(Brand) Strategizing the Kurbel

Kurbel01(Illustration: Salvador de la Serna)

The Master’s program in Management at the Karls is a huge playing field for research and practice. The two spheres are combined beyond theoretical conceptions. As an example, five students from the program developed a new branding strategy for the Karlsruhe cinema company die Kurbel in the framework of their second semester module on Brand Strategies. So on behalf of Natalia Platanova (Russia), Kim Alishia Hübsch (Germany), Maria Osipova (Russia), Madiha Younus (Pakistan) and Juan Salvador de la Serna Gongora (Mexico), here is what they did:

Summary: Within the Brand specialization in our Master’s Management course we work with local SME and communities to analyse, understand and propose improvements for brand and communication strategy. Our group worked together with a local communal cinema theatre “die Kurbel”. Within this project we defined the values and target audience of the Kurbel; proposed practical easy steps for improving brand social-media strategy; and gave recommendations for holistic communication strategy. As a result, die Kurbel brand visibility improved significantly, as well as the recognition of the core brand value message (cooperative-run cinema). Social-media and home pages got more visitors and enjoy increased activity. Finally, both the Kurbel and our team are positive that visitor numbers will rise following the implementation of our proposed strategy.

About the Course: Brand Strategies module is a part of second semester Master Management Program (Specialization: Brand), led by Prof. Dr. Melodena Balakrishnan. We found the course well balanced with theory and practice. We were offered selected theoretical material about brand strategy development, transformation, and brand atmosphere. As a practical part we had several business cases, and of course a project work with an actual company. All students were offered to form small groups and choose any local small or medium business, which could have use our help to improve its performance. Our task was to develop a brand revitalization strategy, which could include brand repositioning, revising target audience, creating new media/social-medial strategy and other similar challenges.

About our Work with “die Kurbel”: The group had several different ideas, we thought about gym or book store to work with, but at the end our decision was to approach a local cinema “die Kurbel”. What is interesting about die Kurbel, it is not a chain, and not commercial organization, but a cooperative (Genossenschaft) type. At the same time, based on our personal observations, it did not have a lot of visitors despite a good selection of films in a program. We have contacted the cinema and got an interest from their side for working together on this project. In fact both sides won in this cooperation: our group had a chance to access information about the turnover, sales, selection of films, as well as insightful interviews with the management and founder of die Kurbel; while organization got all materials regarding the market and customer analysis, as well as practical recommendations regarding brand and communication strategy.

What we did: Our first step was the analysis of the local cinema business. We basically had to find out what each of 5 cinema theatres stands for, what kind or target audience they attract, what kind of films they show and how much the ticket cost. We did several in depth semi-structured interviews with regular cinema-goers, as well as personal observations in each cinema. All this we combined with a desktop research, and an interview with Kurbel’s managers and founder. This allowed holistic understanding of the market, position of the Kurbel, its problems and challenges and objectives.


Our visualization of different cinema theatres brand personalities based on initial research (Illustration: Salvador de la Serna)

Second part of our project was to define the objectives for the Kurbel’s revitalization and upon it develop a new brand strategy. We had a chance to get a several rounds of feedbacks from our peers and Professor while we have been working on this project, so it is in a way collaborative effort.

Together with the Kurbel team we have formulated the Objectives for brand revitalization and made practical recommendations how to achieve them:

#1 Define Kurbel’s market position based on specified Target Audience and Brand Values

  • We have identified core values of the Kurbel, bringing together the core and the soul of the organization and people who are a part of the community
  • We analysed the current TA of the Kurbel and proposed to target additional segment of cinema-goers
  • Based on the understanding of overall target audience, including a new segment,     we made a recommendation for effective choice of films for screening in Kurbel

 #2 Raise annual average screen occupancy by 3% in 1 year

  • We offered to achieve the increase through the targeted events for the particular TA: thematic nights; gaming; educational screening for students and schools.

 #3 Increase unaided brand awareness by 15% in 1 year.

  • Increase brand attribute awareness: community oriented; entertainment.

This Objective required an entirely new Communication Strategy, which we developed and deployed, illustrating with practical examples and best practice. It included:

  • Reinforce communication on-line and off-line: establish relevant distribution touch points for printed post cards (key tangible communication material of Kurbel)
  • Social Media(with a focus on Facebook):
    • Opening the page for followers posts
    • Generate reposts of the relevant communities and topics
    • Increase interaction by posting quizzes and competitions
    • Focus on moderation of user generating content rather then on creating own
  • Communicate a brand personality through brand storytelling:
    • Give a face to the brand, Show the people behind the cooperative
    • Uncovering the story of Kurbel on-line

#4 Bring consistency into the brand image

  • Ensure consistent brand look by using unified brand book for any communication activity
  • Avoid “emptiness” in the brand images in social media and on the brand home page (images without people and without emotions)
  • Provide a user-friendly, convenient experience on the home page (time table; trailers)
  • Include brand image into the front and back side of all printed material (post cards with weekly program)

What it changed:

Today it is fully new look the Facebook page of die Kurbel has. The images are more authentic and convey the feelings of the people who co-create this communal cinema house. The images with people making a real difference in brand perception.

Implementation of the holistic brand image and brand message is striking.

In comparison to previously used massage “Unser Kino für Euch in Karlsruhe”, now it is consistent and clear “Karlsruhes Kinogenossenschaft”. New brand message reflect on the key brand value – community cinema.


Cool project, aye? If you are interested in brands and would like to learn more about managing them, if you feel inspired and curious to make similar experiences as this group of five do take a look at the Master’s program in Management at the Karls! It may just well be your next step into the future!

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