The starting point for a brand is to create what you want it to be: James Curleigh
Day 1 of e4m India Brand Conclave saw James Curleigh, President & CEO, Gibson Brands, share insights on how a brand can pivot through these challenging times & make a global impact
The first day of e4m India Brand Conclave concluded with a startling session by James Curleigh, President & CEO, Gibson Brands, who delivered the keynote address on 'How to Build & Expand a Global Brand'.
Starting the session, Curleigh remarked, “When we talk about brands we think about business, consumers, markets, categories and competitive advantage. For brands, we need to create momentum around it. Momentum is determined by how big you are and how fast you can go - it is a good law of motion for a brand.”
Sharing about the prominent brands he has worked with and the learnings he has achieved, Curleigh said, “The journey started 25 years ago, the opportunity I had with brands both big and small was an amazing one of how you can re-imagine, re-invent and revision a brand for the future. My first job after college was with M&M Mars and it was during the time of global branding. In the early 90s you could say M&M is a candy company but then we pivoted through Snickers and became the official snack food for the Olympics. This transition helped us connect with countries around the world. Then I got a chance to join a French-based company Salomon, which went from a skiing company to a mountain sports brand. Then came a big challenge in 2012 when I was connected to the good folks at Levis. The Levis brand is interesting. It has a 140-year-old legacy but it had to think differently. So, we leveraged the iconic past but leaned into the future reimaging it as a lifestyle brand.”
Taking the viewers on a journey on how he reinvented an iconic brand like Gibson, Curleigh said, “The Gibson sound is worth saving and we wanted to figure out how to do that. The starting point for any brand is to sort of create who do you want it to be. Gibson is about inventing sounds and has been potent for many musicians. So, we go back in time to see how Gibson got to this stage and the musicians that made it happen. We started capturing the essence of Gibson in music not just in rock in roll but other genres too.”
Curleigh stated that the vision for Gibson is to be the most relevant, loved and most played music brand in the world. He remarked, “The starting point worked on the principle of Share of Sound from Gibson that can be shared around the world from all of our guitars. To do that we thought like a start-up. If you can leverage the iconic past of Gibson but lean into the future as a start-up, good things might happen.”
“Firstly, we listened and lead. Listening to our fans reviews and opinions we took the lead in making changes. We focused on the quality of our Gibson guitar. If you have a brand reputation that doesn’t match what you promise, the chances of you succeeding to go down significantly,” Curleigh remarked.
The breakthroughs in digital, according to Curleigh, is its simplified nature - that it has fewer words and more images. “We used the same principle for Gibson balancing craftsmanship, innovation in sound and automation. Keeping it simple but behind the scenes, being very sophisticated, is a very important concept for rebuilding a brand.”
On a parting note, Curleigh said, “Sometimes you have to pivot in these trying times. Especially coming out of 2020, we need to think for our business, brands or even ourselves if we are ready to make the pivot and perform at the same time. It is time to reinvent ourselves and think about the future. We need to leverage the past, set conditions for success in the present, and then figure out how to drive the business into the future. If you get that combination right you can start thinking about turning all of those moments you create with your team and brand, and turn them into momentum.”
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