Collaborative brand building: Striving towards grander goals

By on May 19, 2014

It may not be a stunning revelation that for humanity, the need to compete is regarded as natural – but only as natural as the need to cooperate writes Carla Enslin, National Academic Head of The IIE Vega School of Brand Leadership and Vice Chair of the Brand Council of South Africa. 

These two driving forces and the interaction between them are central to human nature. While the competitive nature of strategic brand building is easily acknowledged, the cooperative need may not be.

Strategic brand building is primarily practiced on two levels. A brand sets goals and defines itself by competitive frameworks. When the competitive landscape and its conditions are understood, a brand can draft clear and accountable goals and define the territory it aims to conquer.

However, goal setting is not particularly useful if not properly contextualised and motivated. The question is to what end do we aim to compete and achieve identified targets?

The competitive nature of strategy requires commitment to a clear purpose that is unique and adds value to peoples’ lives. This applies to any brand, whether it is a retail organisation, social movement, or a country brand. Goals and targets serve a particular purpose, which is how brand and business strategy finds alignment and competing makes sense.

One important consequence of serving purpose, but not the sole reason, is deriving profits. As Kellogg once argued, “the purpose of business is to add value to people’s lives. The consequence of doing that well is that you make a handsome profit”.

While there can be significant value to a healthy competitive orientation in brand building, a cooperative or collaborative approach is as valuable in order to reach higher order goals such as category and social development ideals.  Strategic brand building will then involve collaboration with respected competitors to co-design and implement initiatives that serve the best interests of the category, its stakeholders and resources.

Among the many exciting initiatives, one particular project that is a collaboration among competitors toward category and country goals is called Platform 6. This is a training programme to better equip high school design teachers to engage learners in the purpose and practice of design.

Design develops original and meaningful solutions to all kinds of challenges, to create better experiences and to move the world forward. It is an important school subject and its potential and impact is determined by the mindset, passion and expertise of its educators. Platform 6 is investing in South Africa’s future designers by working closely with their role models and teachers.

Importantly, this official World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 project is a unique collaboration between a collective of tertiary design schools in Cape Town. The schools involved are all direct competitors to one another and annually compete for talent, intake, and industry awards.

However, the mutual goal to promote the critical role of design, its importance as a school subject, the potential of future design talent, and the contribution that the category of design schools make in this regard, presented a compelling and shared motivation.

The legacy of Platform 6 will hopefully become evident from the high levels of collaboration and commitment between the tertiary design schools and the enthusiastic acceptance of young designers at high school level. The ultimate endowment will lie in the contribution to building strong and innovative industries and societies made by South Africa’s future designers and leaders.

A healthy collaborative orientation in brand building can produce unexpected alliances and unite competitors in a shared purpose. Such collaborations have the potential to build category reputation and highlight individual brand uniqueness while making a decisive and meaningful contribution to the health and future well being of all involved in this promising venture.

Platform 6 includes: AAA School of Advertising, Red&Yellow, The IIE’s Vega School of Brand Leadership, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town Creative Academy, Montebello Labs, RockCityFoundation and the Western Cape Department of Education. 

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