Following the CBS credo of combining theory and practice, Dr. Renée Fröhling of GMK Markenberatung gave an inspiring guest lecture on the power of good branding, the links to change management and – based on best practice – how a bold rebranding approach can become a great success.
The power of brands
After a welcome by Prof. Dr. Alessandro Monti, Dr. Renée Fröhling gave an overview on the various levels where brands show their potential: they provide orientation, create differentiation, generate trust and can even inspire identification with the brand’s values, both by customers and employees. This effect became evident with the picture of a completely unbranded airplane. Dr. Fröhling asked the students who would happily board this plane. Simply no one said yes. The next picture showed the identical aircraft with the well-known Lufthansa branding. There was no need to ask who would rather fly with this version – a perfect example of how a brand creates and transports trust.
When worlds change …
The recipe for success of strong brands includes using constant and recognisable codes or remaining true to one’s own vision or product. This is becoming an even greater challenge in a world that feels to change ever faster and where change management is more than just a buzzword. For companies, this means integrating new or changing technologies into their brand strategy and asserting themselves against new players in the market. In her lecture, Dr. Fröhlich recommended integrating branding as an anchor of identity and corporate culture into the change processes and, at best, communicating change as a strength.
Do we know who we really are?
The best practice Dr. Fröhlich presented was the rebranding of German pharma-multinational Merck from Darmstadt, one of the most bold, brave and vibrant rebrandings of the last years. It shows on the one hand that a holistic reinterpretation involves more than just a change in design and on the other hand that it may make sense to leave traditional paths.
Before the relaunch, Merck’s branding was similar to numerous other large pharmaceutical companies: trustworthy, scientific and conservative – but also lacking uniqueness. Some people might go as far as to call it boring. At the beginning of the rebranding process at Merck, the one important question was: Are we really like this? The answer to the question simply did not seem to fit the brand. In fact, they felt curious, passionate and very lively. In addition, over the years Merck changed from a traditional pharmaceutical and chemical company to a modern science and technology group. This became the starting point for the creation of the new brand. At the end of the process, Merck developed a branding that focuses on its own curiosity and with its colourful, organically shaped design it clearly stands out from other pharmaceutical companies.
Employees become ambassadors
According to Dr. Fröhlich, a decisive point in the rolling-out phase of a brand implementation project is turning the employees into brand ambassadors. Especially with such a comprehensive rebranding as Merck’s, an integrated internal branding programmeand customised actions are extremely important. After all, only a strong brand like this can really create an impact.
Dr. Renée Fröhling has been a senior consultant at GMK Markenberatung since 2014 and has been working as a brand consultant since 2010. She holds a degree in business administration with a focus on marketing & brand management from the University of Cologne.
The > GMK Markenberatung is one of the leading brand consultancies in the German-speaking markets and supports companies in the analysis, planning and positioning of their brands. From Cologne’s Rheinauhafen, the interdisciplinary team works with well-known companies from internationally active medium-sized companies to blue-chip groups, from associations to NGOs.