“Because where customers are demanding trust, a brand must deliver simplicity and transparency. In this way, the brand also imposes a certain discipline on an organization and helps to drive forward its integration.”
What kind of role will Corporate Social Responsibility play in managing your brand?
Not only consumers but also the general public and investors are increasingly concerned to know that companies and brands are acting in an economically, ecologically, and socially responsible manner. There is a great opportunity here to create credible differentiation from the competition. But there are major risks as well, as omissions and breaches are quickly publicized to the whole world over the internet.
Corporate responsibility is not something Deutsche Telekom discovered yesterday; we have taken it very seriously since 1995 and it influences the whole value chain, from product development and use to recycling. Our annual CR report regularly receives top ratings for the scope and transparency of the information it contains. According to the current ranking list of U.S. magazine Newsweek, Deutsche Telekom was actually the only German company to be ranked among the world’s ten most sustainable companies. This sort of thing does not happen without sustained long-term commitment.
What do brands need today in order to distinguish themselves from competitors?
It is noticeable in many companies that brands are treated in isolation from products, as a kind of eye-catching “topping” to be thrust into the foreground where they do not feel able to differentiate themselves from the competition through the products themselves. This is just as false as trying to separate emotion and reasoning, or image and benefits, for example. The heart of a brand only truly comes out of the range of products and services. Anyone intensely involved with the products will also find a level of benefit that customers may not be able to articulate explicitly but which is implicitly very relevant to them and can be conveyed in a credible way. Herein lies the real opportunity—or necessity—to differentiate oneself as a brand.
What role does brand play for the organization internally?
The triad of company (strategy), brand (experience), and culture (guiding principles) provides the standard for the actions of the staff within an organization. At Deutsche Telekom the employees understand that, because of the intangible nature of the products and services, it is especially important to project and exemplify the brand both externally and internally, in all functions and units within the group and throughout the value chain. And that there can be no return to the overwhelming diversity of brands that we had in the past if we are not to lose customers on the road to the connected future. Because where customers are demanding trust, a brand must deliver simplicity and transparency. In this way, the brand also imposes a certain discipline on an organization and helps to drive forward its integration.
What significance does the “digital world” have for the role of your brand?
Deutsche Telekom sees itself as a community brand that enriches the private and professional lives of its customers. With its products and services, it plays a key role in shaping the development of the digital world. This is why the demands of its customers for honesty, transparency, and speed in responding to enquiries, complaints, and suggestions for improvement are particularly exacting. Under the heading of “Branding 2.0,” Deutsche Telekom is busy looking at how the company needs to position itself in terms of organization and processes to meet these demands. One initial result of this is the “Telekom_helps” service on Facebook and Twitter.
What challenges do you see coming up for your brand in the next years?
The ITC sector is experiencing rapid and far-reaching technological change. Industry structures are transforming themselves and bringing more and more competitors to the fore, as new customer needs and expectations arise and new business areas emerge. Deutsche Telekom wants to position itself within this increasingly confusing mix as a relevant enabler of connected life and work. Current growth areas outside the classic telcoms business are automotive, health care, public administration, and energy. The challenge for the Deutsche Telekom brand is to show how it can support the associated process of change. A good example of this is Deutsche Telekom’s presence at this year’s international consumer electronic show (IFA) with its connected home, in which visitors were able to try out the wide range of products in a realistic living environment.
ABOUT HANS-CHRISTIAN SCHWINGEN
Hans-Christian Schwingen was born in 1966 in Kempen in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. He has been responsible for Brand Strategy and Marketing Communications at Deutsche Telekom since October 2007. This role involves ensuring an internationally consistent brand image for all product and service brands under the Deutsche Telekom umbrella as well as an integrated and uniform market presence vis-à-vis customers. In 2010, prestigious trade publication CAMPAIGN added him to its Global Power List for his systematic positioning of the company as an emotionally charged brand ("Life is for sharing"). In 2011, Deutsche Telekom won the brand award for Best Brand Relaunch.