KNIGHTSBRIDGE — We have worked on a couple of very prominent instances of this recently. Indeed we’re doing one now. And there’s one single message that has emerged as the most important:
Don’t invent symbolic events. Just look out for them.
Some of us (consultants) will happily tell you that a symbolic event is tremendously important in sealing and unifying a great change. But what we often get wrong is how that event comes about. Let me give you two examples.
THE GOOD – Mandela and the Springboks. I won’t belabour this, as it’s been all over the press with the Clint Eastwood film Invictus. But essentially when the new black President put on the jersey of the traditionally all-white rugby team, the country could see old wounds beginning to heal. It was good enough to turn into a film. But it was a culmination of lots of hard work and it was a natural extension of the characters involved.
THE BAD – “Mission accomplished!” it said on the aircraft carrier where US President George W. Bush landed a fighter plane and swaggered down the runway. And it wasn’t. The mission wasn’t accomplished. He was nowhere near the scene of the mission. He had learned to fly while sitting out the Vietnam War. There was so much about it that smelled wrong that Americans don’t even like to talk about it today.
There is a great deal of work to be done to determine how to bring brands together and how to unify company cultures. And most of that spade work is real hard graft. Planning, studies, system changes, restructurings, communication, coordination, etc.
It is only when all that work is done and starting to take effect, and when real change is happening that events occur and/or opportunities emerge.
Don’t lead with it, don’t invent it, don’t force it. It won’t come that way.