I have helped many organizations build their brands from the inside out for over fifteen years. In the process, I have learned what is critical to the success of those endeavors.
1) RIGHT RESEARCH-INFORMED PROMISE: Your brand’s promise must be based upon customer, competitor and internal insight. This can be achieved through qualitative and quantitative research and an honest assessment of internal strengths, weaknesses, core competencies and strategic intent. The promise must be unique, compelling and believable.
2) CONSENSUS BUILDING PROCESS: Your brand’s promise must be developed through a consensus-building process that includes (at a minimum) your organization’s chief executive officer (CEO) and his or her staff and its top marketing executives. Don’t leave this step to an internal marketing department or an external marketing agency (unless they accomplish this through a consensus building process). Brand strategy and positioning is closely tied to organizational strategy, especially for organization level brands.
3) BRAND PROMISE TRANSLATED TO BRAND IDENTITY: The brand promise should be translated into a supporting brand identity, including logo, tagline and elevator speech among other key components. This should be integrated into a system that includes brand architecture and naming conventions. These should then take the form of guidelines that are available to all employees and business partners through an online platform. Digital asset management systems provide for even greater consistency control.
4) CUSTOMER TOUCHPOINT DESIGN: Involve your employees in brainstorming how you can bring your brand’s promise to life at each point of customer contact and how you can create new points of customer contact prior to the purchase, at the point of purchase, immediately after the purchase and on an ongoing basis during product/service usage and beyond. The brand’s promise must come to life in more than just its identity and in its marketing communications.
5) INTERNAL COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION: At a minimum, you should communicate to and educate employees and business partners about your brand’s promise. This can best be accomplished through a multiple year (2+) integrated communications and education plan and campaign that touches each employee at least seven times. Tactically, one can build key brand messages into all existing employee communication and training vehicles. One can also post the brand promise or elevator speech in the most visible locations throughout the organization’s workspace. There are also numerous ways to put it into each employee’s workspace (screensavers, posters, mouse pads, etc.).
6) EMPLOYEE REWARD/RECOGNITION SYSTEM: Fully customizable online employee reward/recognition systems that can help align employees in support of the brand’s promise are now available to be leased or purchased. They state brand promise goals clearly and concisely and provide rewards (gift certificates, merchandise, etc.) and recognition for employees who are caught bringing the brand’s promise to life. The systems encourage employee involvement and provide a mechanism for manager involvement and oversight.
7) CULTURE THAT ALIGNS WITH THE INTENDED BRAND PERSONALITY: In a seminal study on corporate brand strategy success, The Conference Board discovered that alignment of organization culture with brand personality is highly correlated with brand strategy success. This can be achieved in the following ways:
- Choosing brand personality traits that are both compelling to customers and natural for the organization to deliver upon, that is, ones that seem to be built into the organization’s “DNA”
- Being honest about whether senior management can live in alignment with the intended brand personality
- Where there are alignment gaps, pursuing a culture change project to align employees with the intended brand personality
8) BUILDING BRAND MEASURES INTO EMPLOYEES MEASURES: Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” This is true of brand alignment as well. Build key brand measures into organization common measures or translate them into individual measures for the positions most likely to impact customers (product development, marketing, sales, customer service, etc.).
9) INTERNAL SURVEYS: Periodically survey employees to understand how well they can articulate the brand promise, whether they know how they can positively affect the brand and whether they have personally pursued actions to enhance the brand.
10) CEO SUPPORT: When the CEO understands the power of strong brands and uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization, you are halfway to your goal of creating an organization filled with brand champions. Assigning responsibility for day-to-day management of the brand to a senior executive also is very helpful. And communicating to employees that they are all expected to be brand champions rounds out brand ownership from the top to the bottom of the organization.
I wish you great success in transforming your organization and its employees into a brand promise delivery machine.