Corporate Brands and the Idea of Renewal

Right now, with Covid-19 wreaking havoc across the world, launching a new brand or embarking on a new future would be the last thing on people’s minds. Yet, think about the new future that awaits Britain at the end of this year. It will be a whole new world of business, living and working that those in the UK will have to get used to. And it is one that the country is ill-prepared for, as I had written earlier.

Brexiteers choose to see the European Union as merely a trading bloc that controlled their country, but Remainers (and there are plenty of them) see their membership as belonging to a community of like-minded countries that didn’t just trade with each other and the world, but gave people in the Union opportunities to work and travel freely anywhere, and a community that has a voice on the international stage, most importantly on issues such as climate change, human rights and data privacy.

In the end, Britain has chosen to go it alone, but what is the future that awaits it? With the Covid-19 pandemic raging through most of the world, at a time of disease, death and despair, should one even talk of a new future? Would it not seem perverse to do so?

I have just seen the video advertising that the UK government has launched in order to prepare its people for the post-Brexit world on January 1, 2021 and I don’t think I have seen anything this dull, unimaginative and meaningless in my entire long career in advertising and brand communications. Merely loading a video with a whole lot of supers is not communication. Of course, one has to first ask where are the policies that will govern life and business in the UK and EU after Brexit? “Check, change, go” is the message, but what? What is it that individuals and businesses have to prepare themselves for?

The UK government has also been running a “GREAT Britain” advertising campaign in print in India off and on for many years, which is rather awful as well, because it isn’t clear what the campaign is trying to convey. While I can’t find references of the Times of India adverts online, here is a reference of what that campaign is all about. All this brings me to the subject of brands. I had shared a podcast on countries as brands recently on my blog, which was in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, I would like to take a different approach which is to look at how brands can help in building a new future and in renewal.

Because brands are built in people’s hearts and minds, they tend to endure. Unlike people and products, they do not have a finite life. Nor are they discarded or forgotten, when people have no use for them. For those of us old enough to remember Kodak cameras and pictures as well as Polaroid, these brands bring back memories of childhood and youth. Of good times with family and of travel and discovery. No contemporary brand can hope to replace these in people’s minds. And yet, the story of Kodak is now a well-known cautionary one of how an inventor and pioneer can fail to capitalize on an invention to build and create a new future for the company.

It is with the spirit of renewal and embarking on a new journey, that I have attempted to create an image for the Jaguar Land Rover Company. A company that has been newly formed by bringing together two of Britain’s legendary automotive brands Jaguar and Land Rover under common management after India’s Tata Motors acquired them in 2008. I was spurred to work on this, after I quite accidentally came upon Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate website that I hadn’t seen before.

Range Rover Evoque, one of the more popular models of Range Rover; Image: JLR corporate website

The first thing that struck me was the company does not have a corporate brand identity, so the Jaguar and Land Rover logos together adorn the header. The website does not build on the strengths of the individual brands in a way as to be able to position the company in a distinctive manner. And yet, the company was talking of a whole new direction that they wish to take in creating the future of mobility, which I was certainly impressed with, since I have been writing on that as well for my blog.

The new direction for the company that the management sees is “creating the future of connected, electric, safe and shared mobility” which is encapsulated in the idea of “Destination Zero” to mean zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion. While I think that the direction is certainly the right one, it requires to be articulated and strategized in a positive and distinctive way for JLR to stand for certain values in the automobile industry. Jaguar Land Rover has invested in a £ 150 million National Automotive Innovation Centre at Coventry, in collaboration with Warwick University, through the Warwick Manufacturing Group and they seem to have already started on this new journey with the launch of Jaguar I-Pace and several other innovations.

The whole world will also be moving to electric, safe and shared mobility one day. How can JLR make a mark in this and create a distinctive image and future for itself? Besides, what will define JLR’s relationship with its owners, Tata Motors, and how can JLR help Tata Motors too embark on a similar future in India and in other markets? These are some of the issues I attempt to try and resolve in a corporate brand strategy document that I have put together for Jaguar Land Rover as a Corporate Brand. You may read it by clicking on the link below.

The company’s corporate website says that they have also launched a shared mobility service in the UK called Pivotal. That too is a great idea and one that JLR customers in the UK would certainly be ready for. However, I would suggest that they seriously consider it as a third brand from JLR and carefully strategise the path forward for it, as also reconsider its branding. I devote some thought to this as well in the document mentioned above.

Jaguar IPace, the electric car that competes with Tesla in the US; Image: JLR corporate website

Because brands are relationships that companies and products have with their customers and other stakeholders, they always offer hope for renewal and change, provided the new direction does not cause too much dissonance with customers’ current expectations of it. In other words, the new direction must be in line with customers’ tastes and preferences. For example, every time that a company like Apple launches a new product, it usually does signify a big change in the customer’s and industry’s expectations and behaviour towards the category. However, because Apple is always focused on ways of improving customer interface with technology, change is always readily accepted and is an integral part of the “Apple brand” experience.

Here is hoping more brands will discover their core values and focus on ways of using them to bring about change and renewal for the future. Including a new vision for the company, as in the case of Jaguar Land Rover. It’s all possible if you put the brand at the centre and heart of your business.

Britain might want to look to Coventry and JLR, for some inspiration on the way ahead for its future in 2021.          

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