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.
We have conducted numerous “Internal Brand Building” workshops in the last few years. The following are approaches that people in various organizations have found to be effective in overcoming some of the obstacles encountered in creating brand-building organizations:
Issue: How do you get corporate officers to support brand management initiatives when they don’t understand the value of brand management or marketing?
• Influence the leaders with books and speakers.
• Enlist the help of credible outside brand experts to spend some time with the corporate officer group.
• Provide case studies of how brand management has worked in comparable companies and industries.
• Symbolically “clean house” in the marketing department. Hire some new high profile marketers with a history of success.
• Understand operating units’ objectives. Help units achieve their objectives through brand-enhancing initiatives. That is, tie what you do to others’ objectives.
• Invite senior executives to help you solve brand management problems. Appeal to their egos and their propensity to mentor. (They will be much more bought in to the solution if they helped craft it.)
• Build momentum for brand building initiatives from a grass-roots groundswell. This requires intensive communication and education. Start by identifying and influencing brand advocates throughout the organization.
• Work with HR to integrate a brand-building module into a variety of employee classes.
• To instill confidence, the marketing leaders should be optimistic, using words and phrases such as “control,” “promising opportunity,” “return,” etc.**
Issue: How do you get corporate officers to act as brand champions when they are accountable for other corporate priorities?
• Tie brand performance objectives to their compensation system.
• Give them bonuses based on achievement of brand goals.
• Educate them. Sell them.
• Include “brand passion” as an executive hiring criterion.
• Figure out how the brand helps them.
• Schedule periodic meetings with them. Ask them how the brand management group can help them achieve their objectives.
• Provide them with a quarterly update on progress against key brand objectives.
• Figure out how brand actions can help them achieve their performance targets.
• Ask them for their help. Appeal to them as mentors. Ask for their sponsorship.
• Create (brand) councils of key decision-makers and detractors.
• Make them the steering committee for your cross-functional brand team. Assign them specific roles as a part of that steering committee.
• Ask your CEO to assign the corporate officers the role of brand coaches (assuming he or she is supportive of brand initiatives).
• Build brand allies before the meetings in which you present brand recommendations. Pre-sell all your initiatives. Uncover and address objections before the meeting.
• Interview key executives to identify what they have done to further the brand cause. Feature them and what they have done to further the brand in publications.
• Measure the brand’s value as an asset. Enlist the support of the CFO.
• Facilitate exercises with them.
Issue: Once you have most of the brand pieces in place (brand promise and positioning, brand identity, etc.), how do you translate all of that to a brand building culture?
• “Walk the talk.” Challenge others to do so as well.
• Throw it back out to the organization to figure out. You don’t have to know all the answers up front.
• Review the brand tenets with various groups. Ask them where your plans are lacking in helping you achieve brand goals.
• Develop a 6-month plan including objectives, obstacles, messages and vehicles.
• Work closely with Corporate Communications to integrate brand building education and messages into internal publications, videotapes and speeches.
• Volunteer to chair cross-functional task forces and management committees. Work brand-building topics into the agendas of those groups as appropriate. (Whoever controls meeting agendas largely controls the outcome of those meetings.)
Issue: Identify out-of-the-box tactics to ensure continued employee involvement in and support of brand initiatives.
• Poster contest (“Communicate what the 3 brand tenets mean to you.”)
• Feature twelve of the posters on a 12-month calendar (or 52 of them on a 52 week calendar).
• Open houses (Different areas showcase what they have done to promote brand initiatives.)
• Promote (through internal publications or other means) “the person on the street” who has helped build the brand.
• Name and recognize a “brand champion of the month.”
• Conduct “lunch & learn” sessions.
• Create brand “certificates of appreciation.” Award them to people who have furthered brand causes.
• Catch people “living the brand” and tell stories about them (in newsletters, in speeches, on the Intranet, etc.).
• Capture customer testimonials of how the brand promise was delivered on videos.
• Post consumer letters highlighting how the brand promise was delivered against (or not) on the brand Intranet site.
• Tie performance appraisals and compensation to delivery of the brand promise.
• Learn from “best practice” companies. Share information with your peers at other companies.
• Use this exercise to get groups thinking about what makes strong brands: ask each member of the group to think about his or her favorite brands and why he or she likes those brands. Have each member of the group share his or her thoughts with others in the group.
• Ask this question on employee surveys: “If you could only change one thing about the brand, what would you change and why?”
• Develop and publish brand performance measures.
• Incorporate brand goals in business plans.
Issue: If we believe front-line employees are 80% of the way there in their understanding of the brand, what else should we ask them to know, say or do?
• Validate your beliefs with research. Measure their understanding.
• Create an employee “focus group.” Run it by the people in the focus group (for ideas on what to do next).
• Ask them how they are going to “live the brand.”
• Ask them what actions they are going to take to deliver against the brand promise.
• Instead of focusing on dissemination of information, focus on recognition for the appropriate behavior.
• Apply the “message pyramid.”
• Remember the “rule of 6” (you must communicate something at least 6 times before it registers with most people). It is unlikely that you have over-communicated this information.
• Focus on educating/communicating to “new hires” (assuming a significant turnover rate from year-to-year).
• If front-line employees are at 80%, what would it take them to get to 100%? Brainstorm that question.
• Ask the following five questions: (1) Why are we doing this? (2) What are we going to look like? (3) What is my role? (4) How will you support me? (5) What’s in it for me?
Issue: How do we convince geographically and functionally diverse groups to embrace the brand promise when we have little authority and can only use influencing skills?
• Identify each stakeholder’s burning issues and discover ways your brand initiatives can address them. Relate your brand programs back to their issues.
• Sell your initiatives to top executives in other divisions and departments.
• Set up measures to highlight gaps.
• Manage by embarrassment. Make someone look like an idiot.
• Identify influencers. Create a grass roots support for your initiatives.
• Network. Use networks.
• Identify people in the organization who “get it” and have passion about the brand. Recruit, indoctrinate and use them.
• Highlight your brand’s performance versus the competition (in newsletters, etc.).
• Bring in outside, credible, objective voices who will reinforce your key points – brand executives at other companies, brand consultants, people who are known and trusted by your executive group.
• Build ownership through cross-functional teams.
• Flatter people. Play up to their egos.
• Widely distribute brand books.
**(This has been validated as an effective technique by research conducted by Chris White at the University of Central Florida. Source: “Marketing Managers’ Interpretation of Marketing Information,” by Chris White, University of Central Florida, Marketing Science Institute, Report No. 00-121.)
Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop