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The Wrong People Are In Charge Of Your Brand


“One of our main criteria for joining the team was — you could not be a jerk.” – Anon.

Branding is always a marketing exercise, but its first and primary goal is the recruitment and retention of high-performing employees through continuous organizational development.
  • The brand tells you what kind of leader is right — because the leader sets the vision for the rest to follow.
  • The brand tells you what kind of planning will work — because it’s not just a matter of allocating resources but of institutionalizing processes that will work in the culture.
  • The brand tells you what kind of person can actually earn you money, based not just on skill but also on the customer’s preferences. For example, some brand consultancies take the academic approach while others are more design-oriented. Both are “accurate” but it’s the customer’s preference that determines which is chosen.
  • The brand tells you what kind of person is needed to support the revenue-generators. The human resources team, the accountants, the IT professionals, and so on do not work in a vaccuum. They do work in a team where a certain kind of behavior is accepted.
  • Finally, the brand tells you what kind of advertising, marketing, social media, sales, and PR campaigns make sense for this unique organization. If you know the organization well enough, you can filter out a good campaign from a bad one in about five seconds.

The first step in branding is on-boarding new employees. Two corporate handbooks are out there and popular now: Valve and Netflix. Zappos has an entire corporate culture section of its website. (Last I heard, which was a while back, they will also pay you $2,000 to quit.) Southwest has an extremely influential Culture Committee.

All of these efforts go to the basics of the brand. Which is “everything,” true. But at the end of the day the brand is how your employees behave. Not the logo, not the vision or mission statement, or the tagline or the business strategy or any document. It is what they do.

If you want to strengthen your brand, start with training in leadership, management, organizational development, and communication first. After that, the rest will follow.

* As always, all opinions are my own.

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Profile Photo Dick Davies

or, How the customers experience how your associates behave. There is a lot we can do without direct associate effort to make our interactions easier, more effective and more gratifying. Then, when an associates does interact, they aren’t starting from a crouch.

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Profile Photo Megan

This is especially true as more employees who are not part of the core marketing team participate in the discussions on social media.

The trend now is for marketing teams to seek the “top influencers” for their brands, who may or may not be employees of the company at all. This includes those who are sending negative messages, like the activist who reacted to the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch’s statements about exclusivity. His youtube went viral.

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Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

Megan, what an interesting point. That marketers are going outside the traditional channels to find out who really drives the brand forward or back. Do you think that “setting the employees free” on social media is ultimately good or bad for the brand? I am curious.

I am also curious as to what we can do to make customer interactions better since they are frequently so lousy. (My favorite is when the rep explains to me all their internal problems but does not actually answer my question.)

How about inside the organization, though? Is it possible that we are neglecting the three most important centers of brand-building that are already contained in every organization, in some way shape or form:

* Internal communications

* Human resources

* Training

…and what would happen if we fused these?

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Profile Photo Joe Flood

Hiring a bunch of fancy consultants to write a new mission statement is not going to change your brand. As you describe, your brand is what you do. It’s not about what you say you do or what you wish you do – it’s about the real experience people have with your organization.For example, the GovLoop brand is about easy and friendly communication. They don’t need to use ads or taglines to spread that message because users of the site know what GovLoop is all about. They’ve experienced it.

So focus on delivering a quality product and the brand will take care of itself.

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Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

Well…sort of. You can’t get away from ads and taglines but the question is what do you do FIRST. Starbucks did not start out with TV ads (I hate their ads) but with the experience of the cafe and the interaction with the barista.

What I’m proposing here really does not have a precedent.

–The problem with setting the organizational development types loose on the brand, for example, is that they wouldn’t know what to do with it. OD professionals can elicit conflict INTERNALLY and teach the group how to resolve it better. They are not slick marketing types at all.

–Internal communicators are closer to marketers but again, they tend not to be focused on what’s happening outside. Instead they think about internal feedback and moving it up the chain, internal customer service, etc.

–HR, for some reason I can’t figure out at all, is heavily focused on things like staffing allotments and benefits computations rather than on human capital engagement or alignment to strategy much less marketing or branding. Based on a friend who is an emerging expert this seems to be the direction of HR, but it’s not prevalent yet.

–On the flipside the typical public affairs shop is engaged with the EXTERNAL constituents of the organization to the exclusion of the INTERNAL ones.

–Public affairs might hire a firm to do an outreach campaign on a specific initiative, but rarely are those initiatives tied to anything else.

–And unfortunately IT, which is really the enabler of the external-internal conversation, has its hands full with operational issues plus is rarely recognized sufficiently as the strategic partner it should be.

The government like most organizations facilitates and fosters this crazy stovepiping by hiring and promoting for technical skill rather than for HOLISTIC thinking. That is, the ability to look at the entire organism and make 1 + 1 + 1 = 1,000.

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