Case Study: Steinmüller Africa uses a Brand Avatar during Covid-19

Steinmüller Africa is a South African based engineering firm responsible for designing, building and maintaining the boilers used at Eskom’s power plants.

At the onset of the national lockdown on 27 March 2020, Steinmüller Africa received an essential services certificate and was able to continue operations. However, they needed to get important information out to their staff of over 700 employees about the coronavirus. This included explaining what the virus was, its effects and symptoms and what precautions could be taken.

Communicating through the Change Curve

Steinmuller Africa has recognised the importance of communication through times of change and uncertainty.  In response, they created a communication strategy to reach out and connect with the Steinmuller family and journey with them through the Change Curve and have continued to do this through the Covid-19 crisis.

We are all somewhere on the change curve on any given day and ongoing, agile communication helps to move us from the feelings of fear, anger and frustration to be able to focus on the positive aspects of change and to ensure that staff have all the information they need to stay safe during this period.

Introducing a Brand Avatar

Steinmüller Africa wanted to complement their existing mascot with a Brand Avatar, a company spokesperson who could talk about other issues and initiatives within the company. For this, they chose Themba, a stock avatar who represents the persona of the Steinmüller Africa brand: dependable, approachable and knowledgeable.

A Wellness Mascot

Steinmüller Africa had previously developed a mascot which they used as a spokesperson and role model for their employee wellness program. Named Vuka Ke-Nako or “VK” for short, his name means “wake-up time” in Southern Sotho and was based on the idea of being a superhero. The premise is that he has the power to fight for and advise employees through trauma, stress, burnout, financial, legal and health matters. 

Redesigning VK

The challenge was to bring the look of the predesigned VK which has a flat 2D look to match the three-dimensional illustrative look of Themba. The Brand Avatar design team started the re-design of VK with a series of pencil drawings which were then developed into the final illustration. 

Using the new style, the two characters can now occupy the same storyworld. This is the environment and stylistic “world” which the characters occupy.

“Thank you very much for your effort and attention to getting him just right, much appreciated!” Leon Both, Talent and OD Manager

Communication Rollout

The first infographic released 27 March 2020

During the Covid-19 crisis, Steinmüller Africa has made use of both mascots to disseminate important information to employees by means of animations, infographics and video clips. Distribution has taken place using WhatsApp, MMS, email and printouts.

Animated version of the infographic
Infographic incorporating “Themba” and the new VK

Other initiatives include video messages from the executive management introduced by the Brand Avatar as well as a company competition to name the mascot.

The response the new look for VK and the mascot generated communication has been very positive and effective.  

“It is of utmost importance to keep employees engaged by finding creative ways to communicate, especially during the lockdown period.  Thank you for taking communication to the next level!”  Karin Kaempffer.  Executive Group Manager: HCM.

A call for employees to give a name to the mascot.

This campaign is an ongoing strategic initiative with Bev Hancock at Kamva Leadership Institute, Michael Jackson, Global presenter and Communications Expert and Steven Hall at UZI Media.  Working with the Steinmuller Africa Exco and Communications team has been a case study in Leadership Through Communication.

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