All too often, a company will look outside of its walls to define its brand, hoping to create a position and a reputation based on the needs of the marketplace. This isn’t entirely wrong but it’s an incredibly too narrow a view and can only lead to the development of a flash-in-a-pan brand that doesn’t stand the test of time (as noted in my recent blog post, “5 Lessons Learned from RadioShack’s Mistakes”).
A lasting brand has depth that taps into the authentic values, personality and culture of the organization. Thus, to develop the best branding, you must first discover and hone not only what it is you do but also, and most importantly, WHY you do it.
I am a huge fan of Michelangelo and in fact, may have read the 800+ page book, The Agony and The Ecstasy one too many times. But he carried great wisdom in his art that in many ways is applicable to the art of branding. He believed that the art of sculpture was about uncovering rather than creating and has been known to state that, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
It is with this same philosophy that marketers and business leaders must take to ensure a lasting reputation in the marketplace.
A brand’s greatest potential lives within the walls of the business and in the fabric of its culture: the history of the company, the vision of its leaders, and the experiences and perspectives of each division and employee.
To effectively tap into the branding potential within your walls, it is important to note that the responsibility doesn’t start and stop with marketing alone—it relies on the creativity and the participation of everyone within the company.
Senior management ownership is crucial to any brand’s success but from customer service to human resources and from sales to R&D, the engagement of each function in developing a brand is just as paramount.
Bill Gates in his forward to Edison and the Rise of Innovation writes:
“Edison consciously built on ideas from predecessors as well as contemporaries. And just as important, he assembled a team of people—engineers, chemists, mathematicians, and machinists—that he trusted and empowered to carry out his ideas. Names like Batchelor and Kruesi may bot be famous today, but without their contributions, Edison might not be either.”
The term, ‘co-creation’ has graced all our lips many times in the last several years—usually referring to the increased collaboration between brands and their consumers. But an often-overlooked source of co-creation needs sit within an organization itself.
There are five guiding principles any organization should follow to ensure you’re first and foremost, effectively ‘looking in’ before looking out to develop a lasting brand.
1. Do your 'water cooler' research: Research what makes the company unique. Talk to employees, interview group leaders and conduct a survey to understand the internal perspectives. Most importantly, take the time to walk the halls to listen to the real dialogue and observe what’s happening within the culture.
2. Tap into your collective creativity: Rather than just task an outside brand guru to go off in their ‘black box’ to develop your brand story, bring together a diverse set of minds from several parts of your business to help identify your brand’s unique, signature strengths and uncover your brand soul, together.
3. Train employees to help keep the brand promise: The best organizations recognize that you can’t deliver on a brand story if it’s not met with and supported by the same brand behaviors. Ensure your employees understand what the brand means and how it’s relevant to them and their role within the organization and its success.
4. Inspire and foster a culture of brand advocates: Just as—if not more important than—training employees, it’s imperative to inspire and rally your employees to believe in and champion the brand as much as you do. This should be somewhat easy if you developed a brand promise that’s true to your organization. Find your brand advocates and arm them to share in the story.
5. Take the time to do it right: It would be quick and obvious to immediately develop a communications strategy and plan to communicate the brand to external audiences. But you must first take the time to properly communicate it across the organization and also ensure it has infiltrated the culture. This takes time especially with a large and layered company. Don’t rush it. Plan for the long-term.