The implementation of brand identity has, over the past five to ten years, evolved into a strategic discipline that helps create competitive advantage and impacts a corporation’s balance sheet. The corporate world needs companies like Diadem, they just may not realise it. “Our industry has been developing over the last 30 years, but I think in the last five years people have started to see it as a business based activity,” says Diadem’s Marketing DirectorKelvin Taylor. He says that this realisation has come as businesses start to realise the effect integrated branding and image has on their bottom line. Implementing a new visual identity can be a rejuvenating, purposeful and opportunity-rich exercise for an enterprise. The downside? Even when done well, it is time consuming, complex and costly, and when done poorly it can expose a company to years – even decades – ofheartache and damage control.
Having a purposeful and consistent brand identity is something that Diadem has applied to themselves.Even the selection of their name was a much thought over move. “We didn’t want to select a name that would limit us; we could have used the principle’s names like many architectural practices, but I think that kind of pigeonholes you. So we wanted to pick a name that is aspirational, that didn’t necessarily describe the industry we are in, but rather it described the character of the business,” says Taylor. A diadem is a type of crown, or peak – a symbol that has been used throughout the modern and ancient world to symbolise royalty. This was symbol that they could to aspire to, and it is something that they have sought to achieve in all their operations. They, in a way, want to be a crowning achievement, and at the same time the jewel in the crown that makes their client’s projects a success.
Not fenced in by anything
Diadem is a design lead project management company, part creative and part pragmatic. “Our brand is not restrictive.” says Taylor. “We combine creative design services with project management and construction management. Central to our purpose however is to implement brand identity projects to ensure a consistent and compliant brand solution for our clients. Taylor says that with this breadth of abilities and functions, it is sometimes a bit hard to narrow down their operational approach in a concise manner.“Essentially we are a professional services company, operating in the broader field of marketing communications. What we do is encompassed by the fact that we have a real appreciation and understanding of design. We put this understanding into a process that is more rigorous in the project management aspect in order to deliver a product that goes beyond a client’s expectations.” Taylor says that they occupy a very interesting sector, in both the national and global sense. “A lot of products and services from competing organisations – such as banks, automotiveand petroleum companies – are becoming more and more commoditised. If I was to put a slide up to show you the technical specifications for engines, and all you looked at was the torque and the parts, and then I asked you to pick one, you couldn’t.” He then says that if you put up brands, such as Audi, BMW, VW and Alpha Romeo, the choice becomes easier. What Taylor is talking about is the problem that many big brands face, the issue of the parity product. Marketing the parity product is about making a differentiation between twosimilar products by creating an image or idea that sets one apart. How do you do that? Through a combination of brand research and strategic brand positioning combined with a focussed brand implementation program. Today’s ever-changing competitive landscape propels organisations into unfamiliar territory. Never before has brand positioning and supporting visual identity been more likely to be immersed in review. “What differentiates many competing companies is the brand, and there is now an emphasis on protecting the company’s brand at all times,” says Taylor. He says that great branding is not the cure all for all companies, and that the products and services that are delivered to the customer will ultimately define the brand. Taylor says, “The consistency of the brand language across all media is an important factor and the branding an enterprise’s physical space is a key element in the equation. Simply replacing or refreshing a brand without addressing a host of service and product issues will not address the problem.” He says that their service will solidify an image, but it is not a magic trick.
Planning the brand
What Diadem offers is integration of brand image into the design of the client’s physical space, allowing the public to see the idea of the brand as a physical manifestation. This process is integrated into the entire process of the build, from design inception to practical completion and beyond. This helps align the client’s location to their brand personality and brand promise. In a world impacted by Internet based purchasing habits the presentation of the brand in the physical space is taking on significant importance. Rebranding projects present opportunities to delve deeper inside an organisation and unlock otherwise hidden potential – be that store design, fitout design, merchandising or customer interaction. Many companies have invested in exactly these types of identity and brand building activities in the last few years, especially during the GFC, where they focused on transitioning through the crisis with either a larger market share, or more brand recognition. This investment into their business means a onetime investment that will continue to pay back over a long period of time. “We work with corporations and branding agencies,” he says, making it clear that they do not develop the brand, or its logos, but they work with the agencies and brand owners. “We work to articulate that into a physical space. We look at the showroom, or the place that the transaction is being made with the customer, and try and maximise the consistency and the quality,” he says.
“Many of our clients are in the banking and finance and automotive space.One such projectDiadem is currently rolling out is the new branding for KmartTyre and Auto Service. KTAS has about 265 outlets around Australia, and hadn’t invested significantly on their physical network for some time. It has been a very successful business in that time,” says Taylor. KTAS saw it was time that they invest back into their facilities.They saw that their current infrastructure was in need of updating, and therewas an opportunity to increase market share through good design and great service. “KTAS concluded its brand presentation at the service facility didn’t match their customer expectations or reflect their brand promise. A retail specialist was separately appointed to create a new brand identity look and feel, and it is Diadem’s job, as project managers, to apply the new imagery consistently and in a high quality manner across each of the 265 sites. In doing that, we are looking at the external branding, and changing the interiors including the front of house reception, service counters, including coffee areas, and lounges.At the back of house we are looking at tending to the service bay, so the look and the feel of the brand is being translated across the entire operation, so that it is part of the entire customer journey.” This is where Diadem gets to work; they look at how the customer interacts with the space, and how they experience the brand as they do so. “We want to make sure that the brand message is consistently applied, and experienced in the same way at all points in their journey and their interaction with that space,” says Taylor. Speed to market is also an important factor when approaching a brand rollout. The procurement strategy that supports the rollout is a project component where cost savings can be generated through bulk procurement, coordinated installations and savvy project management experience.
Lost in Translation
The rebranding process however can be complex and emotional involving a number of different departments within an organisation. Projects often commence at board level with the development of the brand residing with the marketing communications department. After the creative part is done the brand often passes through to the operational areas of the business such as property, facilities and procurement. There lies the rub: as the brand design moves away from the brand guardian to those with control over delivery-based objectives the brand presentation can get lost in translation. It is this factor, among others, that has given rise to the brand implementation consultant with Diadem being the leader in its field. Brand guru Wally Olins states that, “brands represent clarity, reassurance, status, consistency and membership.” Protecting and investing in brand and how it is presented is paramount. “Whether you are undertaking a wholesale change to a brand or revitalising it, a commitment to design be that in products or services, behaviour, communication or the physical environment leads to added value and marketplace differentiation,” adds Taylor.
Taylor points directly to the benefits that can be garnered from this type of operation, especially when a company is dealing with the effects of the GFC. “The hotel industry is definitely being affected by the GFC, because people’s travelling habits have changed. Businesses are using technology and are travelling less, so there are more empty rooms. Instead of discounting the empty rooms to fill them, some hoteliers are using the opportunity of refurbishingotherwise vacant rooms.” He says that by maintaining a premium price point, and the associated benefits, they do not devalue the brand image for the sake of simply filling rooms.“Off the back of the GFC companies that are forward thinking will use the opportunity to invest in their brand at the time,” says Taylor. He says that this is actually reflected in the amount of business that they have picked up– that many businesses, especially the retail sector are reinvesting into their brick and mortar stores like never before. “The smart retailers need to look hard at their brand and work out how to articulate what they stand for to an audience,” he says.
Apart from multi-site brand implementation projects Diadem also provides specialist design and implementation services for architectural spaces such as airports, rail networks, universities and civic spaces. The brand implementation and wayfinding efforts at the Auckland International Airport are an example of this specialist discipline. “AIA looked and saw that if they could provide visitorswith extra dwell time that this would not only streamline airport resources but reduce anxiety and have a direct impact on the retail spend. “The goal from our point of view was to guide the whole transition of people, from when they enter the terminal to where they go through customs and security zones – make that process as seamless as possible,” he says. “Guiding this was not just about making signage more clear it was about making choices that would provide with visual cues that would guide them in a less intrusive and organic way. “Our work with the airports in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Auckland, is all about helping a customer navigate through a space as efficiently as possible,” he says. In comparison to a navigation based project, the multi-site retail spaces they work on differ in the sense that they focus on brand and its consistency. “We have to focus in these cases on what I like to think of as three suitcases of time, cost and quality where the goal is to define a path of least compromise and satisfy all project stakeholders” he says that this is important but often the point where difficulties arise. Taylor states, “Rebranding projects involve compromise somewhere along the way. The majority of this discussion is held inside the business between departments. The key is to agree upon what can be let go and what, at no point, can be yielded.”