If you don’t love your brand, chances are your customers aren’t going to either. Here’s how to align your entire company with your brand strategy to grow your business.
In today’s highly competitive environment, brand building is not an optional business practice. It is essential irrespective of industry-specific dynamics. A company’s brand can and should guide critical business decisions, as well as determine appropriate employee behaviours and messaging. Adopting this brand-driven approach helps foster relevance amongst the brand’s desired target audience that will ultimately translate into increased trust, profitability and competitive advantage.
While many companies recognise the value of a powerful brand, they often overlook the critical role employees play in shaping relationships with customers. Without diminishing the role and importance of external communications such as advertising, direct mail, social media engagements and the like, these are complementary functions. Organisations should fully capitalise on the knowledge and (hopefully) enthusiasm that resides within, or they may just be setting themselves up for brand and business challenges ranging from disenfranchised customers to loss of shareholder value.
Several years ago, I recall a colleague raising a discussion on mission, vision, culture and ethos during a townhall as PEMANDU Associates took its first steps to becoming a privately-owned business entity. I could understand and appreciate the question being raised at that time because the company was starting on a new business trajectory. Many of the employees wanted to visualise and understand the direction and approach. Many wanted something written on paper. And formalised. The CEO responded by saying “My answer is 3 words … BIG … FAST … RESULTS”.
To many at that time, these 3 words were taken as a tagline to promote what the consulting company does and deliver. But essentially, these 3 words encapsulate and embody all that PEMANDU Associates was before and is today. It is a promise, a methodology, a product, a service approach, an intense desire to deliver, and a transformation manifesto. Not many brands are able to communicate that in 3 simple words.
So, the only thing that was needed to be done was to distil and crystallise this into every individual employee as a work attitude; a culture if you will, so that they can begin to embody this, manifest an operational attitude and aptitude to deliver. Thus, as representatives of the company, their actions begin to strengthen the brand itself.
The reasons to align employees around your brand can
Thereby making the brand the central focus of the organisation. It also clarifies for any employee what is “on-brand” and what is “off-brand.”
It becomes easier to make the right strategic decisions when problem solving. The whole organisation will now have a brand lens in place to make astute and strategic brand-based decisions.
It should be emphasised that building a brand-based culture is not about creating short-term buzz.
Rather, it is about developing a genuine and ongoing commitment to the organisation’s brand. To create a brand-centric environment, you must ensure that employees are living the brand consistently on a daily basis, across functional areas, divisional boundaries, and geographic markets.
Creating such an environment is not an easy task, but it can be done. And brand assimilation is the key.
Assimilate internally before you captivate externally.
Brand assimilation is designed to ensure that all employees understand and embrace your brand to be able to truly bring it to life inside and outside your organisation. Just like any relationship, you have to know yourself and believe in yourself before anyone else will. A structured brand assimilation programme will ensure that employees understand the meaning of your brand and how it can translate into observable, actionable behaviour. Some companies call the programme an orientation and some like PEMANDU Associates or COMMUNICATE, onboarding whenever new employees join the fold. When people inside your organisation deal with customers, prospects, or other stakeholders, they should think, speak, and behave in ways that create the kind of customer experience and lasting impact that your brand aspires to deliver. With your employees aligned behind your brand, you maximise the strength of the brand and can develop a vibrant brand-based culture. On-brand employee behaviour will result in more meaningful customer relationships that ultimately translate to favourable business results.
Turn conviction into action
Brand assimilation programmes such as onboarding, townhalls or away days are not just about one-time training, slogans, t-shirts, “rah-rah” events, or internal communications. In order to truly develop a brand-based culture, your brand assimilation programme should help each employee understand how his or her behaviour can impact the entire organisation. A deeper brand understanding will create a sense of ownership and satisfaction that trickles down to the customer experience. This calls for situational leadership.
To get there, employees will need to move through three stages: from merely being aware of the brand and what it stands for, to understanding their role in delivering against the brand promise, to finally becoming passionate advocates for the brand. You should believe in the brand and everything it stands for, as your audience will be looking to see if they can resonate with the same values and passion as you do.
To develop brand advocates, the first job is to generate excitement around the brand and demonstrate the company’s commitment to it. You must then present a persuasive and compelling narrative about the value of the brand and ensure that employees understand the impact of the brand and its positioning on their individual activities. If you do this well and reinforce it consistently over time, employees will begin to live the brand, instinctively, naturally, and with an ever-increasing fervour. And even if they should leave the nest, they will exude the basic principles of being a brand custodian. This is one of the reasons why certain candidates who come from a long line of well-established brands that stand out from others, are sought after and whose CVs get noticed amongst the many.
In my next article, I’ll share some tips on the fundamentals of how employees working in companies with strong brand-based cultures maintain brand-driven behaviours by deploying careful monitoring, periodic refreshment and reinforcement.
As a brand manager, do you often find yourself making brand marketing decisions because you want your brand to be cool, trendy and interesting, or are you making brand marketing decisions to make them relevant to your customers? At COMMUNICATE, we work closely with brand managers to nurture their brand internally to offer consistent and relevant brand messaging to their target audience using our proprietary analytics to find who they are, build the relationship and keep them interested. If you are constantly changing your brand look, its advertising and promotional messaging, without getting any love back, let’s make a date to make these investments work for you.