Archive for March, 2010
Part 1: How building your brand helps you enter (or bulldoze your way into) new products, categories and geographies.
Why invest your brand? Especially a B2B brand? Because it pays off. Handsomely. Let’s look at Google, a brand worth $32 Billion in 2009 according to BusinessWeek. (Yes, that just the brand, not the hard assets. More on brand valuation in an upcoming Brand Valuation blog piece.) Google started off in 1998 as a search engine, competing with a slew of other search providers: Yahoo, Magellan, InfoSeek, AltaVista and a slew of other now irrelevant search brands. Yahoo is the only remaining search competitor worth mentioning, with 14% share of search as of 2/20/2010. That’s 14% compared to Google’s 78%. As a result, I believe, Yahoo decided to turn its brand and business ship toward “personalizing the internet experience” and away from pure search (watch for an upcoming blog on that soon).
Google’s stated mission from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and it has certainly succeeded. In pursuing that objective, the company held two beliefs they bet their life on: 1) “The user is in charge.” And 2.) “If users come, so will revenue.”
Both of those beliefs served to be right. Google quickly monetized their leadership in the space by starting AdWords, their flagship advertising product and main source of revenue ($23.7 Billion in 2009). And then used the power of their brand and reach to enter (or bulldoze into) new categories.
1. Online productivity software, including email and documents (where Yahoo was the clear leader at the time, and still is: 3.8% share vs. 0.8%)
2. Desktop apps (GoogleWave)
3. The Chrome browser
4. Picasa photo editing and organization
5. GoogleTalk instant messaging
6. SketchUp 3D modeling
7. The incredible and comprehensive GoogleEarth
8. And most recently, mobile phones and operating systems: Google Phone and Android.
I would suggest that these entries would have only a tenth of their current buzz and value if they were coming from an unknown brand, even if that unknown company were better qualified in the category.
So how can Google’s story help you with your business? The first thing it says is to set an inspiring and badly needed vision/mission for your business, however large or small it may be. Make sure people really want what you’re offering them. Then, become better at delivering it than your competitors, because they will try to copy you.
Then, build your brand:
Create a compelling promise that asserts your leadership
Design it beautifully verbally and visually
Work diligently to deliver on your promise. Emphasis on the word “work”. Brands don’t become great because of beautiful design or catchy phrasing. They become great because companies DELIVER great product and service experiences that live up to their brand promise: their cause, you might say.
If you let people down on your promise, you’ll be worse off.
Once you’ve delivered great experiences, you will have earned the right to branch into other categories and geographies. You’ll be afforded product and/or service trial (and even forgiveness if you stumble) where before, you wouldn’t even be considered.
Does this happen overnight? No. Does great branding replace great business strategy and value delivery? No. But it does take great companies to new heights. And gives them a huge club to walk around with.
What do YOU think?
Why are many brands unintentionally hijacked by their own people and strategies?
There have been many papers and books written on the importance of brand alignment, employee engagement, brand adoption, call it what you may. So, why do so many companies still suffer from poor employee morale, low retention, misalignment, performance fatigue and the inability to make good on their brand promise?
To answer the question, all you need to do is look at the typical business eco-system – its structure, interactions, systems and most importantly its accountability and philosophy. For the most part, business in America is built in a departmental fashion, and the larger the company becomes, the more susceptible it is to falling into a “Silo” mentality. Obviously the “Silo” effect works against the principle of being aligned, collaborative and fully informed. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, they are left to their own interpretation and often work against the brand’s best intentions.
Structure is the next problem. The biggest problem here is, who is really in charge of pulling the entire picture together and reporting on its effectiveness. HR deals with internal issues, marketing controls brand, operations tries to deliver the goods and sales. So the problem is not only that “Silos” are not conducive to collaboration, but that structures typically are not built to orchestrate a bigger picture mentality and understanding of the customer experience, the internal experience and how it’s being perceived and delivered.
In addition, companies often fail to develop well thought out interactive/collaborative processes to foster “informative decision making” internally and externally. Yes, most companies have some loosely defined collaborative meeting structure but most don’t monitor the internal brand working relationship to the external delivery. Again, people and departments are left to make decisions without confirmation of alignment to the overall strategies.
One of the biggest disconnects we often experience is the division and disconnect of Marketing and HR. So often these departments work on their own strategies without coming together to fully agree and embrace how the communication content is generated and distributed. We find that successful companies and brands that co-develop strategies and shared systems experience greater unity and brand performance.
So, if you’re looking to increase the morale of your organization, improve retention, or better deliver on your customer experience and brand, here’s a few things to think about:
1. Have a holistic view. Don’t develop brand strategies as it relates to your brand experience strictly in a departmental fashion. Bring department leaders together to truly understand the internal/external workings of the brand. Develop a brand council comprised of your department leaders, to guide, instruct and monitor the internal and external brand experience.
2. Say NO to “Silos”. If this is an issue, break it down now, it will only get worse. Especially make sure Marketing and HR are collaborating in strategy and the development of monitoring metrics (and don’t leave out operations).
3. Continual innovative communication. I know it sounds obvious but people need to hear strategy over and over to get it. You must reinforce the importance of the organization to nurture and foster brilliant internal communication and to have external proof that the brand is performing to its intended standards.
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll reduce the chances of your brand being hijacked by its own people. But that’s my opinion, what’s yours?