Why should a company close its shops on Black Friday? And what can we learn from rowing boats about the topic of brand? Today we are talking to Bernhard Scholz from BrandTrust, who as a Senior Brand Consultant helps top managers to increase the attractiveness of their own brand and thus tap undiscovered business potential.
Thank you for being here today, Bernhard Scholz! Why don’t you tell us what your favourite brand is and whether this has changed in the course of your life.
As a child, my favourite brand was Victorinox – as a boy scout it was the greatest thing for me to have a Victorinox knife that accompanied me everywhere.
Today my favorite brand is still in the outdoor world – Patagonia. I am currently very enthusiastic about the brand, because it was one of the first brands that managed to stand for a socially relevant topic, and to implement it with a power that you rarely see in a brand. Their willingness to set themselves apart is also very impressive – for example, they closed their shops on Black Friday because they are against excessive consumption. I find that quite inspiring. Although there are now more brands that are pursuing the topic with similar intensity, Patagonia was the pioneer.
What would you wish for from a brand fairy who could fulfill every wish?
I would wish for BrandTrust to continue to find and keep people who are all united behind our mission and demonstrate it daily through their efforts. It should be noticeable from the customer’s as well as the applicant’s point of view of what we do and why we do it.
How would you proceed within the company to win employees over as brand ambassadors?
It should not be perceived as an additional task that eats up a lot of time, but brand ambassadors must be a group that delivers added value for employees. A balance needs to be created between rewards and board attention, for example, by inviting exciting speakers several times a year to speak about the topic of the brand or by taking them on excursions. The board of directors should be there at the same time, so that you can receive the attention and brand ambassadors feel valued when they present these topics to the board.
And how would you proceed to maintain the enthusiasm of your employees in the long term?
A common understanding of leadership: Employees must be able to rely on the fact that the brand is also used as a leadership tool and that they receive support, attention and appreciation from above when they act in the spirit of the brand.
Added value from the customer’s point of view: Employees must understand that the work they put into the brand also gets through to the outside world and actually works. An employee should not feel like a Sisyphus who struggles but does nothing to help others. It’s about getting that “grip” through the brand and also feeling that it works. If you can show this to your employees, then it is no longer necessary to convince them to act for the brand, but they develop their own self-motivation.
Performance instead of words: make it clear what the brand ambassadors are doing to maintain a sense of pride. The aim is to make it visible of what they have already achieved in the area of brands in recent years and this ultimately leads everything back to the principle of appreciation.
What developments and challenges in the area of branding do you see in the future?
Here I can see a big development that is already emerging. Currently I notice that brands are very focused on the competition and copy the strategies that work for others. In the digital area, for example, copying is done at Amazon. What gets lost is the differentiating power of a brand. That’s why I believe that it will be a challenge for the brands of the future, as one would say in rowing, “keep your eyes in the boat” and don’t let yourself be distracted by what’s happening outside and what works for others, but to go your own way and find your own solutions.
In which corporate departments do you think it is particularly challenging to win over employees for a brand and why?
Sales: there, employees have often been working there for many years with their own success patterns and do not immediately believe you when you try to convince them that you have a much better story for them. A lot of persuasion is often necessary. Of course, it helps if the stories that the sales staff tell are put into the context of the brand – often they can be integrated into the brand with a little twist.
Product development: Employees also tend to view their area as a self-contained territory and in some companies, unfortunately, they don’t have frequent contact with the brand. This can basically be transferred to all areas that are far from marketing. There, employees often believe that their own strategies work best and are reluctant to gather behind the one target image of the brand.
With only one argument, how would you convince someone of the importance of the topic “brand”?
Brand leads to appreciation, value creation and resilience in difficult times.
What do other departments expect from a brand management team?
Unfortunately, often only stylistic topics, especially for companies that do not necessarily think in brand-oriented terms. First of all it is about logos, colours etc. Ideally, a brand management team would be seen as the more operational arm of the corporate strategy, making the strategic goals of the company applicable and tangible for employees. In this way, they could of course also be involved in the area of research & (product) development.
On the HR side, there is often the expectation that the brand management team will support the onboarding and that it is left to the brand team to inform new employees about the brand and to inspire them for the brand. The Brand Management Team is best suited to tell the brand stories and to motivate the new employees to burn for the brand from day one.
Just hypothetically – if you didn’t work for Brand Trust, which brand would be your favorite?
It’s hard to say. Because of my own passion, I would like to work for an outdoor brand with a strong impact mission that combines its business activities with changing the behaviour of its customers. Of course, you work to “roll the dice”, but you don’t have to have a guilty conscience because you are influencing customers to do something good at the same time. In the end, everyone feels good about it.