Marc Cloosterman is the CEO of VIM Group, a leading firm in brand transformation. For the last 30 years Marc and his team have been specializing in making brand change happen. They help organizations navigate through the journey of bringing their brands to life. VIM Group operates globally for large national and international corporations, with clients from Japan to LA and anywhere in-between.
Here are some highlights from our chat, you can watch the full interview in the video below.
On digital brand transformation and rebranding
The space is changing as we speak, a lot of people talk about brand transformation and digital transformation. Brand transformation in the digital world happens every day as an array of initiatives to create a digitally fit expression and keep up with the times.
Semantics of the word « rebrand » is often times the first conversation Marc has with clients. Is it a small brand evolution or do they have a reason to make bigger steps? Understanding the rationale of what the challenge is a brand is trying to solve and what are the opportunities that will arise from the transformation is key.
A rebrand, in the way Marc sees it, is a process of changing and keeping up with the times. 15 years ago, a rebrand would mean starting with changing the signage. Today there are so many touch points – everywhere you express your brand, and you have to take any change across all those channels and touch points. It seems easy but it becomes increasingly complex because you need to analyze how your customer journey and touch points are related and function together.
Challenges for brands in the digital era
With digitalization today, not all touch points with the brand and its customers are owned by the brand owners. That can be a source of a lot of discrepancies with the brand image and what it stands for. With digitalization we’ve seen explosion of touch points, it has made the world of branding much more complex.
Managing the brand has evolved from managing consistency in the older days, to managing coherency which requires a completely different paradigm of how you organize branding. For the person owning a brand in a larger international corporation there is a huge responsibility now to orchestrate the connection between the brand and all the stakeholders. This includes managing brand coherency inside the organization and outside – business partners, investors, customers.
Another big shift that is affecting branding is the trend to work from home, imposed by the pandemic. Marc gave an example of a brand that was way ahead on this – In 1997 he was working with Ernst & Young on their transformation to EY. At the time there was a shortage of personnel and so that aspiration to attract talent became part of the brand’s vision – to be a company fit for the future of employees. ‘We are now seeing more and more of this branding « inside-out » – where employees are not only one of the biggest advocates of a brand but also, reflecting what the company is doing for society.’
Employees are more important than ever in bringing out the brand.
Marc Cloosterman, CEO VIM Group
Digitalization demands simplification
What Marc also sees happening a lot in the world right now is brand unification. In the digital space people want to know who is behind the brand. All the digital channels have massively increased transparency. That coupled with Generation Z wanting to know everything about a brand, from its management to its footprint, makes having a transparent, simple and easy communicate brand a must. As a result many global brands are unifying – the rule, says Marc, is to try to have as few brands as possible but as many as necessary.
What’s next: brand technology
At the moment there is a tremendous rise in branding technology and tools that support brands with their brand management process. The development of martech has brought a lot of improvement in the space and that is very exciting and giving a lot of new opportunities for brand owners to bring out their brands better, faster and more cost effectively.
With organizations implementing more and more tools for efficient and coherent marketing, communication and branding, Marc also sees lots of companies struggling to manage their technology eco-system in the right way and make sure all tools are implemented in the right way and work together – a question that VIM Group supports many of their clients with today.
Brand is the most valuable intangible asset in an organization but it is not treated like that in the organizations.
Marc Cloosterman, CEO VIM Group
Focus on the ‘how’ of branding
What Marc finds most challenging in his work – most brand owners have been brought up in the world where it is all about the why and the what. In reality, the mission and purpose of a brand without the process and system of how it should be delivered to the world can not be neglected – strategy will fail without seamless execution. Brand unification and ongoing brand transformation are key parts of that process.
Marc and his colleague wrote a book – Future Proof Your Brand. ‘The brand isn’t seen by many boards as their most valuable intangible asset, and with this book we’ve laid out how the mechanics of branding work’. The book and a lot of VIM Group’s work is focused not on the traditional « why » – the purpose of the brand, but on how you do that, how you communicate your brand to the world, how that mechanism actually works.
Who VIM Group works with
VIM Group usually works globally for larger national and international companies helping them to manage their brands trough transformation. That said, Marc is always happy to talk and engage in conversations and give advice on different branding challenges. Feel free to connect and reach out to him via LinkedIn.