15 Tips for Rebuilding Your Brand
Whether you are starting a new job, taking on a new position in your current company or simply considering a career change, the following suggestions from Deutsche Telekom’s Hans Christian Schwingen are definitely worth taking to heart.
Entering a new organization can be daunting no matter the size, but when that company has a quarter million employees and a matrix structure so complex that it is incomprehensible even at the top level, the challenge is even more intense. Schwingen faced such a challenge when he left Audi and joined Deutsche Telekom in 2007 as its Vice President of Marketing and Branding. The company image was in a slump, with low customer satisfaction, little direction for the employees on how to best compete and all the symptoms of an ailing giant struggling to keep up with the rapid changes within its industry. However, within a few years, Schwingen was able to turn the image of the organization around, reinvigorate the employees with a new mission and use innovative brand strategies that earned Deutsche Telekom the award for “best brand change of 2011.” By using “below the line” marketing techniques, Schwingen was able to make his campaign go viral much more effectively than only through traditional T.V. and radio spots. By staging impromptu concerts (You should see what surprises they have lined up for their Christmas campaign!) and even a live “Angry Birds” event, which gathered huge crowds, Deutsche Telekom has redefined its company image. See below for the video that highlights some of the events they have put on around the world.
Mr. Schwingen joined the Berlin School of Creative Leadership for a day and shared his 15 tips for not only managing a new job in a complex organization, but how to create immediate impact and lasting change.
1. Do not take a job unless you are convinced you can influence future decisions.
*Schwingen knew he was taking on a challenge entering Deutsche Telekom, with the German government as its major stakeholder. However, he made sure there was confidence in his abilities from the top before he accepted the position, so that he would have the backup to begin institutional change.
2. Start studying the organization 2 months before beginning a job. Get familiar with widely diversified top down networking.
*Here is a look at the structure Schwingen confronted when joining Deutsche Telekom. Understanding the current structure was pivotal to being able to make changes and knowing who would be in charge of implementing his ideas.
3. Make a concise plan of what you must complete in the first 3 months of the job.
*Bill Roedy, former CEO of MTV International, who also spoke at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership stressed this same piece of advice. He said what you do in your first 90 days of a leadership position will set the tone for the rest of your career.
4. Before you start, analyze where the brand is and where you would like to develop it.
*Schwingen decided that Deutsche Telekom had to understand its weak points and figure out what its positive attributes were in order to gain the confidence of the public and encourage its employees to believe in the new mission. Instead of trying to market their connection speed, which was historically poor compared to some competitors, he wanted to convey Deutsche Telekom’s stability as a company and its mission to connect the world.
5. After starting a job, work on your 3-month plan consistently and get to know the people on the ground.
*Schwingen familiarized himself with not just managers but also the people who would be implementing the new brand image and conveying it to customers. He gathered important change leaders together and made his face known throughout the company.
6. Give off a presence without being obtrusive. Ask questions, observe and ask “who will join forces with you and who will not?”
*It is important to know who in the company will be behind your plan and help spread that energy throughout the organization. Just as important, you should know who will not support it and then you can decide how to control the situation before it spreads throughout the team.
7. Use clear language so colleagues will know what you mean. Confusing and scattered language can destroy even the most ambitious projects.
*In 2008, the T-brand family had confusion about the T-brand portfolio. It was cluttered, with many names for different services without a clear sense of identity and direction. Schwingen said this led to consumers viewing the umbrella brand as weak. He set out on a path to connect the various services with a single, easy-to-understand brand.
8. Drive both the content related and the structural orientation of your area forward. It is essential to get empowerment from the very top and an official business mandate in order to convince others to take on the new challenge.
*The CEO of Deutsche Telekom sent a memo out to the staff introducing Schwingen and also throwing his support behind the rebranding effort. This led to the rest of the team being more willing to follow Schwingen’s new plan.
9. Regarding a brand change, draw up your concepts three or four months after starting a job and have the backing of the management. Base it on substance that is deliverable andmeasurable. Use this as a brand filter for the development of new brands and services, e.g., does the new offer fulfill the brand promise?
*Schwingen first made important changes to brand marketing, saying “the core of our brand is an emotional brand promise. Our brand promise is based on what we actually do.” A brand promise is also a sketch of what the company will be in the future and is a good filter for making decisions on products on services. Asking the simple question, ‘does this fulfill our brand promise?’ can help filter out what services the company should actually invest in. When Schwingen arrived, there were 6300 products. Using the brand promise “Life is for sharing” helped Deutsche Telekom filter out the services that lived up to that brand and cut out the services that didn’t.
10. Go on a road show with your concept in order to take colleagues and important stakeholders with you on your way.
*When promoting Deutsche Telekom’s new brand image, Mr. Schwingen went to 70 road shows in a year. He also made sure to talk to the corporate communications team about the new brand image. A rule of thumb: don’t talk about yourself; talk about the topic.
11. Use your direct communication with management in a psychologically smart way rather than being demonstratively aggressive. Pursue a mission by convincing, never by threatening.
*Schwingen wanted to assert his authority but also earn the trust of his employees, so he showed him the way rather than forcing it upon them. By gaining trust and confidence from your team, you can create evangelists who will help get others on board to do the job and do it well.
12. Push for measures that provide you with the quickest possible recognition to establish credibility.
*An immediate move Schwingen made was to put the big Telekom “T” on what was before just a non-descript building. Instead of asking for permission, he made it happen in order to create immediate impact.
13. Introduce a tool to sustainably measure success and make it a component of the management target agreement.
*By implementing a few immediate changes regarding customer service, such as a quicker response time to calls and a clearer focus on serving customer needs, complaints went down by 50 percent. Having measurements allowed the team to see results and it increased accountability in all the different departments.
14. Use every opportunity to make it internally and externally clear that brand management is a matter of uppermost management.
*Schwingen had every decision regarding the rebranding go through his office in order to ensure consistency among the wide array of products and the diverse offices under the T-Brand around the world.
15. Make your personal success a shared success.
*With the best rebranding award, Schwingen said he made sure to not steal the limelight and include other key members of the team in the celebration. It leads to a sense of ownership among the others and a stronger commitment to live by the new brand.
You can read about the challenge of creating the new brand in the book Brand Driven Change.
A commercial featuring some of the events Deutsche Telekom has organized to establish its new brand tagline “Life is for Sharing.”
Please see video of the tour to Deutsche Telekom’s innovation labs below: