How STABILO became a global star brand
STABILO, a global company from Germany’s Franconia region, successfully achieved profitable growth in its fiercely competitive market and managed to clearly set itself apart from the competition: with an optimized brand strategy and strict brand touchpoint management.
STABILO managed the leap from a retail oriented brand to a successful and independent consumer brand.
Many companies producing fast-moving consumer goods suffer from the typical phenomena of saturated markets: high competitive pressure and fierce pricing wars.
The same goes for the office supplies industry: It is ruled by intense competition and low differentiation. Due to the interchangeability of products, consumers make their purchasing decisions at the PoS based on price. They do not spend time interacting with the individual offers and do not investigate alternatives, simply because the purchase is not important enough.
1. The challenge
Writing utensils producer STABILO was no stranger to that situation. Even though the globally active company from Germany's Central Franconia region enjoys a high level of awareness and attractiveness – thanks to its history and its outstanding product quality – its competitive edge began to dull in 2011, both inside and outside of its core markets. More and more competitors were imitating the brand. It became clear: If STABILO didn't react to this threat, it could slide toward interchangeability.
The digitalization that permeates all areas of consumers' lives caused a fair amount of uncertainty for STABILO as well. What will be the role of writing utensil manufacturers in the future? One of the key points of our brand work was therefore to use digitalization to STABILO's own advantage: by using it to intensify customer relationships and master the transition from retail oriented brand to customer oriented brand.
2. The strategy
In 2011, STABILO decided to work with us to counteract the loss of attractiveness and the challenges of the market. The brand's attractiveness and competitiveness had to be improved. To that end, we developed the brand strategy together.
One of the changes: STABILO now focuses on the "creative class" – on women, mothers, children and teachers – and supports them with excellent products, extensive experience and care in their efforts to express themselves and let their creativity flow freely.
"Being Colorful" – that is the mission we defined together with STABILO as being the company's highest standard. STABILO now strives to be "colorful" in everything they do – even beyond the product line. The writing utensils manufacturer wants to thrill consumers at all brand touchpoints with playful and creative ideas.
STABILO is particularly keen to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalization: In the future, the company wants to react quickly to ever-changing customer needs. With highly communicative channels (like social media) and business models (for example co-creativity) they will build a close relationship with consumers – to become less dependent on retailers.
3. The implementation
After the relaunch of the brand strategy, the real work started in 2013: its effective implementation. Even today, BrandTrust supports STABILO with bringing the brand strategy to life in the entire organization and with making it outwardly tangible.
The first step was to establish a worldwide brand ambassador network. Nearly 40 people were chosen. Their task: They were to dedicate between ten and 20 percent of their working time to the topic of brand, design of the brand touchpoints, and the multiplication of brand knowledge in the entire company.
The brand ambassadors were selected based on their enthusiasm for the topic of branding and their eagerness to take on the new challenge. It was very important that these people be very well networked within the company and cover all countries and business units. This was a key factor for the successful implementation of the brand strategy.
A brand must be tangible at all brand touchpoints for customers, employees and partners alike. This is why in 2014, the brand ambassadors – after initial intensive training with brand coach Ulli Wittig – started a systematic brand touchpoint management system:
First, about 170 touchpoints were collected, prioritized and documented – based on market research data and company experience. Since then they have been analyzed once a year, both internally (by the brand ambassadors) and externally (by BrandTrust). This is done to evaluate to what extent the brand rules, and therefore the brand's standards, are fulfilled. For this task, we always "put on the customer glasses" and then discuss how the brand touchpoints can be optimized and developed.
The goal is always to better convey the brand STABILO and particularly the one-word equity "colorful". Since 2014, we have been able to increase the proportion of brand touchpoints that fulfill all of the brand rules from 17 to 46 percent. These touchpoints offer outstanding brand experiences and higher differentiation in the market.
In order to develop the brand apart from the touchpoint management routine, STABILO holds the global "Brand Ambassador Days" twice a year. At these occasions, all participants in Europe, executive management and BrandTrust get together to discuss brand-relevant topics and the development of new measures. Internal and external talks bring fresh inspiration. The same event is then held with the involved colleagues in Asia.
By establishing the global brand ambassador network, which drives the implementation of the brand strategy, and by implementing a systematic brand touchpoint management system, we were able to bring the new STABILO brand strategy to life. The defined goals, such as the expansion of attractiveness and development into a star brand, were achieved.
Horst Brinkmann, Board of Management at STABILO International GmbH, sums it up: "STABILO is and acts 'colorful'. The strategy developed by BrandTrust and their support with managing the touchpoints were the right stimulus."
STABILO has been continuously increasing its revenue from writing utensils since 2008, and in 2016 achieved record sales of 185.2 million euros (+9.1 percent compared to 2015).
The star products BOSS, Point 88 and Pen 68 have made STABILO a household name around the world and market leader in the EU. The BOSS has been sold more than two billion times. Supported brand awareness is at 83 percent, almost twice that of competitor products.
Implementation of a price premium:
By consistently conveying values at all brand touchpoints, STABILO can assert a sizeable price premium – despite saturated and intensely competitive markets. For the Pen 68, STABILO achieves a price premium of 184 percent over the top 3 manufacturers in Europe, for the BOSS the premium is 128%.
Brand experiences at the brand touchpoints:
Unique experiences at the most relevant touchpoints ensure that the mission "Colorful" becomes tangible – for consumers, employees, and partners. The company's headquarters and local offices radiate in bold colors. The STABILO trade fair booth is unmistakable even from a distance thanks to its colorful and interactive design. Even the new HR video illustrates the colorful corporate culture, where diversity and creativity are a matter of course. New brand touchpoints have been created to strengthen the brand, for example the STABILO Colorland.
Development into a consumer brand:
STABILO managed the leap from a retail oriented brand to a successful and independent consumer brand: with intensified focus on the end customer, content design for the "creative class" target group, and the successful use of new touchpoints like social media channels. STABILO currently has 2.5 million fans on Facebook, achieves a high interaction rate, and leaves the competition in the dust (for comparison: Faber Castell has 260,000 and STAEDTLER has 570,000 fans)*. STABILO inspires its fans on Facebook, a lively exchange is initiated. The average engagement rate is at 5 percent, which is substantial compared to other companies (between 0.5 and 0.99 percent).
Download of the Case Study "With intelligent Brand Touchpoint Management to global Star Brand"