Landor: global awareness and local recognition are important for a brand
Landor: global awareness and local recognition are important for a brand
Landor: “For brands, the thataim is to be globally recognized but locally loved”
Jane Geraghty, President of Landor EMEA, and Emma Bekmann, Country Director, Landor Russia, tell the Retail & Loyalty Journal about the main trends in branding, discuss national markets specifics and peculiarities of consumer preferences, and share the experience of the international branding agency in Russia and globally.
R&L:Let’s start by speaking about Landor. What does the company do?
From a creative perspective, we are quite expansive in the way we develop brand expression. We are probably most famous for our design work and we also do a lot of work in terms of brand behavior, verbal branding, environments and even imagining what the future looks like for brands. We do a lot of work as well with clients measuring activity on brand and predicting how brands could grow.
R&L: What do you see as the global trends in branding right now?
Jane Geraghty: Obviously digital has changed everything. The world is much more connected now than it ever has been. And that’s had quite an interesting impact on international brands. Earlier there was a swing towards global,homogenous big international brands dominating. But now, with connected consumers and the fascination consumers have about the world, there is greater demand to be “globally recognized but locally loved”. Soit’s important for international brands to work hard at understanding the local nuancesand the local perspective of an international brand.
R&L: Landor has been in Russia for 5 years now. Do you think the Russian market is keeping up with these global trends? Isthere demand for branding services in this market?
Emma Beckmann: Certainly a lot of the trends we are seeing now are relevant for the Russian market. Much ofwhat Jane just mentioned with connectednessand the impact of digital technologies is giving the Russian market access to a lot of western brands and things that are going on. So there are a lot of similarities butthere are also a lot of local nuances that we need to understand. It’s slightly different from category to category; there are some categories thatfollow the global trends, while there are other categories, particularly in food, in FMCG, where provenance is much more important to consumers and so they will be more specific to the Russian market. So I think branding services are very relevant in this market. And when companies understand that brand is not just design and logos but that it’s really about a much more expansive experience and behaviors, then they understand the need for branding services.
R&L: Landor is a well-knowninternational brand but the Russian market is always cautious about new companies that have just come to the market. How have you been developing over the last five years and do you now have more clients than before? How hasthe economic crisis impacted your business here on the market? Many companies decided not to expand their budgets – how has this influenced branding?
Jane Geraghty: We’ve been on the ground for 5 years but we have actually been active in the Russian marketplace for a number of years. Famously, we rebranded S7, which was an iconic piece of branding work that got the name out there in the Russian community. I think we started quickly; when we arrived there seemed to be an unmet need. There didn’t seem to be a branding company that could offer local insight and an international perspective. We werevery much in demand. Obviously we had challenges when the economy changed but,as has been the casewith any of our offices around the world, in every challenging economy there are opportunities. So we just had to work hard to seek out those opportunities. I think on the wholewe did more on the local side than on the international side – that was the big shift. When we arrived it was very much international companies wanting to work with us, wanting the international expertise but the local insight too. The crisis hit and the pendulumshifted to be a little bit more working with local Russian clients. What we are seeing now is a greater degree of confidence across the board and I think business feels positive right now.
Emma Beckmann: To add to Jane’s point, we remained committed to the Russian market when there were troubles with the economy. So when many of our peeragencies left or took people out of the market, we stayed and we looked at how we could re-engineer our business. We found a solution in B2B segment. Our clients from the industrial sector,benefited from the low ruble and were able to use that as an opportunity to look at exporting and expanding to international markets. So those were perfect opportunities for an agency like us that can work with such clients when they want to understand how they can take the brands internationally.
You asked how clients trust us being young here on the market. Clients who are looking for very focused Russian expertise won’t come to Landor and won’t pay a premium to work with us. The ones that are interested in ourinternational experience, in ourcombination of local and international expertise, will come to us for exactly that reason and will be prepared to invest in paying more for an agency like Landor in order to get exactly that. For us it’s very much about managing how we bring the expertise into this marketfor clients. They come to Landor in Moscow knowing that they can access the international offices, that they can have it ultimately filtered and managed for them here on the ground in a language that they are comfortable speaking.
R&L: In terms of your client base in Russia before the economic crisis vs. now, how has it changed? Do you have less or more clients than before? What’s the dynamic?
Jane Geraghty: I feel we’ve hada relatively stable group of clients that work with us. Of course revenue has had its ups and downs. But the outlook now looks positive andwe expect the client base to grow.
R&L: Talking about big Russian companies, do you have long-term relationships with them or is it just a project-based service you provide?
Jane Geraghty: We are a project-based business largely. We are famous for major transformative efforts. But we are evolving and expanding our offer. This means that we are staying with clients for a longerperiod of time. We pride ourselves on doing a verygood job. So we find that when clients work with us, they come back again.
Emma Beckmann: I think that Russia specifically, in comparison to Landor’s business in other markets, is more project-based. I think it is partly because of the way the contracts are structured, where everything has to have a deliverable, a beginning and end, and it’s very difficult, for example, to have retainer-based agreements in Russia. But I also think it’s partly due to the market not being quite as developed as other markets. Clients see the need for branding services but they see it as something they buy for three months, six months or nine months, with an endproduct, and they don’t necessarily understand that they might need ongoing support for managing the brand afterwards.
Jane Geraghty: How you manage a brand today is very different from how you may have managed it ten years ago. Social media – all of the tools that consumers have at their disposal –mean that they are the brand managers. Strong appetite has been shown in the US and the UK for what we are calling “brand community” – a different way of looking at how you manage brands – and we are expecting that to become big in this market relatively soon.
R&L: Do you have any examples from your work in Russia of where you have done a complete rebranding project? How long is the life cycle of a brand? How long can a company “live” with a brand without rebranding? Is there any specific timeframe?
Jane Geraghty: Firstly, I think that successful rebrands, not new brands, have to be born out of change. You can’t simply rebrand your company and hope you’re going to have a different impact on the market. A rebrand must signal some kind of change, otherwiseit’sjustlipstick on a pig. Consumers and B2Bcustomers and the world on the whole is much toosmart for that. So first and foremostyou should only rebrand if you have something to say, something new or different to say that signals change.
R&L: How can an established companyunderstand it’s time for rebranding?
Jane Geraghty: There are a lot of different catalysts. Let’s assume there is something new to say and you are going to put something new behind the rebrand. We measure brands: we have a toolkit of bespoke tools that help us measure brand strength. And two of the most important elements are relevance and differentiation. So if a brand, through changes in the competitive set or changes in the overall market, is beginning to lose ground on relevance or differentiation with their customers, that is usually a signal something needs to change.
R&L: How ready are companies now to change their identity and rebrand? What are the common mistakes companies make? One mistake we have covered already is when acompany just tries to change the visuals instead of actually making real change. What are the others?
Jane Geraghty: An important conversation we have with our clients when we are going through a rebrand is how much recognition vs.reappraisal we are looking for. We have to be very mindful about growing into a new market without losing the existing customer baseand avoiding the mistakes others have made. Such mistakes include spending an enormous amount of money on a rebrand that is barely noticed, something that doesn’t move the market in any way or a dramatic change that makes the brand unrecognizable or lose all credibility. Those are things you have to be careful of.
Emma Beckmann: In the Russian market we see many companies still thinking about their brand from the “inside-out”,from their internal perspective of what they want their customers or consumers to think about the brand. Turning that on its head and looking from the “outside-in” and saying this is what your customers and clients want – and how you tailor your brand to meet that – is something that is still developing in this market. I think traditionally a lot of people think “inside-out”rather than “outside-in”.
R&L: We’ve spoken a bit about the specifics for Russian companies. Can you share what’s happening in major markets like the US, UK, Asia? How do companies there differ from the Russian ones?
Jane Geraghty: I think the principles are the same wherever you are in the world. As Emmahas already said, knowing that you have a new story that will meet the needs of the market is critical. Being relevant and being different is critical. And being able to tell a story in a very compelling way across multiple channels – that’s all important in every market we gointo. As I said before, there is a trend towards needing to be “globally recognized but locally loved”.We findthat’s the same the world over. In some markets provenance is even more important and national pride as well. But broadly speaking, I think the principles of branding are the same the world over; the practices and channels and methods that the story will be told through are different. You look at the African marketplace and it’s all about mobile; they’ve skipped a whole generation. There are a lot of channel differences around the world. But from a brand perspective,the fundamentals are probably the same the world over.
Emma Beckmann: Specifically in retail globally there are some things happening which are maybe not yet here on this market. One big thing is the shiftfrom having to consider not customers but clients. Providing an experience rather than selling products on shelves is increasingly important because of digital and online shopping possibilities. In many marketswe see that shoppers are looking for an experience and not just products on shelves. And that affects, for example, a lot of the work we do in retail environments,be it for FMCG or the service sector, like banking and telecoms. It’s no longer a classic bank that you gointo with tillsand cashiers, it’s really very much about creating an experience where you happen to be able to also carry out your banking business as well. The focus is shifting in retail in particular.
R&L: Could you give more examples of your clients in Russia? You’ve talked about aviation and FMCG, whatare the other sectors Landor has worked in Russia?
Emma Beckmann: We have done a lot in real estate&development, for office developments like Comcity or the Neva Towers,a new project in Moscow City. Sothere is a lot of rebranding or brand development for realestate. Financial services is a big sector for us; we are seeing a lot of activity going on now in the financial services sector, as well as telecoms. There is a lot happening in the industrial sector –copper, steel, aluminum – for some of the reasons that I mentioned before because they have benefited from the crisis. But, during the crisis,therewas very little going on with telecom and financial services. They all stopped spending money on brand and communications. But now that’s starting to increase again.
R&L: How can a strong brandstrategy help Russian companies go international?
Emma Beckmann: The same principles apply here: they need to understand the needs of the audience, whether it’s the domestic audience or the potential international audience. The role of brand strategy is really to understand those needs, those differences, and to tailor the brand and the way it communicates and behaves in those markets to match those needs. In some categories the needs will be very similar, so it’s much easier for a Russian brand to expand internationally, particularly in B2B for example. In more consumer-based businesses, of course differences can be much bigger and brand strategy ultimately helps to find the right modulation of the brand in new markets.
Jane Geraghty: In simple terms, a great brand strategy will mitigate against risk and maximize opportunity because you will be accurate in what you are doing with that brand. You will know what the needs are that the brand can meet and you will tell a story that unlocks that. We do see differences market by market. I think this is one of the reasons why Landor has been successful because we provide a global perspective but we have a local understanding. And there are, as Emma said earlier, categories that play wildly different roles in people’s lives market by market. If you look at something as simple as tea, tea in different markets around the world plays a verydifferent role. You have to be able to modulate your story to be relevant in a different market.
R&L: In terms of competition between branding agencies and in terms of branding services, what is the situation now and what do you expect when it comes tocompetition?
Jane Geraghty: The competitive set globally is changing dramatically. From a global perspective and a regional perspective, we are seeing more competition coming from non-traditional sources. For example, we are pitching next week against a major consulting firm – a McKinsey-style firm – and an innovation firm. The notionof brand strategy and brand storytelling seems to be something many people are beginning to move into. I think we feel confident because we invented it and we feel obliged to continually pioneer and be agile and develop new products and services to tell great brand stories. But I think the competitive set is changing dramatically.
Emma Beckmann: In this market I think it’s narrower, so it will be other branding agencies for networks who are maybe outside of the country but have a profile here in Russia. Often it’s still advertising agencies and, of course, the small boutique creative design agencies. Competing against the very local agencies is difficult for us and something we often avoid, simply because we can’t compete from a price perspective. If we’re competing against a small boutique agency, that’s often something that will be very difficult to win because the client is looking for design and not strategy or brand. Otherwise, often against advertising agencies we are able to convince clients of the difference between advertising and communications and brand.
R&L: What is your outlook for the future in terms of services that will be most in demand and where the market is heading?
Jane Geraghty: We are seeing major growth in insights & analytics. Clients have a great amount of data right now but the question is what to do with it and how to use it to inform a powerful brand story. We are also seeing a lot of growth in thinking about how best to tell the brand story inside a company to motivate employees. I think this is particularly true of companies with large millennial workforces. The idea is to use a brand to unite and inspire and increase productivity inside a company as much as outside the company.
Also as Emma said, there is a huge need to integrate the real and digital world into brand experiences. You have to actually deliver and create experiences that reinforce your difference with consumers, rather than just talking about it.So we are seeing a lot of growth in the experience sector too.
Emma Beckmann: I think it’s broadly those three things. In terms of the Russian market,we’re definitely seeing companies investing again in brand and I think the forecast for the future for branding, certainly from our perspective, for us, looks very positive.