How can brands stay both consistent and relevant? Professor Michael Beverland shares his insights on creative ways to enhance brand value over the long-term.
Beverland is the author of best-selling book Building Brand Authenticity (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) and the recently released Redesigning Manufacturing (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015).
What’s your goal – what do you seek to learn?
I’ve always been interested in the creative work involved in different disciplines. My typical focus is on understanding why different disciplines approach problems in a certain way, the limitations of each individual approach, and then how those disciplines come together to create value.
I’m interested in this because most enduring problems (personal, business, and societal) require the input of many different people, all of whom possess only a necessary part of the solution.
What is your approach in your work?
I’m a qualitative researcher by training, so I tend to focus on “what” and “how” type questions in order to build theory. Typically I look at enduring problems that have paradoxical or contradictory findings and examine these questions through depth interviewing, ethnography, and observation.
Explain the impact of your research, who can learn from it and how?
In our recently published research, we examined how designers can assist brand managers to create brand ambidexterity. Brand ambidexterity is a state in which a brand is both consistent with its desired position and relevant to its target audience.
Typically brand managers are great at consistency, but often turn to the creative disciplines to manage relevance. However, a real challenge for brand managers is emphasising relevance over consistency, which can lead to brand imbalance and a loss of value.
Brand managers face a seemingly impossible task – how to change while staying consistent. If they choose one or the other, the brand fails to own a core position or ends up losing relevance and declining in value.
Yet typically, brand managers are told to be less consistent or embrace irrelevance and eventually the brand will die. This is why brand ambidexterity is important because it provides the best of both worlds, creating a perfect balance to continue a brand’s lifespan.
What was the key finding of your recent work?
We looked at various aspects of how design thinking or the logics and practices used by designers can serve as a mechanism that promotes and enables the integration of brand consistency and relevance. We identified that designers employed eight practices:
- naive questioning
- problem interrogation
- contextual immersion
- capabilities matching
- problem scoping
- solution development
- story mapping
- and re-stabilizing
These are applied across three phases – destabilisation, define and develop, transformation – in order to give rise to brand ambidexterity.
How has your work developed over the years?
My central research question has remained the same – how do brands maintain value? I started looking at this by doing historical research, which was eventually turned into a bestselling book, Building Brand Authenticity.
Subsequently I’ve become very interested in how different problem solving styles have different answers to my core question. This has led me to look at designers and more recently manufacturers (as covered in my current book Redesigning Manufacturing).
My current work extends that covered here by examining how marketers and designers work more effectively together.
Reconciling the tension between consistency and relevance: design thinking as a mechanism for brand ambidexterity – an article co-authored by Beverland, Sarah JS Wilner and Pietro Micheli – has been published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.
Professor Beverland is a Professor of Fashion Enterprise within RMIT University's School of Fashion and Textiles and lectures into the Master of Fashion (Entrepreneurship).
Story: Rita Truong