A blog story by ANGELFYSH Collective team member – Claire Byers.
As a seasoned brand builder, one particular work area (amongst many) that fascinates me is brand leadership. I am referring of course to the interdependent relationship between those that lead a brand and the brand itself.
In this short story, I will focus on one very specific and quite common circumstance – what happens when a new brand leader is appointed into an already established brand.
The New Brand Leader.
By definition, when an organisation appoints a new CEO or Managing Director, they appoint a strong personality.
They appoint someone that fits their vision, and who they believe will lead the organisation on to great things.
Conversely, the individual seeking the appointment must have found something in the Brand that attracts them and resonates.
Undoubtedly, both the Leader of the organisation and its brand will effect each other. Personality will out!
The original brand for BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art was the vision of Sune Nordgren – its founder director. This was BALTIC the Art Factory. The brand was intense, distinctive, forthright, masculine and as strong as the corten steel at the heart of the building and its industrial past.
When Sune left, BALTIC was buffeted by several turbulent years and the organisation’s curatorial influences made seismic shifts from Scandinavian, through American, to settle for a period in a more ‘museum’ like approach. Under Godfrey Worsdale’s leadership, as a more conventional art institution, BALTIC’s brand stood shoulder to shoulder with the gigantic Tate brand for the 2011 Turner Prize – and in its newfound ‘judicious’ status did not disappoint.
The brand which had sought to balance the masculine strength of its physicality with inventive, playful and self-deprecating language and print, made a causal shift into a more conventional art institution with language and personality tamed to suit. These were two very different leadership styles.
Today, under Sara Munro’s energy-charged direction, the brand personality has shifted again. Artistic experiments, risky projects and play are being fully embraced in its new appetite for greater relevance and connection with the community and society it serves. For example through 2018’s Playground Project and 2019’s opener from Simon and Tom Bloor ‘The City is where we’re going next’, playfulness and artistic adventure are once again central.
These are just examples of how sensitive brand personalities are to their leadership. Brand personality shifts can be accidental, quixotic or progressive in their evolution. At their best leaders will recognise in their own strengths those traits that are most fortuitous in their influence on the life of the brand they lead.
And so it is that, at ANGELFYSH, we probe far deeper than how a brand looks, feels and communicates. We seek to understand the very DNA of the brand. Exploring how it – and the people leading it – are perceived in the minds of the consumer. This is so that we may build upon or attempt to effect these perceptions in the most valuable way for the agreed trajectory of the organisation.
Without exception, the time and effort invested in this kind of brand soul-searching in the short term reaps huge reward in the longer term.
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