What Makes a Brand Resilient: Takeaways from FUSE Miami 2016

Global Branding Agencies and B2C brands from around the world converged recently in one place.
The setting: Nobu Eden Roc, Miami. The topic: How to connect with consumers using Design as a Strategic force. With speakers hailing from Virgin to PepsiCo  to BBC, the 3-day event was a forum to share branding insights from around the world.
As a partner, Labbrand had the opportunity to pose our own questions to several groups of brand leaders. Vladimir Djurovic, CEO and Founder of Labbrand, moderated a salon session between industry professionals and consumer brands alike. Here are his takeaways. 


Many large companies across the board have seen tremendous losses to their consumer bases due to quick-changing factors – the millennial mindset shift, a 'new transparency', slews of scrappy startups, and so on. Some say these companies need precise and strategic maneuvering to win customers back. Some say they can’t win customers back at all.
We organized the session into 3 smaller subgroups to brainstorm examples of companies who have struggled big – and some that have gone through this process but still win big. What are the differences? Are there big failures and big comebacks worth learning from?
The groups debated among themselves and came up with the following list:

How is resilience built?


Across all groups, the differences between brands that fail and brands that go through struggles but continue to succeed were consistent. The secret to resilience is twofold: 

  • The ability to recognize an opportunity
  • The capability of embracing that change by being ready and agile.

From a design strategy perspective, this means being aware of industry trends and competition at all times, and being fluid and open with new ideas and innovations.
What are the next steps as an industry, as an individual designer, as a brand strategist?
This could inspire designers and brand strategist to offer brand transformation anticipation programs in the same fashion as one would schedule a health check – regularly and to anticipate threats. When designers are asked by their companies to create something that displaces the current status quo, solutions must be inspiring and must bridge the now with the future. For example, Amazon’s communication around drones and the bold ideas that come with it (such as the impact on product design to fit into a drone’s carrying arms) are both provoking and inspiring.
What happens if we don’t address this issue?
The turnover in the Fortune 500 is faster than ever. In a world where brand reputation can spread in minutes more and more companies are honing agility through strategic design. If you choose to ignore such an opportunity, a more nimble competitor may bump you off the list. The capacity to rebound is not something every manager or C-level will put into practice during his professional life.
What are you going to take back to your office on this topic?
There are constantly important challenges rising up to be addressed, whether it is the creation of a new technology such as smartphones or the evolution of a tool such as virtual reality. Transformation is happening all around us. Striving for leadership in our categories means keeping the brand idea as a central guiding principle and maintaining your customers’ trust, no matter the cost financially.
What were some of the Major Takeaway from the session?
In our group we had two brand representatives (Gaemer Gutierrez, Creative Director at CVS Health; and Nino Contreras, Trade & Consumer Marketing executive at RJ Reynolds Tobacco) that could have been easily seen as opposite in terms of mindset: Reynolds and CVS. CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes in its stores and embraced the development of a new product range (e.g. insurance), a development that is well aligned with their positioning and capitalizes on the macro trend of healthfulness. Reynolds decided to embrace a wider range of activities around smoking, including management of risks related to smoking.
But during the session this discrepancy was not apparent. Gaemer was explaining that CVS’s positioning was shifting – not just away from tobacco, but away from other low-cost, low-value goods such as no-brand toilet paper and toothpaste. Meanwhile Nino said that they are less opposite than it looks like from the far outside. Their dialogue showed how both brands transformed to the point where they can consider becoming partners again.


Vladimir Djurovic, Founder and CEO of Labbrand
Vladimir Djurovic, Founder and CEO of Labbrand

Vladimir founded Labbrand in 2005 and has assisted over 100 brands to understand and adapt to the Chinese market. He is an expert in helping both foreign and domestic brands to identify their unique positioning and execute effective branding strategies. He has an innovative mind, a natural instinct for trends, and a great understanding of the Chinese cultural context through years of experience with clients such as LVMH, Givaudan, Mercedes-Benz, Club Med, ING, Volkswagen and more. Vladimir has been interviewed by The New York Times, Le Monde and CNN regarding branding strategy and brand naming in China. He speaks fluent French, English, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Serbian.