Tips For Successfully Managing a Brand
I had a great conversation recently and was asked a few questions about managing a brand within an organization that I thought you might find interesting. My answers are experientially based and hopefully you will conclude they are at least directionally right. It doesn’t matter if you are a marketer at a non-profit, Economic Development Organization or a private sector for-profit company. I think the questions and answers have relevance.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
So often the focus of branding is external communication. What aspects of branding involve the internal organization and why?
A brand is a promise. It must be relevant, competitive and authentic. It needs to be consistently communicated and delivered across all touch points. The Internal organization (company) is responsible for both the oversight and delivery of the promise across all major touch points. If we think about some of the typical functions within a company –
- R&D is involved in helping ensure the promise is relevant, competitive and authentic over time. This function is critical to improving product performance and in generating data to support comparative claims. They are key to effective and efficient product development. Poor customer/consumer experience, no share.
- Manufacturing is responsible for demand satisfaction and for ensuring low total delivered costs so the Company can have operating margin. No product, no brand. No margin, no business.
- Finance ensures the on-going viability of the brand as a business. No contribution to the P&L, no reason for investing further in the brand.
- Your Sales Team directly represents the brand and is a partner in communicating the promise. No consistency in communication, no clear customer/consumer understanding of your brand promise.
Think of the company as a means to an end in branding. It allows the brand to exist and to remain healthy.
Has this become even more important with the growth of social media channels?
No. Cross-functional leadership in branding has always been important and will always be important. Social media provides yet another customer/consumer engagement tool if Companies elect to use it.
What is the relationship between the corporate brand and corporate culture?
If the Company and the brand are one in the same (branded house), then the mission is the brand promise. If the Company has many different brands (house of brands) then the mission and the sub-brand promises must be aligned. If not, brands with inconsistent promises should be spun out.
Go back to the definition – a brand is a promise. The culture needs to be aligned to consistently delivering the promise. At P&G, the corporate promise is to touch lives and improve life. Each brand from Pampers to Crest makes a promise consistent with that statement. Every employee is personally aligned with the corporate promise and believes his/her work helps deliver it. This is a virtuous circle process. You explicitly hire people who believe in the corporate promise and the culture automatically aligns.
What is the Marketing Department’s role as an internal brand champion? What specifically should individuals within the Marketing Department do as brand champions?
One Key role is to share the brand promise and progress against that promise as frequently and broadly within the company as possible. It is also important to connect inside employees with outside customers/consumers so the brand benefits can be brought to life in meaningful ways. For example, when I worked at P&G I made it a point to talk with patients about the medical challenge their physician prescribed our brand for and how it was improving their condition. I’d then share video clips of the conversations with my cross-functional teams to help them better visualize the benefit from their effort.
Also, encourage participation and critical input when developing brand strategies. Take the time to describe the why behind the choices made rather than simply stating how it is going to be. Use formal decision making tools so everybody understands what their role is and what it is not. A good example is the RACI tool for decision-making [responsible – the person who executes the decision, accountable – the person who makes the decision, consulted – the people who need to provide input to ensure the best decision gets made, informed – person who’s work is affected by the decision and needs to know what it was]
Use inquiry versus advocacy in exploring options as solutions for difficult problems. Always ensure a common understanding of the facts. Strive to be certain the customer/consumer perspective is understood and taken into account before making a decision. And, set proper expectations by sharing in advance the implications of any decision on the brand.
Typically, what other groups are critical to the brand? How can Marketing improve relationships with these groups?
Let’s focus on four groups that tend to be in every organization.
Sales – These are always the first people you think of. It is important to be reliable, fact based and solution focused.
R&D – Be sure to provide competitive intelligence in a timely manner and listen to what they say. Support having a clear product development plan and don’t be caviler about deviating from it.
Finance – Create a strong partnership built on transparency. Nobody knows what the Company P&L pressure or flexibility is better than a Finance Manager. Also use their expertise to help you frame presentations for Management. They are excellent at taking complex issues and simplifying them for Management understanding.
Management – Know your brand better than anybody else in the company. Operate from facts. Understand that your brand is part of a bigger context and present solutions rather than just problems. Leverage their experience; Management is not the enemy.
How do you move from policing the brand to inspiring brand adherence? What specific tactics should be tried?
First, educate people about why consistency is important. Consistency takes effort and people want to know there is a business benefit.
Second, view branding as a process that requires continual improvement. Never believe you have all the answers or that yesterday’s approach will necessarily be sufficient to meet today’s challenges.
Third, work from data (table top reviews, customer/consumer feedback). The voice of the consumer/customer really matters. Whenever possible, set a valid expectation for performance by describing what good looks like when adhering to brand guidelines.
Fourth, formally celebrate self-directed behavior that adheres to the brand communication and enhances delivery of the promise. Don’t repress innovative thinking or approaches. There are often many ways to achieve the goal and yours may not always be the best.
What are your thoughts about managing a brand internally? If you are an economic development professional, how do you manage your community brand with local thought-leaders and residents? Are there any tips you can offer to help your colleagues be more successful at brand management?
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