Appetite Comment

A brand is a way to be

It’s a crowded marketplace out there, which makes it increasingly more difficult for companies to stand out and achieve a competitive edge, particularly in an age where people are more diligent and fastidious about their brand choices then ever before.

Logos, livery, store design and ad campaigns all have their place but they aren’t the elements that make a brand, its people and its customer’s tick. These things are not the pulse of the organisation.

Brands that stand out have a well-defined purpose and a well-founded set of values that shine through everything they say and do. Inside, it’s about understanding, connection and commitment, driving performance. Outside it’s about experience; how the brand interacts and acts with your customers, driving desire.

It is this vision of brand culture as both a performance enhancer and a driver of desire that builds a brand. And brands that have it, have ‘a way to be’ – it defines their behaviour, and we recognise it when we come into contact with them. Whether it’s the caring culture of John Lewis that’s delivered so expertly in its customer service, or the passion for food that’s such a key ingredient in everything Prêt a Manger does, or even the integrity and consistency of IBM’s smarter business philosophy, it’s their common focus on a singular brand culture that exudes inside and out.

Over the past three years there has been a significant shift in brand focus from external communications to an internal emphasis on employee engagement. CMOs and CEOs foresaw and realised the business benefit of enabling their people to live and breath the values of their brand. Indeed, we now know there is a proven link between internal branding and the bottom line—across B2C and B2B markets. However, defining those values and ensuring that they are true to the brand, relevant to the marketplace and resonate with people continues to challenge even the best business leaders.

It’s no longer sustainable to base the brand strategy simply on our external audiences, or indeed to just face inwardly and hope that our  people will carry the flag. A sustainable brand strategy for the 21st century must encompass all areas of the business; in the field, logistics, operations, etc. For companies to truly define and establish a ‘way to be’, they must place their brand strategy at the heart of their business strategy.

Getting there isn’t easy. It takes an open mind, desire, commitment and a bit of bravery. But once you get there it’s a liberating place and managing and building the business becomes simpler, quicker and ultimately much more rewarding.

November 23, 2011