DHL — a narrative in color — and managing a global brand


My interview with Joe Siegel
, Director, Advertising, Brand & Communications at 
DHL Express U.S.

1. What brought you to DHL?
Working for DHL was an unexpected opportunity. For years, I had been working in Television, creating print promotion for a variety of networks and shows, so shipping and transportation wasn’t really on my radar. Then, (even though I am way younger than 65) I relocated to South Florida from New York to help launch the PAX TV network – since rebranded as ION Television. When the DHL opportunity came along, I had been with PAX for a total of 7 years heading up with East Coast creative team. Since there are very few opportunities to lead brand and creative at large, global organizations in South Florida, I jumped at the chance.

2. Managing a large brand can be challenging. Would you say that the challenge lies in …. and how?
To successfully manage brands in a large organization, it’s essential that everyone owns responsibility for not only the visual identity, but also the narrative of the brand. To that end, engagement with everyone is vital and engagement starts with education. Educating hundreds, thousands – or in the case of DHL – hundreds of thousands – of employees across the world is not an easy task, but it’s absolutely necessary. At DHL, we started with publishing a 100 page hard cover book, and distributed to everyone. It didn’t cover your traditional “here’s how to use the logo.” It was more about our brand context: positioning, attributes, benefits and heritage. It was very well-received and really made everyone feel like they were part of something special.

3. Are there services or (software) tools that make managing DHL’s brand easier on you day-to-day that you’d recommend?
There are quite a few off-the-shelf solutions to enforce brand guidelines. I like to keep it simple, because the easier we make it to accurately portray the brand on those that need to communicate; the more effective we are in enforcing it. Locally, in the U.S. we have an online tool where any use of the logo can uploaded and reviewed for accuracy. At the global level, there’s an email and a telephone hotline specifically for brand reviews.

4. Describe the parts that typography and color play in the DHL brand story
Color is the biggest part of our visual brand story. Once upon a time the color scheme of DHL in the U.S. was red and white – not just any red either, it was the ugliest red you could imagine. Not pretty. Then, DHL was purchased by the Deutsche Post group whose colors were yellow and black. It made perfect sense to rebrand DHL as red and yellow. Now, you can’t miss our bright yellow trucks and planes and our (attractive) red and yellow are recognized all over the world.

5. Describe the parts that messaging plays in the brand story
The DHL Express message around the world is extremely consistent thanks, in part, to a very centralized global approach. “The International Specialists” emphasizes our key differentiator versus our competitors. Unlike our competitors, international shipping isn’t just part of our business – it is our business. This is the drum we continue to beat. Thanks to the consistency of this message and how effective we are in backing it up with outstanding service, our brand positioning has never been more successful.

6. How is the DHL brand ‘authentic’ ?
The DHL brand is able to be very authentic because our voice is aligned to our target audience and our target is small and medium sized business. Today, DHL is one of the largest organizations in the world, but it started with three guys and an idea to deliver shipping documents by air, so that they arrived at customs offices before the freight, and enabled goods to pass through customs with less delay. We never forget that we were once a small business, so we are always able to identify with our audience and help them solve their logistics issues quickly and efficiently.

7. What is the single biggest issue that you think most brands face in the era of Globalization, Social Media and Reality TV ?
The current digital revolution we are smack in the middle brings two huge two issues: privacy and security. Brands are going to have a hard time in the next few years figuring these out. As these evolve or even worsen, laws will change and marketers will needs to learn to change with them.

Joe’s website: