“I’ll start by saying what I think it isn’t.

“Over the years, many people have begun to regard branding as almost the same as communication, and that’s the first mistake because it may not be about communication at all. 

“The first thing to consider in any branding strategy is, who is the customer? Who is the audience we want to have a relationship with? That must be answered in the most precise way. 

“Don’t only think about the customer in the view of the product or service you are offering, but think about them as the human beings they are. What life they have, their frustrations, hopes, desires, and the families they have. Not only where they live but how they live. The more we know about how they think and feel, the more we earn the right to relate to them. You cannot just say ‘we know who they are’, and then call that a target group so you can start shooting – that’s what you do for hunting, not in marketing.

“The second thing you need to understand is, what is it we are really offering? You will hear a lot of companies saying, ‘we have a nice range and a nice quality of blah blah’, but you have to think of your offerings in terms of how it adds value to your audience – also called a value proposition. 

“You have to understand how it adds value because it’s through that you can relate. Very few customers, particularly in consumer marketing, are just interested in the size of a range – they don’t care. While it does help, that’s not where your heart is, and you must understand how the value in the product links to the audience. 

“The third thing is, if it’s about goods and services, it’s about distribution and so you need to consider, where will the customer meet us? What would be the right way for them to meet us? Is it just online or in shops or at shows or events, or other ways? 

“Once you have that picture, you can add in competition. If you think of your value proposition, who else is bringing those kinds of value propositions to life? Think of the access and relationship to the customer, who else is trying to sit on that channel? And then you can start building a brand. 

“In brand building, if you have a product that makes a huge difference with the competition and others in the category, quite often that is the key to branding. 

“As a consultant, I’ve been sitting with the management of large hotel chains. They invited a young person who I was told was the brand manager. So I asked this young person, ‘what are you looking after since you are the brand manager?’, and they said, ‘well I look after the communication’. But the branding in a hotel should be the customer experience! How did the reception work? How did they help? What was the room like? Was it clean? What about the restaurant? It’s that total experience people care about. Of course, you have to communicate and of course, you have to be smart and be in the right spaces, but that experience is the branding.

“Branding is quite often in the experience and so you should know everything about how the customer thinks.”

COVID-19 has moved business digitalisation forward years in a matter of months – what should a brand do to ensure they are using digital as part of their communication strategy? 

“I think that trend was there anyway, long before covid-19.

“Digital transformation has come to all aspects of business life and certainly also to marketing, but it has just enforced the trend that was already there. 

“I think one thing to be aware of is that people are much more willing to do things online now and to have very profound dialogues on the web.

“Access is one of the legs for branding and the way we access now has changed a lot, particularly for those retail shops that were not online oriented, they have really had to develop and not all of them have done so. 

“An example is a supermarket chain near me that sells all the gears and gadgets you need if you have a car or boat you want to repair, it’s very technically oriented. They were online before, but the main business was people walking through the shop.

“They have quickly adapted to the situation by enabling people to shop anything online, then drive to the store and pick it up outside. As soon as you have ordered from home, they start texting you, ‘we are now packing your order’, so you get this feeling of excitement like, ‘it’s happening now!’. And 10 minutes later, they say ‘your order is now packed’. Then there is a link in the text message saying, ‘press here’ and you type in your car registration number and wait. 

“You typically wait two minutes and then they knock on the trunk, I open it and they throw the goods in and say ‘hello, have a nice day, goodbye’. Very simple, and the fact the process is simplified means a lot. I’ve heard several other people speak about it, and that is branding!

“So, marketing managers should not only think about communication, but think of the customer, and how they feel and relate to the company because that relationship is very important.”

What about Lego makes it so popular and what part did you play in achieving that? 

“Lego is so popular because every time Lego does something, it’s tested and tried numerous times because they don’t want to disappoint the customer. They care so much about that, which has of course been a very important part of building the brand.

“Because I was there for so long, I’ve been involved with so many things. 

I was very much involved in the move from being a single product company to a multi-category company.

“You could argue until the early 90s we were basically a British company that was all about the brick. Till the end of my day, I will always maintain that the brick is something very, very special. Even when other competitors were making the same, the way Lego made and designed their bricks was and still is, fantastic. 

“I had the opportunity to manage the process whereby Lego put other categories under the brand such as theme parks, educational products, the link to the movie world, kids wear, etc… and that was a fantastic process to be a part of and to manage. I had great people around me, so it’s not about me, I just happened to manage all that, so it wasn’t tough in that way.

“It was tough to make changes in a company that had been very successful because if a company is very successful over many years, they also develop some bureaucracy and can also develop false beliefs about what is right and wrong. But I did enjoy being part of that transformation, which included the development of the first theme park, in Windsor.

“Although now we measure clicks, likes, and all those things in the digital environment, in those days we measured press clippings. We were already quite high on press clippings but the day the theme park opened, our press clippings almost 10 folded and it never came back. We became a completely different brand the day we opened the theme park because we had a new way of being close to the end-user.

“For many years I worked with a school programme, which is not easy from a business point of view. It’s a smaller, difficult market because it has national regulations and other national peculiarities, for instance, the age by which children start going to school and how families view kindergartens and playgroups. 

“But I was very much helped by the owner of Lego in that respect, and he always said, ‘we’re not only in the education market to make money, we are also there to understand the learning aspect even deeper because if we are closer to teachers, we are also closer to those who really know about how children learn, and that is part of the brand’.”

As a leading branding and marketing speaker, Christian Majgaard is part of The Motivational Speakers Agency.