|Friday, 27 July 2012 01:11|
EMAP was established in 1947 as East Midlands Allied Press, a newspaper media brand. Following rapid expansion, it quickly began to branch out into magazine publications and, after moving into exhibitions, conferences, data and online product; the company was reborn as EMAP in 1985.
As the brand stretched across a variety of print, online and broadcast mediums, the direction it wanted to take became clear and the newspaper and radio divisions were sold in the mid-1990s. The company continued to grow and progress and, after being acquired in March 2008 by Eden Bidco Ltd, a joint venture between Apax Partners and Guardian Media Group plc, the group stood as the multi-platform events, information services and business-to-business publishing group of today.
The last three years have presented a challenge for EMAP, with minimal revenue growth making shareholders ripe for a change. In October 2011 a new chief executive, Duncan Painter, was appointed and a new management team was formed. The re-structure was a strategic move to strengthen and build the company’s UK brands and to accelerate international revenue growth.
Marketing director, Rebecca Clayton, came on board in November and was an integral cog in the rebranding process. “We felt that customers were feeling a bit neglected following research,” said Clayton. “People in the business were focused on management costs above everything, and that wasn’t providing the best service.”
It soon became apparent to the team that certain people felt they couldn’t invest in the brand’s products and technology. The company’s Net Promoter Score revealed customers had become less engaged over the years and, with the onslaught of poor market conditions, it wasn’t generating the growth it needed. So the primary objective: getting customers and staff excited about the brand, was set.
With the bare bones of the brand strategy approved by shareholders in November 2011, the next step was to find a branding agency that was highly creative and flexible. The project brief was changing on a daily basis and finding an agency that would adapt quickly was not an easy task.
Clayton said: “We looked at five agencies and three chose not to go through with the process because we were still making decisions. We awarded the project to venturethree, as their people were incredibly creative and innovative, flexible and commercial, and we needed to go through the rigorous process of choosing names in a very short time.”
Michael Zur-Szpiro and his team at venturethree joined the project in January 2012 and offered a new, fresh approach to EMAP’s traditional branding. Zur-Szpiro said: “We thought ‘Well here’s a sector of media but it’s all about knowledge,’ and we thought it would be wonderful to bring all our consumer learning into the business to business sector. Our objective was to say there isn’t such a thing as B2B, it’s all P2P - people to people.
“We felt if we could help EMAP be a brand that its customers and own people could get excited about, that would be a very good objective.”
With a relatively open brief, venturethree quickly built a congenial relationship with EMAP’s management team, where creative ideas were built around the company’s corporate strategy.
“EMAP has a very exciting past but it felt like the past it’s always had” said Zur-Szpiro. “Here were businesses that were like unpolished jewels and some of their spirit had gone dormant. The new management wanted to wake the spirit up and build a pioneering business.”
The project was kept strictly confidential with just 25 staff from EMAP and the team from venturethree aware of the company rebrand. While the team was compact compared to the size of the project, an efficient, knowledgeable team was fundamental due to the stringent time constraints. “Within that group we had half new people and half heritage who knew the history of the company,” said Clayton.
“We were kind of weighed down by heritage perceptions. We were doing the work incredibly quickly and it wasn’t as inclusive as it could possibly be. However when you’ve got a thousand people wanting to give their opinion, everything becomes a bit watered-down.”
It was Duncan Painter who clarified that the most value for a venture capital driven business would be derived from creating separate brands and not unifying them. The company was already structured into four brands underneath the umbrella name of EMAP: events, information, publishing and networks, but there was plenty of work still to be done to complete the rebrand.
The events and information branches were seen as two of the strongest players due to their international components, with each spanning three global hubs; the Americas, Asia Pacific and Middle East North Africa. The publishing arm, which many understood was called EMAP in its own right, was also key to the business due to its founding origins.
Zur-Szpiro said: “There were lots of great things that weren’t adding up to a progressive whole. It was a great business called EMAP, which was absolutely about trade publishing. One of the key parts was turning up the volume on that. For the others sectors, it was clear that they shouldn’t be involved with EMAP– they should be their own brands.”
Finally, the fourth strand, the networks division, which managed large events, conferences and awards, was disbanded and distributed between the publishing and events sectors.
The benefits of having new standalone operating businesses, with the freedom to determine their own strategy and service model, were tangible and offered the vital concepts of exciting customers and resultantly increasing growth. Diversifying its brand was going to strengthen EMAP’s overall business. Clayton said: “The only way we were going to get growth was by getting customers. You’ll only do that if you’ve got really good, trustworthy brands with which to engage.”
The process involved creating four separate brands in a very short time. This began by fashioning ‘brand wheels’ for each sector and unlocking the message and positioning of each individually.
Zur-Szpiro said: “It was like creating four brands in super fast time. It started in January and they wanted to launch internally in May and externally in June. To do one brand in that time wouldn’t be so bad, but doing four made it high speed and intense.”
Carefully selected members from each management team embarked upon workshops to define tailored growth strategies for each brand. The name selection process swiftly followed and the EMAP management team and venutrethree collaboratively weighed up a number of suggestions against several criteria. Did the name reflect what the company is and what it stands for? Was the URL available? Was the trademark obtainable?
Eventually, the names were decided on. The group holding company became Top Right Group, a title chosen to reflect the structural changes and the organization’s long-term growth and high performance aspirations.
Underneath it sat i2i Events Group, the large-scale conferences, festivals and exhibitions business; 4C Group, the information services business; and EMAP was retained to represent the publishing business.
The aim with both i2i Events Group and 4C Group was to focus on global growth opportunities, therefore universally recognizable titles were an essential ingredient. i2i also housed a sub-brand, Lions Festivals, which took the grand total of new brand guidelines to five.
“It was a lot of work but, from a branding perspective, the idea was to create a new set of real brands – not just logos –that would unlock excitement. Customers would look at us afresh and see we weren’t being boring or cutting back,” said Clayton.
Zur-Szpiro and team were subsequently tasked with designing the creative and visual worlds for each brand. In mid-February the team took on the challenge of creating logos, font styles, websites, intranets, stationary and literature ready for the internal launch in March.
“We didn’t get our first name choice in every instance, and it definitely wasn’t easy,” said Clayton, “but we’re very proud of the outcome. The most exciting part was definitely the reveal.”
Some 1,500 EMAP employees were gathered together for the internal launch of the new branding on 28 March. Painter hosted the event, which was live streamed to 11 offices, and unveiled the physical manifestation of the new brand complete with a new name, structure and strategy. The inclusive method of communication was a phenomenal success among staff and the public, and the information was sent to the media at the same time.
Clayton said: “We had a bit of a history of not executing things particularly well, professionally or swiftly, and many people who had been with the company a long time said ‘Wow - this is true?’”
Staff returned to work the next day to be greeted with a new email addresses, stationery, and brand collateral. And the transformation is not over yet. The company is still implementing full brand engagement strategies, and the next step of the journey involves the physical move of the companies to three separate locations.
“Now we’re taking each of the three businesses at a time, to bring the brands to life,” said Clayton. “We are using a people-based process where we are getting vast groups of people together from each of the businesses and asking them ‘What kind of company do you want to work for?’ and discussing how we evolve the culture.”
In terms of the creative approach, the application design is still a work in progress. “The brands still need to be brought to life within the brands. W’ere going one level down to the hero brands and seeing how they fit with the business brand,” said Zur-Szpiro.
While the rebrand is still in the relatively early stages, Top Right Group has seen five months of growth. “We’re up above budget and we’ve seen a deceleration in losing customers. We’re very happy with the financial outcome,” said Clayton. “Customers appear to be excited and not thinking we’re just tired and old. The general results are very pleasing to the board and our own staff feel very proud and excited - it makes a real difference.”