Six Rules For Transforming A Trusty Elephant

It sounds like the branding exercise from hell. Take one century-old corporate monolith (trusty, reliable) cut into 33 pieces (of varied age and size), give each of those pieces unique ID, and simultaneously create compelling new brand for the corporate core (leading, innovative).

Her success in doing all the above has just earned Carter Holt Harvey’s general manager of corporate affairs Dellwyn Stuart coveted Gold Quill Award from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). And her recipe, outlined for delegates at the recent Strategic Branding Conference in Auckland, started with the permission to dream.

“My observation is that many, if not most, organisations don’t allow their people to dream. It’s not just on the agenda. It’s positively discouraged. Management is seen to be about maintaining the present, not imagining the future.”

So her first rule for change management is to work for CEO (in her case Chris Liddell) who allows dreaming and embraces change.

Second rule is to understand where you are now and define where you want to be, says Stuart.

Market research suggested Carter Holt Harvey’s image was hybrid cross of labrador (friendly, reliable) and elephant (solid, large and slow-moving).

The challenge was to introduce sense of dynamism, innovation and leadership.

Third rule: “get good help”, in this case by building internal team capacity and finding key business partners – R Cubed to help with research and Designworks with branding.

The task of branding 33 new businesses whilst creating “compelling essence that would bind the atomised company together” meant applying rule four: “Stay focused and keep it simple.”

That meant sorting out the high-level corporate stuff first.
“Revolutionising the everyday” was the statement nutted out to defined CHH’s new character. It not only had the right ring of aspiration but linked the company’s innovative new approach back into the everyday reality of existing customer needs.

Along with that came new visual identity and three-tier ID structure which put the core CHH brand in support and product endorsement role for each of the new entities. Having sorted the direction, Stuart’s fifth rule for change “keep it moving” came into play. With relatively short timeframe for completing the task, the new businesses were brought on board and detailed seven-step process for naming and branding each got under way.

Once these had all been decided, huge communications effort was required to roll them out, says Stuart.

She then commissioned report to analyse the whole project in the interests of learning from the experience – rule six.

While that highlighted some things that could have been done better – not underestimating the difference in the New Zealand and Australian branding position for one – Stuart rated the project an overwhelming success.

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