Redefining Your Brand Part I

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Fawcett, VP of Global Marketing for CooperVision, a few months back about her rebranding journey.  CooperVision, by the way, sells over a billion dollars worth of contact lens’ annually around the world and as a result of their rebranding work (by Siegel+Gale) ended up in a truly distinctive place.  Not being a branding expert, I found the whole thing quite enlightening and turned this interview into an article that will appear shortly on FastCompany.com.

Drew: Could you give me some background on your rebranding journey?
Sure. The branding journey at CooperVision,  wasn’t something that was taken lightly. It had been part of the strategic planning process for the company identified with other major initiatives.  Establishing a strong corporate brand was one of the key elements to the strategic plan

Drew: Was there a specific trigger?
The organization embarked on this for a handful of reasons. First, unlike some companies that embark on this journey, the organization was growing and doing extremely well, there wasn’t a problem we were looking to fix. Our business had changed over the last five years, and the marketplace had also changed.  We wanted to make sure we continued to evolve so we maintained our relevance for the future. Secondly, CooperVision had grown by acquisition, purchasing other contact lens companies, and recent growth had been fueled by developing and launching new products. . It was time to make sure the organization was all aligned under a single corporate brand. All key stakeholders – customers, consumers, employees, shareholders understood what CooperVision stands for and the value we bring to the contact lens industry.

Drew Neisser: I’m hoping that you will be able to define what in your mind establishes strong corporate brand.
Sure, it revolves around what we define as our strategic framework.  It has four components. First is our brand promise, that differentiation we bring to the contact lens market. It defines why customers want to do business with us, that’s the center of the hub.

Drew: Okay that’s one. What’s next? 
Then we started to define a purpose, why do we come to work every day, what makes us get out of bed.  It’s the promise that defines how we compete in the market and why customers purchase our product. The purpose statement is why employees come to work every day.   They are two different components of the branding puzzle.

Drew: What are the other components?
The other two components were establishing a set of core values for the organization and developing a corporate voice.  The values govern how we behave, how we talk to one another, et cetera.  The voice is defines ‘how’ we speak to the customers, contact lens wearers, employees, and other key stakeholders, it defines our ‘tone’.    These 4 components; promise, purpose, values and voice brings us to the last stage of this journey – visual expression of the brand.  It can be a tendency with branding projects for people to get caught up with the visual expression of the brand, developing new logos and images, without identifying the strong foundation of the companies promise, purpose, values and voice to go with it.

Drew: Where does visual identity fit into all of this?
One of the reasons we were very interested in working with Siegel+Gale is we knew a brand is more than just its visual expression. Siegel & Gale knew that too. You really need to understand what makes the company different in the marketplace, how its values govern its behaviors, how it speaks to the marketplace, and how employees are engaged on a day to day basis.  Only after that heavy lifting is done can the organization develop a visual expression of the brand.

Drew: Did you have a sense from the beginning how you were going to measure success?
We had 3 items that were the ‘acid test’ for measuring success.  First, employees feel CooperVision is a great place to work and we are aligning our resources around a common mission for growth.  Second, our customers and consumers, believe we provide differentiation that creates real value. We found white space CooperVision could own and was relevant to our customers.  We want to continue to track our brand to make sure we are living up to that differentiated promise in the market.  Thirdly, if we truly defined our differentiated promise to the market it would allow for streamlined decision making and allocation of resources.  Projects or initiatives would either live up to the promise and we say “Yes”, or they don’t and we say “No.”

Drew:  What kind of timeframe are we talking about?
From start to finish it was an 18-month process.  Primarily it was an 18-month process as there was significant research  upfront.  We spent time with our main constituents, employees, contact lenses wearers, eye care practitioners and retailers all around the world. We needed to truly understand their perception of CooperVision as well as the other manufacturers. We always felt we approached the market differently and that contributed to our success, but did our stakeholders feel the same way?

Drew: Why were employees so important to the process?
If we’re going to make a promise to the market, it can’t be 12 executives sitting in a room deciding what the company is to be.  Ultimately, the employees are the promise keepers, so need to be vested in what the brand promise is to the market.  We went to great lengths to make sure employees were able to express their views about what the company was  good at, what areas the company  needed to improve upon, what they felt was important to the marketplace.  We then matched those views against what our customers and lens wearers told us globally. This collective effort became the underpinnings of the branding work.

Drew: Were there any surprises that came out?
Given we are a global company we are fortunate enough to sell our product in very unique markets.  The conventional belief is our customers and consumers would be vastly different given the unique cultures and markets. Are their differences among contact lens wearers and eye care practitioners globally?  Absolutely.  Are they ‘vast’ differences? No. What was nice is through this research we were able to ‘unveil’ some common-ground to focus on. It helped the organization align on a promise that could meet the worldwide needs for our business.  I realize that is often not the case for other companies.  What was nice for CooperVision was we were able to circle in on a few things that really resonated, and were relevant and credible on a global basis. That is very powerful.

NOTE:  This is part 1 of my interview with Lisa.  The 2nd part will appear in the next day or so.  If you found this interesting, feel free to subscribe to TheDrewBlog;-)

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