A great brand: utter consistency yet with ongoing change.

by Kelvin Collins
See Dave Speak SMX London

It has been a while since I last wrote about branding, about the tripartite relationship between customer, business and staff, and the need for consistency in an ever changing world.

During the time that has passed I have been considering various potential case studies of a business that I believe to demonstrate the essential elements of creating a great brand.

Here they are again:

  • Brilliant customer focus – but don't just deliver what they want, stay ahead by thinking of what they don't even realise they want yet
  • Brilliant staff engagement – your people have to understand what you are doing and why if they are to be proud of you and deliver the experience you dream of
  • Consistency – consistent does not mean staying the same, but it does mean being strongly recognisable in order to build instant recognition and association in your prospect's mind

The easy choice would have been Apple, and indeed when I recently bought a new iPhone I was totally engaged with the product before I even got it out of the box because the packaging was so beautiful and perfect, yet not over done.

Instead I have chosen a rather obscure brand that I had contact with this month for the first time in years.

I've done so partly to show that having a great brand doesn't necessarily mean being famous.

Allow me to talk about how Vitsoe have demonstrated amazing brand behaviour.

Vitsoe have just one product. A limited range of shelving designed by the great Dieter Rams all the way back in the 1950s and launched in 1959.

The shelving is minimal.

It is utterly functional.

It is extremely robust.

It has become a design classic.

And has hardly changed in appearance since it was first designed.

Although it has been improved in many ways.

Rams recognised our headlong rush into consumerist destruction many decades ago, in a speech he delivered in 1976 he said "I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk." And in recognition of that his products are designed to create minimal environmental detriment, in part by being timeless, and never needing replacement.

(Apologies for the domestic image!)

But we all know that a great product does not guarantee a great brand, and if Vitsoe hasn't changed the product in decades, how can it be up to date?

The answers to the question came when I called them a week or so ago.

I bought my first units from Vitsoe over ten years ago. When I moved from that place they sent someone to reassemble the kit in our new apartment. Even that was eight years back.

I called this month having little recollection of what I had bought or its sizes.

Yet while I was on the phone they emailed a pdf of my original design to me. I'm not even sure pdfs existed that long ago!

An hour later the guy who took my original order all those years back called and talked me through what I needed. He had left the company during that time, but subsequently returned as he claimed no where else matched its ethos and quality.

He told me how I can access a record of all I’ve bought through their site.

He offered to send someone to fit the new units I wanted – even though I'm in Manchester and they're in London. I declined, but instead had a timed delivery to our latest flat.

The delivery included a spirit level that fits perfectly into the units. Even an amazingly sharp pencil for marking the walls.

It all came in packaging that is close to reaching Apple's standard of perfection. But it’s all recycled material, perfectly protecting the product.

For me, Vitsoe demonstrate every characteristic of a fantastic brand, delivering consistently, with fantastic people, using bang up to date technology, but only where appropriate, and leaving me wanting to tell the tale – even though it's only a set of shelves!

It is expensive. Really quite expensive. But having used them once, I wouldn't consider anything else.

Now. Where do I find some more walls?

These pieces have been about rules so far – I reckon next time I need to write about breaking them – it’s fun and it’s the way to progress.

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