'Is your brand in a happy relationship?': Samsung, RFU and One Feeds Two talk 'brand personality' and 'communication stalemate'

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All companies have the same goal: to be successful. We seldom hear business gurus suggest exposing the personal character of a brand in order reach their goals, but what if talking about a company’s intimate life is the key to defining what a business really is and how it can improve?

Challenging this stigma, Andy Cosslett, chairman of the the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Board, JP Campbell, co-founder of food charity One Feeds Two, and Mark Hutcheon, communications advisor to Samsung Electronics Europe, came together at the Coppa Club to play Wild Cards by The Clearing, and deliberate the key areas in business by answering provocative questions about their brand.

“Samsung is a company driven by competition,” reveals Hutcheon, when the philosopher Brennan Jacoby chairing the debate asks what wakes his brand up at 4am. “Regularly discarded models mean there are a lot of dead bodies in the tech world. There is an inferiority complex that whatever they achieve will be outdone by a competitor, so they live on a strategy to survive by turning out new tech.”

This comment leads to an interesting observation of whether the answer would change between brand and its workers. “Does this question mean waking up you or the brand?” the philosopher enquires.

“I was frustrated by the gulf between the corporate world and charity world and how both worlds misunderstand each other, and that’s what motivates me [to drive the charity forward today],” reveals Campbell.

“The origin of charity was about penance. It wasn’t about solving problems, but appeasing our own guilt, which still continues 200 years down the line. Consequently, charitable adverts and branding have a tendency of inducing guilt to pressure donors to give. I think the charitable sector needs to present more solution orientated and positive messages. If businesses and charities are going to successful partner together to tackle global social problems we have to move away from guilting customers into giving. We have to empower them to be part of the solution. It’s a cultural approach to giving which we are trying to rethink.”

“There is a fascinating relationship between people’s beliefs and actions. When should you listen to customers and when is it wise to ignore them?” the philosopher directs at Cosslett.

“There is no difference between customers and brand. If your true values don’t correspond with what you’re supporting then you will be found out, no matter what size you are.

“You send signals in everything you do and where you spend your time, so it’s crucial to me to be where the community of our corporate heart is suffering,” continues Cosslett. “You should be thinking brand; leaders and founders have the opportunity every day to represent what they believe in. You have a choice about the organisation’s direction – make personal, deliberate decisions.”

Campbell adds: “Your aspirational values have to meet your actual values. Any gap will be exposed. When you start anything, you are focused on surviving (which is necessary but potentially dangerous). But if you have to oversell your proposition to customers then the chances are they are not a good partner for you. If your values are aligned, you don’t need to force a sale.”

“It’s interesting to know how do you move from that space of desperation to ease,” the philosopher comments, transitioning to his next question. “If your brand was a person, would they be in a happy relationship?”

Hutcheon believes the answer is simple: “What is a happy relationship? It’s got to be a two-way street. Everyone has to be getting something out of it.” But Cosslett suggests it’s about sharing your values: “All businesses are interested in getting more relationships without compromising existing ones. As you go on, the job is about taking that happiness and passing it on. How do you take what made you happy in the first place and make it worldwide?

“Our fastest growing part of the sport is women, which doubles every three years worldwide. It’s the only sport where anyone of any shape or size has a place for you on the field, where most sports have certain requirements. It’s a very democratic game. If you take that core value of the sport and take it into the future, then you’re not forcing anything – it is very easy. Brand point of view is not trying to be something you’re not. It’s recognising your point of difference.”

Continuing on the relationship theme, the philosopher probes: “Does your brand make moves to stand in love, or are they just made to win the deal?”

Campbell kicks off: “As a brand, you should be communicating. That’s tough in the third sector and as a start-up. It was an uphill battle to get noticed, but if you continue to communicate who you are then that makes you.” To which Cosslett replies: “We see it as an obligation as well as a joy, and that’s what keeps us going. Make it a priority to reward, surprise and delight those that make you famous and don’t forget them.”

“Samsung stands for progress by defying barriers – overcoming personal limits, which is very difficult,” Hutcheon explains. “Once they realised there was a new purpose to making virtual reality (VR) then it all sort of clicked, which is encouraging that all will be ok.”

The panel wraps up with the philosopher asking each brand which one word encapsulates their business.

“Progress,” affirms Hutcheon. “Samsung is all about technical progress. They were the first to curve the TV screen and for the genuine mobile phone, but beyond that it was giving everyone an opportunity through technology.”

“Simplicity, because what we’re doing has complications but no one wants to think about it,” notes Campbell about One Feeds Two. “We can’t do everything for these complex problems, but the simpler the solution we present, the more traction we make. There is so much messaging out there; we need to make it simple.”

Cosslett concludes his revelation with the word character: “The game asks serious questions of those who play it. It’s not always easy, but people are learning. Character is at the heart of the game, and this belief of looking after your teammates forges the character of a young person that scarce other sports can. Those values are at the centre of the game.”

Wild Cards is a question game created by brand consultancy The Clearing and The School of Life to encourage conversations about the key issues we avoid sharing aloud. The next Wild Cards panel will include Ascot and Curzon and will be hosted at Soho pop-up House of Killik in January.

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