26/03/10

By Joop Janssen, Vitec Group

One of the big challenges in managing any business is ensuring that both customers and staff appreciate and are passionate about the values that lie behind the brand and so develop and deliver products that sell profitably.

As businesses grow, they tend to encompass more than one brand, either to differentiate propositions or through acquisition. So now the question is do these all get subsumed under a corporate identity or do they each maintain an individual look and feel?

Our company, the Vitec Group, has brought together around 20 well-known brands in the broadcasting and photography industries, which all fit around the cameras: prompting, lights, tripods, batteries, wireless links, intercoms and so on. Our strategy, though, is that each of these brands retains its own clear and distinct identity.

The first way in which we do that is that we have very consciously left the product specialists where they were: there has been no attempt to rationalise R & D or product management. So although Vitec is a British group, we have people developing microwave links in New Jersey, camera supports in Germany and prompters in England.

That is not to say, of course, that our developers do not talk to each other: they share knowledge regularly, both on the latest development techniques and on how products can work together. And sometimes one brand will have specialist manufacturing equipment that is appropriate to another brand’s products, so sometimes the build is shared around.
But the key issue is that the personality of the brand should come from the personality of the products, and you do this by keeping their creation distinct, and founded in the market and the culture in which they have always been developed.

Product managers are a part of this philosophy, because they have built up excellent contacts with key customers which are an invaluable resource. It is only by understanding the market in real depth that you can hope to set out the right roadmap for future developments. That means having people who have real, strong, trusting and trusted relationships with the market on one hand and with the designers on the other.

Maintaining the personality of each brand is, of course, done in obvious ways like retaining their familiar and widely recognised logos. The individual companies within the Vitec Group are known by the original names and if a logo or branding element is changed, it is only because it needs refreshing, not to conform to a corporate identity strategy.
Similarly, each brand has its own website: customers looking for information on Autoscript prompters or Vinten pedestals, for example will go to the Autoscript or Vinten websites. Yes, there is a Vitec website too, but it is where you find the corporate information — and of course links to the individual brands.

To sum up, the way to manage multiple brands is to respect those brands, and the culture and the people that created them. Celebrate them: do not lose them in a bland corporate identity.

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