An interesting article by Ravi Balakrishnan with ETBrandEquity. He interviewed Landor CEO Landor India to get a deeper insight into the new model for brand management and why building brand communities are so important.

Landor’s CEO Lois Jacobs says “Agility and adaptability are now top predictors of success, giving way to more audiences participating in how a brand is expressed and experienced.” We spoke to Landor India CEO for a deeper insight into how this model works and what it will entail.

Some key highlights:

1. Why the Brand Community Model? What were some of the trends and insights that led to the development of this model?

The Brand Community Model resulted directly from the Agility Paradox, the research study we launched just over a year ago examining the common factors shared by the world’s most successful brands. We found that agility is a key success indicator, and six behaviors in turn influence whether a brand can be considered agile.

But when it came to actually putting agility into practice, many brand managers and clients were struggling. Traditionally, brand management protocols have espoused a very rigid, command-and-control approach. All decisions were considered equal, all touchpoints were considered equal, and brand managers were expected to oversee everything. In today’s world, brands have more channels, expressions, and audiences influencing them than ever before. It became clear that the old toolkit for was failing brand managers because it didn’t account for this new environment. But there wasn’t a clear path forward.

We spent the last year examining the intersection of agility and brand governance—interviewing over 20 Fortune 500 companies and numerous other industry insiders—to identify best practices in managing brands in an adaptive, agile way. The goal was to figure out how brand managers could have the influence and impact they need, but in a practical, flexible manner that makes sense for modern brands and consumers.

2. The model presupposes a high degree of consumer involvement with brands, considering the importance of superfans. Does this essentially restrict the model to categories where this actually happens and leave categories where the level of engagement is not as pronounced out of its purview?

The short answer: No. Superfans and fan involvement can be a part of the equation, but as you can see in our framework, they’re actually only included in the Practitioner community (the Expert and Employee communities focus on internal groups and third-party agencies).

The specific audiences that make up each community will be bespoke for every individual brand based on their product, business model, and objectives. For example, many B2B businesses may find that superfans are a very small piece of the puzzle and that sales representatives, account managers, or social teams make up the brunt of their Practitioner community.

3. Have you begun to use the model/discuss it with current or new clients? What are the most favorable responses? What are the most commonly expressed misgivings?

Every day it seems like we enter into more conversations about how to flexibly manage brands today. We’re involved in multiple engagements already to help clients implement this model, and we’ve seen that for most of them, the process of defining communities, determining brand expressions, and identifying goals helps to clarify their brand.

The most common misgiving is that it’s a very uncomfortable shift for many brand managers, who have long held to the tenets of rigid control and authority. Some clients still fear that having more flexibility in the brand guidelines and giving away even a lit bit of control may cause a lot of harm. Trusting your brand’s communities to properly represent the brand can be scary, but it is the most critical step in activating a brand in a dynamic, flexible way.

4. How collaborative was the process of coming up with this approach. Was this new process informed by any of your experiences in India that you’d like to elaborate on?

Many of our Indian clients do recognise that the old approach was restrictive in engaging all audiences with the right level of detail. For example, practitioners were being fed technical details beyond what was relevant and the focus was on the ‘what’ and not the ‘why.’ We were already starting to talk about a more layered approach to getting different parts of the organisation and external partners to understand and represent the brand. Though we had developed some ideas around agile brand management before our interviews with clients and the panel discussion in New York, we really solidified our thinking through those conversations—bouncing ideas off brand leaders from some of the world’s largest global companies like GE and FedEx. This collaboration enabled us to create the framework and build our approach to brand expressions and the actions for brand managers.

5. Brand expressions here have been divided here into Sacred, Interpretative and Exploratory. Isn’t this a little hard to determine at a time when brands, under a state of flux, make seismic fundamental changes to both their expressions themselves and how they express themselves? Or is this a way to keep certain elements permanent while changing the rest?

Though it’s true that defining expressions by these three categories can be difficult, it is a very strong way to determine what a brand holds as fundamental to its core identity. We actually have a new tool—The Sacred Brand Expression Evaluator—to help companies do just this.

By segmenting different brand expressions, brands can ensure that as they adapt and change, their consumers still know what the brand represents. This was one of the most critical elements from the Agility Paradox: the importance of maintaining core principles while adapting to stay ahead of trends. By distilling brand expressions into the Sacred, the Interpretative, and the Exploratory, brands can strike the right equilibrium. They have the freedom to experiment with certain elements and involve diverse communities, without the fear of abandoning their heritage or misrepresenting their brand.

You can read full article here.