If you are determined to redefine your organization’s brand in 2014, here are the top six steps that can help you achieve a better brand initiative. Trends come and go, but these simple steps will stand the test of time.
Ask 100 marketing professionals to define “branding” and you’ll get 100 different answers. Some believe brand is reputation, others define it as your logo or an expression of the values you share with customers. These aren’t wrong, but they are too narrow because they are an external-only view.
It is critical to start the process by answering what you do and why you do it. It sounds simple, but it’s the reason the best companies succeed. The core purpose and promise of the organization affect everyone involved and should be tangible everywhere. Together they set the tone, serve as a unifying beacon and rally those inside and outside your organization.
Promise keeping is the true art of branding, and it’s the responsibility of everyone in the company. Gone are the days when branding was the exclusive domain of marketing. Employees in sales, operations, customer service, and product development are the people who are keeping your brand promise.
Senior management ownership is crucial. You know all those great brands you love? Apple. Starbucks. Southwest. Zappos. It’s been well documented that senior leadership not only participated in the process--but also owned it.
Your internal team should comprise a cross-functional group that represents the promise-makers and the promise-keepers.
Your promise must address what’s true about your organization and the needs of your customers. Marketers are very familiar with understanding customer needs, but understanding internal perspectives is vital. You should conduct internal research in the form of interviews and employee engagement surveys that explore your competencies and values. Your employees can be the voice of the customer if you allow them to be heard.
The world is filled with forgettable brands. Outrageous claims. Highfalutin headlines. Overly designed logos.
If you are going to engage your customers in a new way, take a leap and be bold. And by bold we mean take a stand in your industry. Define who you are and who you are not. Make tough decisions about legacy names, sub-brands and messaging. Think about design as a strategic tool that can redefine how a category is viewed. And focus on your brand experience touchpoints to drive home that any brand relaunch is more than lipstick on the proverbial pig--it’s real, meaningful change.
Historically, rebranding programs include developing the strategy and communicating it to an external audience. However, the best organizations recognize the importance of internal communications and training. Communicating to employees is the first step. It’s important is to ensure that employees know how to deliver on the brand promise.
An important exercise to make sure employees can deliver on your promises is to map the customer’s experience through a process like order delays and then assess how well you are delivering on your promise at each step.
Referencing these maps, you can focus on the high-priority touchpoints and ensure that employees are trained in the brand, understand how to deliver it, and most importantly, have no obstacles in place.
If your strategic shift is bold, it will take three to five months to develop the strategy and then two to three years to implement it. Your plans need to consider the long haul.
It’s crucial to find employees who share your brand values, recruit them, hire them and train them. It also means you may have to redesign products or processes. You may have to create or dismantle certain infrastructures and eliminate or replace certain cultural norms within the organization.
You should also build in regular times to assess whether your company is being increasingly associated with your brand promise, and whether that is driving preference and loyalty among consumers.
Long term, you will need to continually evolve your brand to keep it fresh. This evolution may take the form of brand extensions, fresh advertising campaigns or an online experience that deploys all the latest technology.
In fact, sustaining your brand is more important--and can be more challenging--than building it in the first place.
A new branding program is an exciting time, full of potential for transforming a company. The brand promise must be true to your organization, both internal and external points of view must be evaluated. And your story--from messaging to design--should be bold. Remember, the world didn’t ask for you to rebrand, so make it take notice.
--Jason Cieslak is Head of West Coast U.S. and President, Pacific Rim for Siegel+Gale, a global strategic branding firm.