GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE
Ericsson is a Swedish multinational provider of communications technology and services. The company offers both software and infrastructure in information and communications technology for telcom operators and other indsutries.
However, back in 2000-3, the introduction of 3G mobile technology, once seen as a promising business area, quickly became a burden, with the phones unit making a huge financial loss and sales to operators falling by around half. The order intake that Ericsson and other telecom vendors had expected, and invested in preparing for, was devastatingly disappointing, causing wave after wave of job losses and consolidations across the industry.
Ericsson itself launched several rounds of restructuring and refinancing, with staff numbers falling from 107,000 to 54,000. Alongside a SEK 30 billion of refinancing to keep the company afloat, Ericsson began the process of re-building morale, and in the wake of such a cultural battering, set about re-building confidence in the company from the inside out.
TELLING ERICSSON STORIES
If Ericsson employees were to be instrumental in the company’s revival they would need to be fully involved in the company’s future plans, and be engaged in a way that would help re-kindle the corporate belief and pride that was so badly eroded over the previous few years. Specifically, in shedding its consumer handset business, Ericsson made the decision to return to its engineering roots as the basis for its future strategy.
The task for brand was to help instil a newfound confidence and self-belief using a number of different storytelling techniques, each designed to re-engage employees in the original pioneering spirit and engineering heritage of Ericsson, and in a way that would inform the desired behaviours necessary to turn the company around.
In the process, a colourful and impressive history of innovation was unearthed; stories rich in character helped to reveal and bring to life a genuinely inventive spirit.
An international network of ‘correspondents’ was identified and briefed to source Ericsson stories that could be re-told in support of the new company vision and values. Workshops were also run across different markets to help provoke and unearth potentially new stories. All stories were filtered against the values, edited and then refined to help emphasize key learnings and to aid the unfamiliar in their telling.
As a part of the refinement exercise, the stories were all documented and copy-written to give them a common structure and style, with supporting images selected to bring them to life visually. So the stories could be easily shared with either groups or individuals they were also made into short films and audio files.
After six months of story gathering, editing and refinement, a programme of employee engagement was implemented across Ericsson. The stories formed the centre piece to the programme, with an on-line micro-site helping managers easily navigate and locate relevant stories by either geography, business-line or by specific Value.
THE IDEA ENGINEER
As a follow up to the internal storytelling programme, Ericsson focused its efforts on the external audience through an communications campaign entitled ‘Idea Engineer’.
A key piece to the communication strategy was to build the new campaign around the stories and to ensure that Ericsson employees felt included and involved as the new campaign launched. To achieve this, a powerful internal campaign was developed that adopted the same look, feel and messaging as the external campaign, and was imaginatively applied to the fabric of Ericsson office and factory spaces, bringing to life for all those who worked there the ‘engineer/architect/builder’ metaphor.
THE ERICSSON WAY
Today the company employs more than 110,000 people and works with customers in more than 180 countries, including the United States, China, India, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Italy, the UK, and Sweden. Ericsson is once again a strong, high-performing technology business and holds approximately 35,000 granted patents, including many in the wireless communications field. Making all this possible is a strong storytelling culture, that’s built around a set of core values (Respect, Professionalism and Perseverance), and for all who work for Ericsson, a powerful understanding for what it takes to work there.
JUST SO WE ARE CLEAR
Not all of our experience has been gained as Robin.
So far, most of our stories, such as Ericsson, were achieved during our time at Brand Union and Wolff Olins, where between us we spent the best part of 30 years.