The 9th Brand Excellence Circle (BEC) took place on 22 November 2019 in Wetzlar at Leica Camera AG. With the main theme “Opinion Leaders & Branding” the participants gathered at one of the leading manufacturers of camera systems and optics. The main topic was discussed from different perspectives. The focus was on the questions of what and who are opinion leaders, what role they play in branding and how they can be included in the brand’s design and communication.

An impressive start with Andrea Pacella on the history and future of the Leica brand
Andrea Pacella, Director of Global Marketing & Communication at Leica, opened the event with a review of the premium manufacturer’s eventful past in the field of photography. He further provided an outlook into the future: “Photography is a wonderful thing. With our work, we try to be respectful of the past and curious about the future at the same time.” Pacella, himself a passionate photographer, was able to impressively convey the passion for photography and the product to the participants of the BEC. At the dinner that followed, the representatives of the participating brands had enough time to exchange best practices in marketing and communication with Pacella. The evening closed at Leitz Park, the place of experience and inspiration for Leica enthusiasts, photography enthusiasts, and guests from all over the world.

The influence of opinion leaders on forming opinions and on values and standards
After a welcoming address by Leica, BMW and the University of St. Gallen, Dr. Philipp Scharfenberger (Vice Director at the Institute for Customer Insight at the University of St. Gallen) gave a lecture on “Opinion Leaders & Branding” from a scientific perspective on the main day of the BEC. It was made clear that opinion leaders have a considerable influence on how we perceive products and companies. Opinion leaders must be consciously separated from social media influencers, as the former are to be understood much more broadly. Their influence should not only be limited to the original concept of opinion, but also includes the development of values and norms of a society.

Opinion leader marketing at its best: An exclusive insight into strategies and measures of Leica and the other BEC partners
In the subsequent presentation, Sandra Viertauer (Head of Global Brand Marketing & Communications at Leica) provided exclusive insights into the collaboration with opinion leaders at Leica. The importance of opinion leaders for Leica was clearly demonstrated by the example of numerous campaigns with professional photographers and celebrities. The fascination for the Leica brand was impressively illustrated in the following tour through Leica’s headquarter with its gallery, the Ernst Leitz Museum, as well as through the Leica-world.

In the insight session, Jennifer Treiber-Ruckenbrod (Head of Brand Portfolio Strategy and Brand Measurement at the BMW Group) together with Dr. Philipp Scharfenberger (University of St. Gallen) offered interesting food for thought on the topic of opinion leaders, which was discussed by the participants in an open discussion and illustrated with numerous examples from their companies.

Brand Excellence Circle Nov 2019@Leica

Brand Excellence Circle November 2019@Leica

Opinion leader marketing from an opinion leader’s point of view
Craig Semetko – internationally renowned (street) photographer – provided exclusive insights into the topic from the perspective of an opinion leader. The photographer began his career working with Leica and summed up his experiences as an opinion leader as follows: “You become part of the family, part of the community and you create a family of photography”. In a relaxed atmosphere, he talked about his collaboration with Leica and the importance of the premium brand for him. Semetko reflected on his role as an opinion leader and also reported on opinion leaders who had a lasting influence on him both in his private life and in his professional career.

The participants of BEC benefited not only from the numerous impulses and discussions, but also from the many opportunities for informal exchange. We thank Sandra Viertauer and her team for the invitation as well as the great organization and the impressive program!

The Brand Excellence Circle
The Brand Excellence Circle (BEC) was founded in 2015 as a joint initiative of BMW Group (Jennifer Treiber-Ruckenbrod) and University of St. Gallen (Institute for Customer Insight, Prof. Dr. Tomczak, Dr. Philipp Scharfenberger). The participants of the circle form a branding network and exchange information on the topics of branding, marketing, and future trends. In an open dialogue between science and practice, the aim is to learn from each other and to develop oneself further in the field of brand management. In addition to scientific impulses, the focus is on practical exchange. Numerous renowned brands form the network (including adidas, airbnb, BMW Group, Credit Suisse, Freitag, GoPro, Hermes Paris, Hilti, IBM, IKEA, Lange & Söhne, Leica, Lindt & Sprüngli, LinkedIn, Lufthansa, Nivea, Philip Morris, Red Bull, Telekom, Tempo, Uber, vitra, Wikimedia and Zalando). The BEC is held twice a year by one of the participating companies.

Brand excellence circle (bec) Brand Excellence CIrcle (BEC)

More Info
For questions regarding the BEC, please contact Dr. Philipp Scharfenberger and Dr. des. Daniel Dietrich.

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Picture: Jason Rosewell on Unsplash