How brands glow (and shine)
How the Dutch railways won a silver Effie award
Winning an Effie award is a significant achievement. In October, the jury of the Dutch branch of Effie honored the work of the country’s railways organization Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) with a Silver Effie award. The jury praised the company’s consistent branding and “well-founded statements” that enabled NS to harness the romanticism of train travel to create a successful brand. Watch the winning commercial below:
Being consistent with your brand throughout the years
Using marketing communications to make a measurable impact on a business or brand is not an easy job. It demands both vision and steadfastness. Marketers need to maintain the link between the insight that informed the initial brief and the campaign ideas created by the ad agency. In this case, that meant following an agreed strategic direction that remained relevant and appealing after a few campaigns and several years, all emphasizing the romanticism of a train journey. Byron Sharp describes this in his marketing best-selling book ‘How Brands Grow’ as “be consistent and avoid unnecessary changes.” In the case of NS, the approach worked.
Exceptional in this jury’s verdict was the recognition that research was a key component of the success of the campaign. The “well-founded statements” they refer originate from work we have been doing with NS since 2013. As their partner for brand and communications research, our first challenge was to develop a concise set of image statements that incorporated the brands new strategic route. We were required to cater for the existing brand values, as well as accommodate an extensive wish list of fresh ideas.
Brand, image and campaign statements
We devised an experiment to fuel a fact-based discussion on the selection of brand statements for the long term. This enabled us to verify an extensive set of brand and image statements against three items:
- Distinctive character. All statements must differentiate the brand
- We excluded statements that would generate neutral/don’t know responses
- Predictive value. The best statements are a driver for achieving important business KPIs
Furthermore, we introduced campaign statements. These reflect characteristics or messages that have limited duration and are more likely to change in the short term. For instance, marketing activity to raise awareness of a new promotions platform, or recruitment for an incentives program.
After a successful launch of the brand and communications tracker, we noticed how all activities were abiding by the same law of being consistent. Four years after the initial experiment, we can prove that the continuous harmonization of campaigns has generated significant uplifts on both brand and image statements over time. Research follows marketing communications. Consistent research backs the award-winning example of a brand that grows, glows and shines with a well-deserved Silver Effie award.