovation

the gap

c­ ertain economic reasoning that is akin to cycles within the economy. It is a characteristic of our western society. It may be interesting to have a look now at which undercurrents are recognisable which, if named, embedded and anticipated early enough enable organisations to work with the rhythm more accurately and serve the market optimally. Achieving dual policy: two essential conditions Whatever takes place in the undercurrents of the metronomes designates itself the most stable insight, or the brand and the desire for innovation, the identity. The brand simplifies what the current relevance and looks for identification, an experience and consumer transformation. The identity looks for a new perspective and the essence that will lead to the desired transition of the organisation. The identity awakens the brand and vice versa. They are related to each other and are mutually dependent: without a (powerful) brand, the development of identity will not take off and without the development of identity the brand will in time lose its current relevance. What we are talking about is the production of a dual policy within an organisation. The trick is to incorporate both realities in the organisation by understanding the effects of each and applying them properly. Moreover it is essential to understand the extent of the distance between the identity and the brand. We call this distance ‘the gap’ between brand and identity and will be dealing with it later.


Condition one: Awareness Awareness of the difference between orientation and the effects is essential. A brand is needed to the manage perceptions within a (core) target group so as to maximise temptation based on a promise. Consumers’ motive give the brand an identity. Apple’s iPhone is, for example, not the most technologically advanced mobile phone, but it tempts us with its ease of use and sensory design. We choose the brand, not the best product. The iPhone demonstrates that it is the best practice at the moment. Identity Aim Developing relevance For whom Stakeholders What for Developing awareness Core Essence Result Perspective of essence Framework Learning capacity Principle Context

Brand Managing perceptions (Core) Target group Maximising temptation Promise Effect of the promise Programmes Motives

Identity wants to develop relevance and aims stakeholders in order to develop awareness based on the essence. The organisation’s learning capacity is the framework which is used to reach a new, relevant context. Put less abstractly, this means that identity is occupied with the next step, the next practice or the new paradigm that is all about new values and norms. The brand is the best practice, the current paradigm, today’s values and norms. If we look at the model a little more closely, a certain distance becomes visible between brand and identity. This distance is there: it exists whether or not we are aware of it. As stated ­earlier, an organisation which manages this distance properly will keep


Where is the focus within the policy? innovate

Understand the culture Adopt the culture Define the skill


Present the skill Select staff Develop staff


Formulate strategy Internalise strategy Design system


Implement system Organise structure Leave structure


Expectations for the development of the organisation


Start with the question of whether your expectations of the organisation are high or low. If, for example, your expectations are high, then you will be able to determine where the policy focus is: innovate or professionalise? If the focus is on professionalising, then your organisation will be busy marketing its skills, recruiting or developing staff. If your organisation is busy recruiting staff then we can see in figure 1 that the organisation is working on rediscovering itself, that it has already managed to get on the road to transition and is busy promoting the brand in order to maximise sales.


on ­playing the market at the right time and develop a greater learning capa­city. Organisations that are unaware of this or don’t manage it sufficiently, start to drift. This results in ad hoc decisions having to be made continually and insufficient use is made of opportunities. There isn’t enough insight into current relevance (market demand) or the organisation’s ­relevance (i.e. its right to exist or legitimacy). Condition two: Insight into the extent of the distance between brand and identity As is becoming apparent, there is a variation in distance between brand and identity. If we initially have a proper understanding of the difference between the brand’s orientation and its identity, then our next step is to map out that difference. This way we develop both the brand and the identity so that they profit from one another. The solution can be found in a reality analysis that poses two simple questions, the biggest of which is: are your expectations regarding the development of your organisation too high or too low? If our expectations are too low we then ask whether the policy focus is on decentralisation or on cutting back. Should we choose decentralisation, we then see what the organisation does most: formulating and internalising strategy or designing the system. Focusing on formulating strategy means our organisation is busy (re)defining strategy. In this phase, the brand is no longer relevant enough and the organisation is looking for a new role (Business role playing) and mapping this out (Landscaping) see figure 1 on the centre pages.The trick is now to simultaneously acknowledge and manage these two forces within organisations. Marketing requires new relevance. The organisation increases the pressure


on marketing to produce better sales within the current context. This will fail if neither force is acknowledged and managed in time. Identity and brand in the 21st century There is, however, something else wrong. Thinking within their own frameworks will not be enough if companies are to remain successful in the 21st century. Pursuing a dual policy will help them to work more efficiently and effectively. However, the dynamic between identity and brand will become increasingly stronger and they will depend upon each other to an even greater extent. A brand is more frequently relevant within a certain context and the identity is more often compelled to manifest. Here too, though, the borders are blurred and organisations are forced go into the centre of this force field. The current recession is forcing us to present new paradigms more quickly, to let go of existing structures and then rapidly make them manifest. The expectation here is for a structural change to have taken place. Organisations which pursue a dual policy should therefore understand how things are linked, involve stakeholders, connect energies and play (new) markets. This will lead to a characteristic and distinctively resonating system which is capable of delivering personal service to all of its customers whilst continually improving itself, beyond its own borders and shadow.


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Manage the gap. About the importance of dual policyin respect of brand and identity  
Manage the gap. About the importance of dual policyin respect of brand and identity  

Identity and brand are inextricably linked to each other. A brand without identity is heading towards dismantling its ‘being’. An identity w...