Holistic Brand Building: Big Picture Thinking, For Faster Marketing Wins

Max Bon de Veire is the Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Stockholm and Re Nordics. He is a brand strategist and marketing leader specialising in holistic brand growth, with a focus on strategic transformation, communications, brand design, and customer experience. On top of this, he is now contributing as a guest blogger for Novus.

In the daily grind, most marketing challenges stem from broader brand problems, not from the specific results, channels, or executions that are in focus.

Issues like lagging Sender ID are often symptoms of ineffective strategies, incomplete creative toolkits, or even unclear ways to use the brand.

Data from Novus shows that amongst well-known Swedish brands, performance of key brand assets can swing from as low as 36% to up to 94%. Lagging brands are shown to only have a few, limiting assets at their disposal which results in excessive spillover to their competitors.

The most successful brands have a clear brand positioning, the right range of brand assets to engage with their audiences across all channels, and clear strategies to use them. The net outcome is the ability to outperform their competitors, and the market on the whole.

Ironically, when budgets are tight, we tend to not question the big picture, or if our brands are holding us back.

We focus instead on short-term fixes like creative tweaks or optimising our approach to short-format video content. Which makes sense after all, things move fast for marketers and we need to pick our battles.

But what if big picture thinking didn’t actually require a huge, drawn out, existential piece of work? What if it was actually an exercise in simplicity, taking a step back to look at what is most effective for us and our teams?

This can be achieved by focusing on three things:

1. Get super clear on your strategy, and make sure it works for everyone.
Your brand strategy is much more than a nice positioning line. We know that it should be built around clear customer needs, but it also needs to be clear for all your teams – from marketing to HR to product owners, and beyond. If it works for you but does not resonate with others, it’s time for a rethink.

2. Know when to use data, and when to use creativity.
We discussed this at a recent Novus seminar – using data and creativity together is the clearest path to strong human insights that make for more effective brands. Too much data can stifle creativity, and too much creativity can lead to chaos. But when they work together, that’s when the magic happens. Some call it freedom within a framework.

3. Build all your brand elements from a single idea.
Think of your brand assets as the tools that connect people with your business. To really have an impact, you need enough of them for all of your brands needs. But they also need to be thought of together in order to connect customer experiences.

Being clear on these points allows us to make more decisions, and faster. Let’s take Generative AI for example. We can all clearly see its impressive benefits. But should you use it?

If it makes sense for your brand and is credible with your customers, then maybe you should.

You might be a price challenger who is proud to pass marketing savings on to customers through automation. Or you may be an innovative category leader with a communications concept that can be made richer with AI – for example a fictional world.

But if you can see that AI will work against your brand’s values or the perception you are building, then maybe it’s not for you. If you are an all-organic, ‘hand-made’ brand full of illustrations and human-centric messaging, will your customers lose trust in you with AI-enhanced marketing?

So don’t start with what the industry thinks just yet.

Start with your big picture. What does your strategy say? Your brand assets? Your customer data, or your creative leaders?


Max Bon de Veire

Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Stockholm and Re Nordics



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