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Brand Leadership

Helping Senior Leadership Think Brand


Engaging Senior Leaders About Brand

A couple of conversations this week served as a reminder that not all senior leaders regard brands as something they should be involved with. If you’re struggling to get your senior team to put important brand matters on the executive agenda, here’s some reminders by way of making the case for greater consideration.

A Matter Of  Leadership – Brands are very much the responsibility of leaders. As choice continues to proliferate across categories, the companies with powerful brands are the ones making their presence felt. Brand is powerful in market performance terms because it adds meaning (and margin) beyond function. By their very nature, brands seek to be valued by consumers for more than what they do – something that a product or service cannot achieve no matter how good it is. The companies that will prosper are those capable of competing through their brands in a marketplace increasingly requiring intuitive and emotionally-attuned leadership.

A recent study of the role of CEO’s in building trust confirmed the need for senior leaders to be brand-aware and brand-involved. The visibility, opinion, involvement and personality of CEOs can have a strong and positive effect on brand trust and brand revenues. The findings underline the assertion made by Mario Simon here on Branding Strategy Insider that business leadership and brand leadership have become inextricably linked. “The successful creation and management of brands will be the hallmark of business leadership in the 21st century.”

If your senior team don’t really see brand as part of their business, take every opportunity to remind them that success depends on growth, and that brands are a critical instrument in generating that growth. By championing the company’s brands and getting involved as required to push those brands into market, they enhance their own standing as executives in a world that judges them by what happens on their watch.

Tangible Value Is Decreasing – Just because they can’t see brand doesn’t mean it’s not there. 30 years ago, companies could define their value by what they physically owned and traded. By 2010, according to Millward Brown Optimiser, tangible assets accounted for less than 40 percent of a company’s value. That means intangible value now accounts for more than half a company’s value, and around half of that total business value is generated by brands. They therefore deserve a high level of consideration by senior leaders in terms of business critical decisions.

If you’re struggling to get engagement, try framing the issue in revenue or market value terms. Often the more tangible you can make the matter that you are asking senior decision makers to consider, the more likely they are to see it as productive use of their time.

Brands Are Where Strategy Comes To Life – Companies that are looking to refine or re-set their corporate direction may plan what they are doing behind closed doors but ultimately the activation of those ideas will take place in the market and, inevitably, through the brands that connect the corporate entity with consumers.

When senior teams understand the impact that brands can have on delivering strategy, they are able to co-operate and co-ordinate changes across the enterprise to ensure that change happens where and when it must. In the case of Hershey, for example, their CEO John Bilbrey has led a transformation program that involved not just brand identification but also product lines, supply chains and corporate responsibility. Without that level of endorsement, changes are quickly demoted to “marketing exercises”, involvement is much harder to secure and the success of the strategy (which senior teams are often judged on) is compromised.

If you can’t get senior level sponsorship for an opportunity, frame what you are doing in terms of how it will contribute to the agreed strategy and talk through how building a cross-disciplinary team will positively affect implementation of the strategy. You will have a far higher chance of success if you are seen to be a contributor to what has been agreed, not a distraction.

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Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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