10th October 2015

A reminder of what branding is really about

If ever we needed reminding that the real power of branding has less to do with the design of the logo and more to do with the core values and ethos of the organisation, then Volkswagen has provided us all with a sharp wake-up call.

Volkswagen UK is a client of ours. From our perspective, it would have been hard to find a more engaged and committed team to work for. And that’s not just the Marketing team. We witnessed true ownership and respect for the Volkswagen brand from the youngest apprentice to the most senior leaders in the UK. It was, and is, remarkable to see that inside such a large company. Clearly, the actions of a few have tarnished the reputation of many and broken the trust of customers and employees across the globe.

So what is a brand?

It’s clearly much more about reputation and trust than about superficial aspects, such as logos and colours. They are merely symbols of what lies within.

When we work with businesses and organisations to create powerful brands we talk about:
Vision – where are we going and why?
Offer – what do we have to offer?
Image – how do we come across?
Culture – how do we do things around here?
Essence – what defines us?

Simple enough questions, but hard to answer.

Digging deeper into the culture piece, we always ask:
“how do we define our culture?”
“what values guide how we behave?”
“what will we do and what won’t we do?”

Perhaps we should all do some soul searching within our own businesses and be certain that we know the answers to these questions. Then we need to be sure that everyone else we work with knows the answers. Finally, the leaders of every organisation need to be convinced that the actions of a few cannot wreak such havoc upon their hard-won reputation.

Your brand is not something that is owned by the Marketing team. It’s owned by everybody inside your organisation, from the CEO to the newest starter. It is your most valuable asset. Let that be the lesson from Volkswagen.


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Rebecca Battman

Managing Director

Rebecca is the founder and Managing Director of rbl. An experienced brand and marketing professional, Rebecca has spent over 30 years helping clients to build, design and manage their brands.

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