Over the past 25 years I’ve been involved in strategic branding projects for businesses of every scale and style. While every brand is different, the process is broadly similar and the critical success factors are invariably the same:
Listening to the views of the people that matter – employees, customers and partners, at the start of the process will mean you really understand what people feel most strongly about. There is so much to learn and so many insights to develop.
The time we spend talking to people – face-to-face, on the phone, in groups or online, really make a difference to the end result. When you launch a new brand it is always going to be better received if you can clearly show that you have used the views of key stakeholders to inform the branding process.
Brand doesn’t belong to the marketing department. Ownership should sit with the whole board and the leaders of the organisation need to work together to ensure that the reality of the customer (and employee) experience matches the brand promise.
My primary role in any strategic branding programme is to facilitate this leadership team as they debate and define their future brand strategy and achieve a clear consensus. Once the leadership team all agree on the way forward, it is down to each business leader to get his or her team to collaborate to turn the brand strategy into reality in their respective business areas. Brand should regularly feature on the board agenda.
Alongside the strategy there needs to be a hefty dose of creativity to bring the brand to life. This is where the organisation needs to have the confidence to do something brave and different. Decision by committee is the death knell of creativity. So work closely with your creative partners and give them the support they need to create a distinctive expression of the brand in your communications activities.
The key decision makers need to assess the creative options put before them and take a decision based upon objective not subjective reasons. “Does it fit with the strategy we all agreed on?” as opposed to “Do I like it or did I invent it?”. If too many people start getting involved in changing tiny bits of detail, step back and see if this is destroying the initial creative idea you all liked so much to begin with.
Once the brand strategy has been defined, the leadership team need to communicate the outcomes with everyone who has a stake in the future of the business. Experience tells us that the single most important group are employees as they have the potential to become powerful ambassadors of the brand.
Take the time to sell the brand in to your people and they will sell the brand on to your customers. A dynamic dialogue with employees, customers and partners will keep the brand front-of-mind and relevant.
Building a powerful brand takes time and effort. Brands are architectures not accidents, built piece by piece to create a meaningful and enduring expression of the core business strategy.
The organisation needs to make a clear commitment to brand as a key driver for success. This means an investment in both time and money. Bring in expert people to support different aspects of the brand alongside a core team of people internally who will ensure the brand promise is delivered in all day-to-day business operations.
Do you agree with my approach to building effective brand strategy? Share your thoughts!