In today’s society, brands are increasingly expected to drive social change. This goes far beyond traditional CSR and requires a new dimension in social relevance of brands and brand management. Brands are constantly adjusting to keep pace with social development. Consumer-centricity, iteration, and fail forward are just a few buzzwords that describe the new modus operandi. Transformation is a compelling need.
Organization = Remedying Disturbance
An academic, system-theoretical approach helps us to understand the profound implications of rapid change for brand management. According to the sociologist Dirk Baecker, organization means permanently establishing order or — vice versa — remedying disturbance. In times of tremendous change, it is quite unlikely that an organization can be run or even considered without disturbance. Just think of the vast impact of digitalization. Neither the energy giant nor the residents’ registration office or the concert hall remains unaffected by this development.
Management = Ordered Disturbance of an Organization
The only thing that can help us to keep our heads above water in times of permanent change is management. In Baecker’s understanding, management is the ordered disturbance of an organization. This is when brand management and our work as brand strategists evolve to full power. In order to transform a brand, it needs to be fully deconstructed. It is not necessary to reinvent the brand. But — system theoretically spoken — during transformation brands create a reproduction of themselves that includes the existing core of the organization. Without losing its roots, the brand is adapted to its modified environment — culturally, visually, sensually.
Reproduction for the Better
A successful example of this reproduction of itself is Kärcher. In 2014, the market leader for cleaning machines implemented its new brand idea “Empowering everyday heroes.” With this idea in mind they took the perfect takeoff position to tackle upcoming challenges and drive holistic change. Kärcher’s everyday heroes — customers and employees — are encouraged to new greatness. Customers get products and services that empower them to proudly and excitedly care for a clean world (for example, with the first connected cleaning fleet). But above all, they have over 11,000 heroes working for them in a mindset that nothing will remain unchanged.
To make this kind of mind-shift happen, a (top) management, which embraces permanent change, is key. Kärcher’s management proved to be so: they successfully changed their company’s ideas, communication, structure, products, and services. This allows Kärcher to remain relevant in the future and sustainably make a difference — reproduced for the better, for the sake of evolutionary transformation.
_Nora Schäfer is a brand strategist at MetaDesign Düsseldorf.