Kia’s Rishaad Sacoor on ensuring brands are more than communication
Rishaad Sacoor is an accomplished Brand & Strategic Marketing leader at Kia Europe, specializing in creating and scaling new brands and businesses. With a proven track record of launching multinational brands and driving innovation, he guides organizations to success through strategic creativity and deep market insight.
In this interview, Rishaad highlights the importance of brand infrastructure, technology, collaboration, education, and employee empowerment. At Kia, they adopt a glocal approach, blending global concepts with local adaptations. Learn why evaluating infrastructure strength relies on customer experiences and value alignment, and why achieving a balance between brand experience and a functional portal requires employee engagement and a strong foundation integrated with company culture.
Rishaad, what does brand infrastructure mean for you, and is it central to a strong brand?
We recently underwent a significant brand relaunch and restructuring, which made our brand infrastructure vital. It was important for us to ensure that the relaunch wasn't merely a superficial change, but a transformative initiative that would impact our business and organization. We needed to build an internal infrastructure that could be accessed and utilized by everyone in the company, aligning with our brand's values and providing actionable directions. To make this happen, we focused on various elements such as platforms, tools, assets, onboarding, and training materials. Our goal was to share knowledge and understanding, enabling individuals to feel empowered and part of the change. This effort extended not only to our European operations but also to our markets and dealerships. As a business with dealerships spread across Europe, establishing a strong foundation and infrastructure was crucial. We place great importance on our brand infrastructure and its impact.
What’s technology’s role in future-proofing a brand’s infrastructure?
Yeah, the role of technology is fundamental in future-proofing a brand's infrastructure. When we consider multinational brands and complex organizations, there are many stakeholders involved. To ensure that the brand is central to the business and adds value to consumers, we need to think about various departments and stakeholders who need to grab the brand's foundations and create something with it. Technology plays a role in democratizing access to the brand's understanding and ensuring a common understanding of why we do things and how we want to do them.
In our approach at Kia, we view technology in four ways. Firstly, it helps us share and create a common understanding of the brand's purpose and goals. Secondly, it provides platforms for asset sharing, webinars, training, and onboarding, enabling the dissemination of brand knowledge. Thirdly, technology tools allow our people to express the brand creatively, explore new ideas, and align with the brand's values. Finally, technology supports governance and ensures consistent implementation, making the process seamless and enjoyable for everyone involved.
We utilize Frontify as our central platform for the new brand we've created, continuously evolving it with Frontify. In addition to Frontify, our organization already employs various methods for distributing brands and assets, including internal and shared drives, FTP servers, and another recent platform; Jira. These tools assist with project management, ensuring the brand is expressed effectively and timely. While we are currently exploring additional project management platforms, nothing has been solidified yet.
How do you collaborate with other departments to maintain a cohesive, efficient brand infrastructure?
Our ambition is for the entire organization to understand, live, and consistently express our brand's value to consumers, fostering cohesion and consistency across departments, markets, and functions. We believe that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn't exist. Our approach includes onboarding sessions for all employees, quarterly brand briefings, and providing external agencies access to the Kia platform hosted with Frontify for up-to-date brand information, assets, and tools.
Additionally, our brand team actively consults and collaborates with other departments in various projects, strategically initiating them from a brand perspective. We offer support and guidance on interpreting and expressing the brand in different areas of expertise. While there are no magical solutions for every touchpoint, we continuously consult, support, and encourage everyone to find and express the brand's unique personality in a remarkable way.
How is your brand organized globally and locally?
No one can have an exact recipe for every imaginable situation, touchpoint, or product is a challenge for any brand. Regional and local nuances further complicate this. Our approach involves having pan-European master concepts and assets inherited from global ones, which are interpreted and adapted with flexibility in collaboration with our markets. We value cultural relevance and strive to inspire people by understanding and adding value to local nuances, trends, and consumer needs. We reject a one-size-fits-all approach and prioritize accommodating, learning, and adding value through bottom-up influences and testing. Our brand customization is an ongoing and fluid process that embraces flexibility and cultural understanding.
How do you educate employees about your brand?
We appreciate the support and collaboration from everyone in the organization during the rollout of the new Kia brand. Onboarding and a consulting approach are integral to the process. Brand education is embedded in the company's values, assessed in employee competencies, and supported by ongoing training programs. This extends beyond brand and marketing to various company initiatives.
Inspiration and understanding drive motivation and engagement. Our people are part of shaping our brand, and we emphasize that the brand is constantly evolving and shaped by every action taken. Being nice, progressive, and inspired in all aspects of work contributes to a more inspiring, progressive, and enjoyable brand. Our aim is to motivate, include, and empower individuals to make a difference, emphasizing their role in shaping the brand.
How do you assess the strength of a brand’s infrastructure?
When assessing a brand's infrastructure and long-term success, customer and consumer experiences are the ultimate measure. We focus on qualitative perceptions, including those of the general public. If we’re successful, we will have a brand impact beyond just our customers. While technical performance indicators and sentiment analysis are considered, the key lies in the experiences we deliver and how they align with our values. Our infrastructure facilitates a shared understanding of the brand and effective expression. We continuously monitor and learn from our actions to create positive impressions on our consumers and audiences. The brand's infrastructure serves as the foundation for delivering aligned experiences, products, services, and added value.
What’s the perfect mix between a strong brand experience and a functional brand portal?
We believe that when people are motivated and engaged, and when they understand their role in shaping the brand, it enhances the brand experience provided through our brand portal. This portal serves as their main gateway and touchpoint with the brand. Our goal is to inspire and inform them so they can create the best possible outputs. We don't believe in simply providing assets and tools and expecting good results from a functional or mechanical combination of those elements. A brand portal should provide easy and fast access to key elements. However, without understanding the brand's story, experience, and values we want to bring to consumers, the potential combinations of assets and tools become limited. It's crucial for our people to have a holistic understanding, be fully engaged and motivated, and bring their expertise to life through the provided tools and assets. We believe in empowering and fueling the added value that each individual brings to Kia and aligning it with the brand's direction.
What are your three best tips to enable efficient brand management?
I think it's a bit of a summary of what we talked about so far.
- Setting a strong foundation and that means the right platforms, the right access, the right assets, the right materials, and the right understanding.
- Link it to culture, make it holistic. A brand cannot just be communication. A brand needs to go well beyond that and should be embedded in the values of the organization and should also be inspired by the values of the organization and not detach from them.
- And for me, the most important, it's about sharing and empowering people. There is no direction or instruction that we can give. We can’t tell someone, "Go create a great brand experience with these entities and in these ways." Now what we can do is do our best to engage them, to onboard them, to inspire them, to give them the right tools, and then just let their added value, their expertise take us to places we never even imagined the brand could go to. And that is, I think, where everyone plays a part. And that is why we always say that the brand is nothing more than the sum of everyone working here at Kia.