Rucks and Trucks15 years ago
Italian truck maker Iveco has built a powerful brand for itself around its vehicles. Carlo Ennio Stasi tells us how the brand is being further developed through clever sponsorship and a wider focus on its people.
When offer exceeds demand in a given industry and the features of products and services on offer are closely comparable, the importance of brand reputation as a competitive factor emerges. This is the case of commercial vehicles business, where product performance and quality are comparable across industry players. Besides market-driven reasons, this is also due to technical and non-technical regulations that are increasingly affecting product characteristics.
From the point of view of the manufacturer, both brand image and brand equity are a result of stakeholders’ feedback in response to company actions that reverberate into products, communication, and behaviours. Brand equity can be defined as "the value built-up in a brand". The value of a company’s brand equity can be calculated by comparing the expected future revenue from the branded product with the expected future revenue from an equivalent non-branded product.
According to theoretical definitions, this calculation – which is at best an approximation – can comprise both tangible (functional) attributes and intangible (emotional) attributes. It goes without saying that firms may seek to influence brand equity, but it is the consumer who determines brand equity and its value eventually.
As is obvious, improving brand equity is more than just a communication task: the entire communication exercise must be supported with appropriate actions in other fields – product design, quality excellence, personnel training and outstanding service levels, to name but a few. Communication and brand promotion is the ultimate owner of a cross-functional process which must involve all the areas that contribute to brand value.
Sending Out Signals
Iveco has started considering its brand as a device through which the company sends out signals to customers. Therefore, at present Iveco is building awareness consistently with a set of values associated not only with its products and services but also – and chiefly – with the Iveco people behind them. The ultimate goal is to gain the Iveco brand a level of reputation customers and prospects would feel as a guarantee of quality – in other words an insurance against risk of poor performance.
The Iveco brand strategy is supported by a solid communication plan, reviewed on a yearly basis and updated continuously, which has three main objectives: make loyal current users and convert non-users; improve Iveco brand awareness and reputation; and improve company pride of employees as well as of other internal and near-environment stakeholders.
The Iveco communication plan, which is implemented as a joint effort with 30 local market-based departments, is broken down into nine action lines that encompass activities intended to: rely upon customers to spur dialogue about Iveco products and services (word of mouth); leverage on Iveco’s strongly branded industry partners; promote not only the vehicle but also the network/people behind it; maximise the sense of ownership and "willingness to be part of the fleet"; and so forth.
The ultimate aim of the Iveco’s communication plan is to contribute increasing the shareholder value in terms of both increased sales volume and profitability generated through premium price policies.
A Bundle of Values
For appropriately backing its brand strategy as well as its communication plan, Iveco makes reference to a bundle of values which continually evolve and give the organisation its distinctiveness. This pool of values is shared internally and requires total commitment by the organisation, so that each and every branding-related element is aligned with the company identity. To remain consistent at corporate level and target company activities, the mission, vision and company values are in line with the Fiat Group values.
The first high-impact communication activity linked with the new Iveco brand and image development strategy is the sponsorship of the New Zealand national rugby team, the All Blacks: in 2007 and over the next 4 years, Iveco is an Official Global Sponsor of the All Blacks.
There are several reasons backing this choice, related to both prominence and perceived affinity with the Iveco’s corporate values: amongst others it is worth mentioning the All Blacks’ strong, assertive and positive image; the All Blacks as an "icon" brand even in non rugby-affinity markets; and last but not least, rugby is widely known and appreciated in Iveco target markets. Irrespective of the All Blacks’ strong personality, rugby in itself has strong associations with Iveco core values: it is performance-based, is tough but fair, team spirit is key to success.
Increasing Brand Visibility
For Iveco organisational culture, sponsoring the All Blacks is a component of the current strategy aimed at challenging longstanding emphasis on product technology and moving on to customer centricity. To get there, Iveco has changed the message conveyed to internal and external stakeholders, focussing on customer expectations. In terms of branding, that meant moving on from pure product awareness towards loyalty-oriented activities, with the aim of increasing brand visibility and company reputation.
Besides contents, such a re-orientation led to the adoption of novel criteria in choosing communication channels, with priority on those ones that are likely to trigger word of mouth as a major reputation multiplier. As an example, identification and exploitation of local, industry-specific initiatives in close co-ordination with Iveco local market-based communication staff is now considered a crucial success factor.
Iveco believes that being successful in this paradigm shift will lead to measurable value not only for the shareholder in terms of improved sales volume, premium price and loyalty, but also for stakeholders – customers, employees, dealers, and the society as a whole.
Carlo Ennio Stasi works in Communication Planning & Contents, External Relations & Communication at Ivecomail the author
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