Behind the scenes: the golden rules of global brand management (Landor: Thinking: Articles:)

by raymanookian

By Lori Gross
Executive Client Director, Global Oral Care

When we wanted to learn more about managing a global brand we turned to Lori Gross, executive client director of global oral care in the Cincinnati office of Landor Associates. With almost 20 years of branding experience, Lori works closely with Procter & Gamble’s oral care team to develop the global oral care strategy, including consumer segmentation, brand architecture, portfolio management, brand strategy, design themes, visual identity development, regimen systems, and brand revitalization.

What makes a global brand team effective?

The best teams work together toward a common vision. However, we often start before we know what the vision is. Building the right team to define a vision starts with identifying the right multifunctional team members. The best brand teams are like a three-legged stool. Each leg is strong on it’s own but the stool only stands if they all work together. In my experience, the best teams consist of the client’s internal marketing and design teams, and Landor. We all work together to create the vision.

What’s the first thing you do when embarking on a global branding project?

The first step I take is to immerse myself in the client’s business and try to understand the brand’s consumers. It’s essential to travel to the key world regions where the brand is sold to get a full understanding of the brand, the diverse retail environments it occupies, and to actually see how local consumers perceive and make purchase decisions. Brand teams can’t just spend time in the office—they need to get out in the world to understand the consumers’ reality. For example, the brand teams may want to put really clever and compelling language on the packaging, but it’s important to keep in mind that we are selling to a consumer who takes three seconds to make a purchase decision when she’s in the store.

Truly successful brands represent a commonly understood, relevantly differentiating idea that transcends cultures and geographies. How do you uncover that core idea?

I once had a client tell me that getting that idea is like capturing lightning in a bottle. It takes courage and perseverance to find ideas that do transcend cultures, and a leap of faith by the brand team to chase them. These core ideas need to be based on an inherent, human truth. When working on products that people both need and love—and ideally you want both—you touch their lives. I am passionate about working on oral care because I’m helping people all over the world keep their teeth healthy.

Landor worked with the Crest team at P&G to brand Crest Vivid White toothpaste in 2004 around a core, universal idea. Before Vivid White, people thought of toothpaste as just a functional product. But with Vivid White we changed the conversation from health to beauty. Our core idea was this new way of thinking about oral care, especially for women: toothpaste as a smile-care product that straddles hygiene and cosmetics. There are always more ways to think about a brand than the obvious.

Once Procter & Gamble acquired Oral-B in 2005, we were able to add toothbrushes to the line (we redesigned the packaging under a new subbrand, 3D White, in 2010). This changed not only how consumers saw toothpaste, but also how retailers shelved it. Consumers sought out a 3D White toothbrush and toothpaste together as opposed to differently branded pastes and brushes because both kept true to our big, universal idea: a beautiful smile matters. Now 3D White is truly the first global brand design for P&G oral care—in 2010 it was named one of SymphonyIRI’s most successful nonfood packaged goods brands.

As branding experts Landor needs to forge a path that not only showcases the big idea but brings everyone—from our clients to the consumers—along on the journey. That’s capturing lightning in a bottle.

What’s the most effective way to align teams around the world?

The most critical step is to determine from the onset who the approver is and who the other key influencers on the brand team are. It’s also necessary to be aware of the skeptics on the team. The people with contrary points of view need to be understood and be heard, too—even if they are eventually overruled. Ensuring the brand team is aligned to the process and their role in it helps the project run smoothly. We get pressured to work fast, but skipping this step is not an option in my book.

What are some of the greatest challenges in managing a global brand today?

To me the biggest challenge is getting everyone who’s working on the project to park their preconceived notions at the door. Just because something worked in North America five years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work globally today. How do you get everyone to check their egos and gain trust in the process to get to a good place? It has to be a collaborative experience that challenges the way we might normally work, both for Landor and our clients. The more that ambassadors can empower the rest of their teams to believe in the big idea, the better. Managing global brands and working globally has changed, in unexpected ways, the way P&G and Landor do business.

What’s the secret to successfully running a global brand management program?

The secret?! I can’t give away my secrets.

The keys to success are being a great listener and being able to filter—we need to trust what consumers are telling us. Brand teams provide a point of view and lots of data, but the consumer sees the brand differently, more simply. The brand team analyzes the brand rationally, often forgetting to understand the brand at an emotional level, which is really what the brand means to consumers, and influences their decision to purchase. Being able to balance the emotional side and the data to create a brand experience that delights everyone takes incredible filtering and listening skills.

What are the golden rules of global brand management?

The Landor oral care team created operating principles together. It’s a great tool to ensure we operate as a team and work toward a common vision.

  • We are a team. We believe it takes many people to accomplish our work, and we’re in this together.
  • We share. Our category is complex, our team is large, and our best work comes from sharing openly and often.
  • We’re diverse. We each bring something unique to the team and the business. We are not clones. We celebrate our uniqueness, opinions, regions, and worldviews.
  • We eat and drink. We believe the best problems are solved with food. Our best work is worthy of a toast.
  • We are business partners. We love our consumers, are passionate about the business and its products, and care about sales.
  • We believe in the power of design. Great design can transcend problems and change the business for the better.
  • We’re open and transparent. No secrets. No surprises.
  • We’re visionaries, not firefighters or miracle workers. We believe that most days there are no fires and that our long-term vision will deliver the business impact needed. Expect greatness but don’t be crazy.
  • We know details matter. We expect our work to show up on-shelf as we intended.

Landor: Thinking: Articles: Behind the scenes: the golden rules of global brand management.