Somebody wiser than me once said that a company’s brand is too important to be left to the marketing department. Now, don’t get me wrong: your marketing people have an integral role to play in your brand’s reputation, but there is more at stake here than ensuring your external communication is compelling.
People long for more than just product features and sales messages and they certainly no longer buy the brand messages we would like to create. These days it is a matter of transparency. People buy into brands that really matter to them and if there is even a hint of inconsistency, trust is broken and they move on. A brand, in order to be relevant to your customers or clients, must operate much like a culture. This requires your employees to live the brand.
The best part of having a team that lives your brand is that it is a key differentiator for your business. What I mean is that it doesn’t matter how innovative or differentiated your offerings are, a competitor will always find a way to copy you, or appear to copy you (which is probably worse). But there is one thing a competitor brand cannot copy and that is your organisation – your people, your heritage and your culture – which is unique (Aaker 2014).
How do you go about inspiring your team to live your brand? For starters, it is important to have your brand defined and unearth a meaningful ethos. This should help mobilise your team around a single vision and purpose. Understand why, beyond making money, your company exists. Then make a promise to your stakeholders.
Keeping a brand promise is where it gets difficult. Now, please don’t stop reading, but the key to keeping your brand promise lies in your company’s values system and how it is lived. A lot of companies have values that underpin what is important to their organisation. But all too often these values are relegated to posters on a wall and once-a-year strategy sessions and forgotten as soon as the whirlwind of our day-to-day tasks takes over.
The trick in making your value system meaningful is to identify a set of behaviours that drive your values, helping you to deliver on your brand promise. It is important to measure how your team lives these behaviours too. If they are strong, clearly-articulated and lived by your team it provides a beacon from which your brand’s truth really shines outward.
If you are part of a company that has built a brand culture embedded at the core of your organisation, allowing it to shine outward through behaviours that drive your brand promise, then you are winning. If not, well then you now know where to start.
This article first appeared in Destiny Man magazine in October 2016.
(Reference: Aaker, D. (2014 ). Aaker on Branding . New York: Morgan James Publishing)