Why Brand Change needs to Change

The increasing speed of change has put pressure on organisations and their leaders to face the reality that the current Brand Change approach, used by organisations and the marketing industry, has become less relevant and will cease to survive in the new era. The current brand change management, through theoretical approaches and strategic marketing processes, has over-emphasised on the “Outside” change efforts - like brand identity, brand strategy, experiential marketing and digital marketing, internal marketing - will need to change. For instance, today, the current approach of the brand function focuses mostly on the “outside” change areas. Conversely, the HR teams mainly address an organization’s “inside” changes—consisting of talent and a firm’s cultural aspects. Because of this disjointed outlook towards change management and lack of inter-department seamlessness, the overall initiative falls short in achieving the desired outcome for organisations making Change to deliver integrated solutions and customer experience due to the lack of alignment of internal and external aspects of Change.

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Wong Mei Wai unveils her new Brand Change models arising from the 2020 research study (with input by INSEAD Business School) that addresses the unresearched area of brand change approach by exposing the lack of emphasis of the “Inside” brand areas in the brand and marketing functions within organisations.  This study highlights the need to include the less visible areas of brand change – i.e. the “Inside” brand change factors – namely elements like culture, ways of working, structure and other systemic related factors, etc (see diagram)  This study leverages on current organisational change trends and integrates this into Wong’s Brand Change Framework - a framework setting out the clear “layers” of “Outside” and “Inside” brand change areas.  Through uncovering both the conscious and unconscious brand change elements she redefines brand change in terms of layers of “Outside” and “Inside” change. 

In her more holistic brand framework, “Outside” brand change is defined as the changes that are most visibly linked to the external brand image or experience. Conversely, “Inside” brand change is the less visible brand change experiences that closely connect the brand to the people and the system and the environment. The new era of Brand change should capture both the visible and less visible changes in the known identity of a company in terms of products and services it offers and what the company stands for in terms of rational and emotional benefits to the consumers.

Through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) in-depth study, where Wong Mei Wai conducted interviews with founders and CEOs across diverse industries (who played instrumental roles in initiating and driving brand change processes)  revealed that the companies that focused solely on either “Outside” or “Inside” brand change were only able to implement incremental (instead of transformative) change . On the other hand, the companies that could navigate both “Outside” and “Inside” brand changes (a far more complex journey) smoothly underwent more transformational brand change resulting in the acquisition and integration of new businesses/brands  and/or entering completely new business categories. This, in turn, has enabled expansion into multiple markets globally with newly developed and/or acquired brands whilst creating a cohesive brand experience

Wong’s Brand Change Framework also makes explicit the various layers and components for transitioning from “Outside” focus to “Inside” focus whilst adding a system psychodynamic perspective as a basis or foundation to help business navigate change. It  uncovers the unconscious “hidden dynamics” and “ undercurrents” of organisational behaviour which arises due to brand change like social defence mechanism that may be prevalent when organizational anxieties are not properly managed.  Wong’s Brand Change Framework (which summarises the layers of “Outside” and “Inside” brand change and integrating the unconscious areas) will help guide businesses to decide on how much brand change is required to build a legacy.

In addition, Wong’s Outside-Inside Family Business Change Matrix allows businesses to evaluate and reflect on their own brand change journey. This combined Wong’s Brand Change Framework (which summarises the layers of “Outside” and “Inside” brand change and integrating the unconscious areas) will guide organisations to decide on how much brand change is required to build a legacy.

The above is an extract from“ How Much Brand Change is needed to Build Legacy”- A practical and psychodynamic perspective on how family businesses can approach brand change to build legacy, by Wong Mei Wai, Founder, CEO, Chief Change Catalyst of APAC Global Adviosry, that will be available in the INSEAD Business School Library. The first part is an IPA study in 2020 with Owners, CEOs and leaders of diverse industries: IT, Consumer Goods, Hospitality, Transportation, Financial Services, Retail & Ecommerce with business and brand  footprint of 17 markets.

"Legacy Tree at the End of the Brand Change Tunnel", painted by M.W Wong 2020