I was asked this question the other day by a VP at a global company worth several hundred million dollars: “How can we pump up our brand?” My reply began with a simple statement: “Your brand is an aggregated perception of many business components.” But I knew what he was really asking me.
To some, branding is a big word that may mean very little. Yet, companies consistently recognize that a favorable brand is critical to achieving long-term success. The disparity often lies in how one defines branding. Simply put, branding is the perceived favorability of a company, an emotional connection that is established over time that results from one’s interactions with the company. Branding plays a critical role in practically every business function. It serves as an underlying component in everything the company does.
Your brand is your people, your processes, and your customers.
Your brand is so much more than your logo, your advertising, and your marketing and communications. Although those elements all play a role in your brand, there are five critical components to look out for in order to help determine if your company’s brand is need of immediate attention.
- Employee morale is falling. Employees are the cornerstone of a company’s brand. Companies will go through growth stages and at times the employees may feel stretched, uneasy, or uncertain. Particularly today, in the midst of layoffs and mergers, it is more important than ever to keep a finger on the pulse of your employees. What to do about it: Listen to your employees, reach out and monitor feedback, address concerns, demonstrate progress, and follow through with commitments. If morale is already a bit low, this may take some time to see a turnaround, but it is important to start immediately–it’s about earning the trust of your employees, who are your company’s brand ambassadors.
- Business operations and business units are silos. Business units that do not engage with each other tend to split further apart–from each other, and the brand focal point. For example, some companies encourage business units to develop innovative ways of driving the business forward without encouraging or incentivizing them to share best practices with other business units. While competition can be healthy for the organization, the latter is often times detrimental and limits the growth potential of the enterprise. What to do about it: Unify the business around core messaging, value propositions, and show how each business unit contributes to the growth of the enterprise. Encourage and incentivize best practices information-sharing, and recognize innovation when it occurs, showcasing examples and encouraging ways to share innovation across markets–this often times leads to new product development and more robust service solution offerings that accelerate brand and business growth.
- Customers are uneasy and questioning what’s next. If you cannot confidently assess how at least 80% of your customers truly feel about your company, then it means that you are too complacent. And complacency tends to turn into simply satisfied customers. Such customers tend to jump ship when a better deal comes along. What to do about it: It’s more than surveying your customers in order to come up with a satisfaction index. It’s about engaging your customers and positioning them as a part of your company’s future. Everybody wants to be affiliated with a winner. Share your vision, get them excited about it, and bring them into it–that builds brand loyalty. It begins with a reliable CRM system and process that is attentive to the customer throughout the complete customer interaction lifecycle .
- External communications and marketing occurs only when the company achieves a milestone. A press release is issued once a month announcing a milestone achievement, or an advertisement is placed in a trade publication because the editorial topic coincides with your company’s solution offering. At best, this is maintaining company awareness. But it’s certainly not building your brand. What to do about it: Be innovative. Share more. Utilize new media channels, social media, and integrate other channels into your external marketing and communications mix. After all, you want to earn the trust and respect of external stakeholders–and you need to do this by reaching out to them. There are ways of doing this very cost-effectively and efficiently. 99% of the time, companies are lacking in external communications frequency and relevance.
- Branding is not a standard agenda item at the senior leadership team meetings. Branding is often owned by marketing and/or communications teams. Updates are typically presented on how marketing initiatives are going, or which media picked up a story. While this is not a bad approach, there are much better approaches. What to do about it: Appoint brand managers, title them as such, and place branding as a high enough priority that it becomes a weekly agenda item at senior leadership team meetings. Branding is more than marketing and communications–it is about synchronicity, working with the business units, HR, employees, external customers, and other stakeholders to unify, communicate, and grow together. By elevating the visibility of branding in your organization, you are elevating the importance.
If you’re experiencing some challenges with any of the above, connect with me. As I say in #4, share more. I’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction and give you tips on accelerating your brand and business.