Interview with Dr. Deborah Zani, Managing Director at RUBNER Haus
As Managing Director of RUBNER Haus in the RUBNER Group, a South Tyrol-based family business with 1300 employees in four countries and a great passion for the material wood, Dr. Deborah Zani knows how to successfully manage a brand with a 90-year history. We will discuss with her how the pandemic has influenced the brand orientation of customers and why it is important to find your own niche.
Thank you for being with us today, Dr. Deborah Zani! To begin with: what was your favorite brand in the past and what is it today?
As a child, I was not interested in brands. Even as a teenager I had no reference brand. Now I’m a fan of Gucci shoes for everyday use in business, soft calfskin processed with Italian taste, a classic all-rounder.
What do you think works internally to attract employees as brand ambassadors?
The lively conviction to offer the best product on the market. Transparency with regard to strategic developments that are close to the original promise.
What developments do you currently see in the area of brands?
Anyone who has invested in brands for a long time can see that brand work pays off, especially in times of crisis. After Covid, 44% of customers in Italy aged 55 to 64 tend to buy brands they already know, compared to 28% of those aged 25 to 34. Whoever chooses now, chooses more consciously, Covid has put a new focus on value. However, in my opinion there will also be a contrary tendency with regards to the introduction of new products: There will probably be less room for these in segments such as food, and purchases of convenience products will also be more focused on e-commerce and home delivery. Customers will tend to opt for brands in the home building and furnishing sectors, among others, because of the growing importance of living space.
Protectionism is a word which, in relation to brands, is also translated into trademark applications. According to the data of the DPMA, these grew by an average of 4.6% from 2018 to 2019. Brands will have to think more carefully and communicate better as to why they are relevant to customers.
What developments and challenges do you see in the future – in about 5-10 years?
Brands will have to focus, have the courage to position themselves as a niche product, and have to carefully consider their own radius of action (global vs. local). Consistency and specificity are challenges that will also have an impact on the supply chain. The individualization of requirements has an impact on product volume and variety. There will be a professionalization in branding, and brand management will establish itself as one of the central tasks of top management.
In your opinion, what are the three most effective measures to win over employees for a brand in the long term?
- Appointment of brand ambassadors and thus sharing the responsibility of brand management
- Focus on aligning the most relevant brand touch points with the brand promise
- Inclusion in the elaboration of strategic further developments of the product
In which areas of the company do you think it is particularly difficult to win employees for a brand and why?
In our case, it was in production, on the construction site and in project management. The employees in these areas are far away from the decision-makers, but they are the crucial contacts for the completion of the product. Moreover, in the case of the installation, they are the first contacts for the customer – as well as for potential new customers – in the last but most visible and sensitive phase of the implementation.
What one argument would you use to convince someone of the importance of the brand?
Brand is an expression of the self-image of consistent top performance.
If you would not work for RUBNER, which brand would you like to work for and why?
For Gucci, the brand with the greatest added value in the luxury segment in 2019 (Interbrand).