The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
In the late 1990′s I had the opportunity to chair the first conference focused on internal brand building. Almost a decade later this concept remains in its infancy for much of the business world. I‘m reminded of this when I hear something similar to the following from marketing executives:
"We conducted exhaustive consumer research. We carefully positioned our brand. We developed and instituted comprehensive brand identity standards and systems. We are running our new advertising campaign. Now what do we do? How do we get the rest of the organization to understand and care about the brand and its promise? How do we get the organization to deliver on the promise? How do we make the brand promise real?"
Those questions drove us to create an internal brand building seminar which we deliver regularly at conferences and organizations.
David Aaker posed this very important question when he visited Hallmark during my tenure:
"Until everyone from your CEO to your receptionist can accurately and consistently articulate your brand’s promise, how do you expect your customers to?"
Kristin Zhivago captured the concept well in an article that she wrote for Business Marketing. She said:
"A brand is not an icon, a slogan, or a mission statement. It is a promise — a promise your company can keep. First you find out, using research, what promises your customers want companies like yours to make and keep, using the products, processes and people in your company. Then you look at your competition and decide which promise would give you the best competitive advantage. This is the promise you make and keep in every marketing activity, every action, every corporate decision, and every customer interaction. You promote it internally and externally. The promise drives budgets and stops arguments. If everyone in the company knows what the promise is, and knows that they will be rewarded or punished depending on the personal commitment to the promise, politics and personal turf issues start to disappear."
Certainly the brand promise drives your marketing communication and your brand identity standards and systems. But it must do much more than that. Your products and services, every point of contact your brand makes with consumers and the total consumer experience your brand creates must reinforce your brand’s promise. This has tremendous organizational implications. How can an organization deliver against its promise if its front line employees don’t know (or care about) what its brand stands for?
A way to illustrate the concept is through an example of when it is not working. Some of you may be familiar with United Airlines’ advertising campaign from a decade ago, "United Airlines Rising". It backfired on United when they first launched it in 1997. While they were trying to communicate that their service was rising to meet consumers’ expectations, their flight attendants were out creating CHAOS ("Creating Havoc Around Our System") and their customer relations department was so unresponsive to complaints that it prompted a disgruntled customer to create the web site Untied.com featuring United Airlines passenger complaints.
Here are some of the most common problems that organizations encounter when trying to implement new brand management programs:
•Senior management is not focused on the brand
•Senior management has a short attention span — how do we garner their support and resources over time?
•Some senior leaders do not seem to be bought into the brand management concept at all
•The organization is highly fragmented and resistant to change
•The organization is internally focused
•How do we shift people’s focus from their functional "silos" to cross-functional ownership of the brand?
•The organization’s culture does not reinforce the brand
•The organization’s operations and systems do not support the brand
•The brand message is only one of many among all the corporate messages
To create the change required, all of the following must be addressed:
•Corporate mission and vision — are they congruent with the brand essence and promise?
•Business planning process — is it linked to the brand planning process?
•Corporate culture, values and behavior — do they support the brand essence, promise and personality?
•Recruitment — are you screening people for delivery against the brand promise?
•Internal communication vehicles — are you using them to communicate brand positioning, strategies and priorities?
•Training and development — are you using these to increase understanding of brand positioning, strategies and priorities?
•Performance objectives (especially common objectives) — do they include brand objectives?
•Performance appraisal — do you provide feedback on how well individuals and groups are delivering against the brand promise?
•Rewards and recognition — do you reward and recognize people who have furthered important brand goals? Do you compensate people for achievement of brand objectives?
•Products and services — do they deliver against the brand promise?
•Operations, systems and logistics — do they support delivery of the brand promise?
In subsequent posts, I will share specific techniques that organizations have found to be effective in addressing these issues.
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