By Courtney Bowditch is Creative Lead at co:collective, a leading strategic and creative transformation consultancy designed to help purpose-led businesses
Innocent Drinks has supported the rebranding of its Super Smoothies range with a humorous video parodying the worst excesses – and common pitfalls – of the process. It features bad designs it claims to have considered before settling on its actual redesign – WordArt, over-the-top colour palettes, Comic Sans and creative blank space, amongst many design clichés. It’s a funny spot but it highlights a larger truth. Bad branding can happen to anyone. By following a few key principles, however, any brand – whatever its product or category – can achieve an effective re-brand without losing face.
An important first step is to enter the process with open eyes by understanding some of the common challenges and pitfalls facing every brand owner at the point at which a decision is made to re-brand.
Avoiding common mistakes
The first risk to avoid is overlooking the equity built into your current brand. An essential starting point is to understand how well known and recognized your brand is already. Then ask yourself the question: what do you want to gain by updating your visual look and feel and, as importantly, will updating the visual look and feel achieve that goal?
Closely allied with this is the risk of embarking on a redesign that strays too far from your brand’s purpose. In essence, brand purpose is a brand’s reason for being, beyond making money. More than a brand promise, which may give a customer an idea of what to expect from a product or service, a brand purpose connects with customers on a more emotional level and often rallies consumers around a brand. It is therefore of significant value to any brand, and it is important that that value is not compromised. At co:collective, we call brands that are purpose-led StoryDoers. Their purpose is evident in everything that they do as a brand (including their identity), not just in the stories they tell as a brand.
Purpose-led, StoryDoing businesses have the potential to gain competitive advantage by forging stronger customer relationships which translate into greater customer loyalty. The reason is simple. In today’s marketing landscape, price, quality and customer experience are table stakes. Increasingly, consumer purchasing decisions are based on what a brand – and the company behind it – stands for.
Another risk to avoid when rebranding is following design trends for trends’ sake. It is important to always remember that design trends come and go and, though some do enjoy a second wind, some don’t age well.
Once a brand owner has a clear-eyed view of the potential pitfalls, there are four further ways in which the potential success of any and every re-branding can be optimized, and the potential negatives minimized.
Rebranding for the right reasons
There are many good reasons to rebrand. Your branding may not have aged well over time and now seems tired. Your company may have acquired other firms and needs a new brand that better reflects this new reality. Or your company may have evolved into new areas, meaning that the existing brand is no longer fit for your new purpose.
For example, global marketing services business LRW Group recently decided to rebrand following the acquisition of nine agencies in four years – a project we were fortunate enough to be involved in which involved uniting the company under a new unifying purpose and name and developing its new visual identity to bring those things to life visually.
The project involved identifying, then layering each of the acquired agencies’ stories to find the common threads in their cultures and their process, and to reveal where they were distinct in order to craft a new combined identity with a purpose and story that was relevant, authentic and compelling.
The new name, Material, was chosen for its layered meaning – material as something of importance and material as foundation from which something is made. Material starts with the raw material of human insight, then brings in the right minds to connect the dots, take them apart and add them back together. The new name and design encapsulates that.
Staying true to your brand story
A visual identity is usually the first thing that a consumer will see about your brand. It is therefore essential to make sure it is telling the story you want to tell. A clear brand purpose, serves as your north star for rebranding, your guiding light to make sure you don’t go astray. Ensuring that your rebrand will be as visually differentiated as your positioning.
Standing out from the crowd
Standing out from the crowd means being memorable, and for the right reasons. It is essential, therefore, to make your branding ownable to you and also different from that of your competitors. Certain categories can gravitate towards certain colors and symbols.
All colors have some inherent meaning, like green for life, renewal, nature and energy, so any company that is good for the earth or a natural product might instinctively gravitate towards green. Blue is often associated with stability, trust, wisdom and confidence which is why so many healthcare companies use blue in their branding. Color is only one piece of a rebrand and just because your category uses a lot of blue, doesn’t mean you can’t too, but finding a fresh way to use that color will really help you stand out. For example, Capsule Pharmacy did a great job of differentiating themselves from the healthcare category. Yes they still use blue, but they have mixed that with a fresh approach to complementary colors, as well as graphics and typography that are uncommon for their category.
Leaving room for growth
Markets change fast these days – and consumer wants, needs and preferences, do too. So it is especially important when rebranding not to make your identity so specific it can’t grow with you. Allowing room for growth in any rebranding so that it will be able to accommodate any new products or future expansion into new market segments or other white spaces. Having a clear brand purpose helps see the future of all aspects of your brand more clearly and can help you avoid outgrowing your new identity.
Rebranding is an important part of a company’s growth and future legacy. Making sure your rebranding effort is grounded in a strong brand purpose, one that your company lives, not just a story your company tells, will set you up for success. At the end of the day, your identity is the first impression anyone will have of your brand and first impressions matter.
How to lead a high-performing team
By Matthew Emerson, Founder and Managing Director, Blackmore Four
When we think about a great team, the image we conjure up almost always includes a superstar leader. A smiling Sir Alex Ferguson guiding Manchester United to countless domestic and European successes year after year. The conductor of an orchestra, drenched in sweat, turning to take rapturous applause from an appreciative audience. The self-styled entrepreneur-turned-CEO who has steered their company’s share price, profit margins and brand recognition to levels of international envy. Our bias to assign the leader credit or blame for successes or failures that are actually outcomes of a team effort is strong and widespread, and results in both positive and negative outcomes for individual leaders that often overlook any team-based root causes.
Clearly, some people are better at leading teams than others. It is quite reasonable, therefore, to try and identify the traits that distinguish effective leaders from those who consistently fail to get the best out of people they work with. Literally hundreds of research studies have attempted to see which traits predict leadership effectiveness. However, none have succeeded in identifying any set of universal traits that could reliably distinguish and predict effective leadership from the rest.
For one thing, research has shown that there is no one leadership style that works well across all situations. A style that may be just what is needed when working with skilled and trusted colleagues to develop a team may fail badly when a newly-formed team encounters a challenging situation that requires a quick, decisive team response.
A second problem with leadership styles stems from our assumption that leader behaviour is the cause of member behaviour and team dynamics. In fact, a leader’s style may, in many circumstances, be as much a consequence of members’ behaviours as it is a cause of that behaviour. For example, if a leader is charged with managing a team of subordinates who are both competent and cooperative, the leader is likely to be more effective responding with a considerate, participative leadership style. However, if team members are obviously not capable in carrying out the work and, moreover, demonstrate aggression in their dealings with the leader, a much more structured, directive and autocratic style is likely to be exhibited, to varying degrees of effectiveness. Excellent team leaders are aware of their natural styles—they know what they like to do, what they can do easily and well, and what they can accomplish.
On the one hand, we tend to overattribute responsibility for collective outcomes to the team leader. Although that tendency is often exaggerated there is no doubt that what a team leader does (and doesn’t do) is highly consequential for team performance. Instead of focusing on a leader’s generalised behaviour (style) and who they are (character, superhero), the focus should be shifted onto what it is they actually do (action).
Effective leaders focus on the four basic factors we discussed in the previous articles in this series, starting with a compelling direction and clear accountability. The team need to know that they are a real, interdependent team and that normalised behaviours, high expectations and trusting relationships are agreed across the group.
Sometimes most of these conditions will already be in place when a team is formed and fine-tuning them will not pose much of a leadership challenge. Other times, when the focus has been on individual work not teamwork, it will take great effort to establish these four basic factors.
Behavioural leadership skills
Great team leaders do not rely on any single strategy for promoting high team performance. Instead, they work hard in getting all of the factors we have been discussing aligned and pulling in the same direction. However, it’s not sufficient for those who lead teams merely to know about the factors for high performance; they also need to know how to create and maintain those factors—in a word, they need to be skilled in leading teams.
Effective team leaders are skilled in executing actions that narrow the gap between what is happening in the group or its context, compared with what the leader believes should be happening. They are also skilled at managing their emotional response, resisting the impulses of acting too quickly and dealing with one’s anxieties.
Effective leaders demonstrate their ability to tap into the collective resources and coach teams in order to exploit potential to the fullest extent. Being able to exploit those special moments at the beginning, middle and end of task and team life cycles can prevent future breakdowns or factors that hinder high performance.
The ability to inspire others is another commonly identified, essential behavioural skill for leaders of high-performing teams. The is no single best way to provide it, but the key is to identify which of your skills and styles can best be used to create in others the passion you feel for your work and then to hone and develop those resources as one core element in your personal repertoire of team leadership skills.
Leading high-performing teams
There is no way to “make” a team perform well, let alone sustain outstanding high performance. Teams create their own destinies to a great extent. After a team has launched itself on a particular path, its own actions create additional experiences which then guide members’ subsequent behaviour, which can set in motion either a cycle of ever-increasing competence and commitment or a downward spiral that ends in collective failure.
Once members have established their shared view of the world and settled into a set of behavioural routines, there is not a great deal that leaders can do to change the team’s basic direction or momentum. What leaders can do is make sure the team is set up right in the first place, action the four factors and then constantly hone and learn to develop a number of key skills specific to team leadership.
Matthew Emerson is the Founder and Managing Director of Blackmore Four, an Essex based management consultancy working with leaders of ambitious businesses to achieve outstanding performance through periods of growth or significant change.
Starting his career at Ford Motor Company, Matthew has developed his expertise in Organisational Effectiveness in key senior HR, Organisational Development and Talent roles, predominantly in Financial Services (Credit Suisse, Barclays and DBS) and most recently as the Group Head of Talent and Performance at UBS AG.
Having worked in and across Asia for six years as well as having ‘global’ responsibility in a number of his roles, Matthew has an appreciation of international and multi-cultural working environments. He also has a multi-sector perspective, having worked with organisations in Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education and Technology.
Oil prices steady as lockdowns curb U.S. stimulus optimism
By Noah Browning
LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices were steady on Monday as support from U.S. stimulus plans and jitters about supplies competed with worries about demand due to renewed lockdowns to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
Brent crude futures for March rose 7 cents, or 0.1%, to $55.48 a barrel by 1210 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for March was up 5 cents, or 0.1%, at $52.32.
“Sentiment was buoyed by expectations for a blockbuster coronavirus relief package … (but) the tug of war between stimulus optimism and virus woes is set to continue,” said Stephen Brennock of broker PVM.
U.S. lawmakers are set to lock horns over the size of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package proposed by new President Joe Biden, financial stimulus that would support the economy and fuel demand.
European nations, major consumers, have imposed tough restrictions to halt the spread of the virus, while China reported a rise in new COVID-19 cases, casting a pall over demand prospects in the world’s largest energy consumer.
Barclays raised its 2021 oil price forecasts, but said rising cases in China could contribute to near-term pullbacks.
“Even though the pandemic is not yet slowing down, oil prices have good reasons to start the week with gains,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen from Rystad Energy.
Supply concerns have offered some support. Indonesia said its coast guard seized an Iranian-flagged tanker over suspected illegal fuel transfers, raising the prospect of more tensions in the oil-exporting Gulf.
“A development that always benefits prices is the market turbulence that conflicts create,” Tonhaugen added.
Libyan oil guards halted exports from several main ports in a pay dispute on Monday.
Output from Kazakhstan’s giant Tengiz field was disrupted by a power outage on Jan. 17.
(Editing by David Goodman and Edmund Blair)
Dollar steadies; euro hurt by vaccine delays and German business morale slump
By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar steadied, the euro slipped and riskier currencies remained strong on Monday, as currency markets were torn between optimism about U.S. stimulus plans, and the reality of slow vaccine rollout and the economic impact of lockdowns in Europe.
Market sentiment had turned more cautious at the end of last week as European economic data showed that lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of the virus hurt business activity, dragging stocks lower.
The safe-haven dollar declined gradually overnight, and riskier currencies strengthened. It then recovered some losses after European markets opened, and was at 90.224 against a basket of currencies at 1152 GMT, flat on the day.
On one hand, market sentiment is supported by hopes for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plans, as well as the expectation that central banks will continue to provide liquidity.
But, in Europe, the extent of the risk appetite was limited by a lack of progress in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine as well the economic impact of lockdown measures.
German business morale slumped to a six-month low in January, surprising market participants who had expected the survey to show a rise.
“It’s very much a case of hopes for the future against the reality of the first quarter of this year which is going to still prove to be fairly troubled,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.
“For now at least, the optimism that we’re hoping for has been somewhat delayed and that has taken a little bit of steam out of the euro and just put a little bit of support back in the dollar but ultimately I think it is still a case of those high-beta commodity currencies, reflation currencies, will continue to perform well,” he said.
Analysts expect a broad dollar decline during 2021. The net speculative short position on the dollar grew to its largest in ten years in the week to Jan. 19, according to weekly futures data from CFTC released on Friday.
The U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday and Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expected to signal that he has no plans to wind back the Fed’s massive stimulus any time soon – news which could push the dollar down further.
“The process of tapering QE is likely to be a gradual process which could last throughout 2022, and then potentially be followed by the first rate hikes later in 2023,” wrote MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman.
“In these circumstances, we continue to believe that it is premature to expect the US dollar to rebound now in anticipation of policy tightening ahead, and still see scope for further weakness this year,” he said.
The euro was down around 0.1% against the dollar, at $1.2153 at 1207 GMT. At the European Central Bank meeting last week, President Christine Lagarde said the bank was closely watching the euro. The euro surged 9% last year versus the dollar and reached new two and a half year highs earlier in January.
But despite this verbal intervention, traders remain bullish on the euro, expecting the bar for a rate cut to be high.
Elsewhere, the Australian dollar, which is seen as a liquid proxy for risk, was up 0.2% at 0.7726 versus the U.S. dollar at 1208 GMT.
The New Zealand dollar was up 0.5%, while the commodity-driven Norwegian crown was up 0.2% the euro.
The safe-haven Japanese yen was flat on the day at 103.815 versus the U.S. dollar.
Graphic: USD, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qmypmyjdxpr/USD.png
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft, editing by Ed Osmond and Chizu Nomiyama)
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