Posts Tagged ‘brand alignment’
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?
I recently read an article in BusinessWeek entitled, “Tech: The Return of Risk Taking”, it’s one of the most positive technology outlooks I’ve seen in a very long time. Basically Spencer E. Ante says, the worst of the recession is over, and it’s time to prepare for better times. Mark M. Zandi chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com predicts 4% growth for 2010 and 10% in 2011 for IT spending. Although I love the optimism, I’m not sure these outlooks are fully in tune with the entire market, especially the mid and small segments.
So, the good news is that something is finally happening. Dell’s deal for Perot Systems, eBay’s sale of Skype and Adobe’s purchase of Omniture are certainly big events for the technology sector. When the big brands start to excite the market with M&A activity, the middle market and smaller entrepreneurs will follow, but that’s going to take a while. Mid and small markets were hit the hardest and are still in operational reduction mode or stabilization mode to say the least.
But if history is any indication, America’s “Challenger Brand” mentality will prevail, especially in the technology market. I personally believe America’s brand reputation is tied not only to our technological competitive advantage but also to new and ever changing communication technology. American brands must continue to reinvent themselves to remain competitive. Lets face it, the days of leading the global economy with automobiles, electronics and commodity products are over. New rules have taken over old business models. Now, it will take courageous companies that are willing to create new categories, competitive advantages, and most importantly to take “Risk”. Yes, Risk.
This brings me to a discussion that’s happening in most every board room these days. When should we begin to reinvest in gaining market share and presence? Whether you drive your organization from an intuition based philosophy or calculated strategic risk mentality, one thing history can prove is that companies that get out into the market first reap the rewards. You’ve heard all the case studies, but do you really buy into the concept and are you willing to bet your reputation on it?
Bottom line, executives and marketers must be ready for recovery and smart ones will take risks to get ahead quicker. Nothing like a recent history lesson to validate a concept; As the 2001 recession began to rebound, the tech marketing investment (around 6%) outpaced the growth which ended up close to 5%.
That said, I have put together a quick check list of things for you to consider in your 2010 planning.
1. Create multi-tiered strategies with quarterly triggers:
Face it, the days of creating three to five year plans are a thing of the past. New rules dictate visibility of 24 months with a clear picture of Risk/Rewards scenarios on a quarterly basis. Build strategies that err on the aggressive side but are sound enough to back off slightly (no, not stop) if your budget gets squeezed.
2. Stay away from the “start and stop” syndrome.
Don’t put your company in jeopardy by starting and stopping your programs. You send mixed messages to the market and employees. It’s critical to maintain confidence in the leadership team during these uncertain times. Changing your mind frequently is not a strategy.
3. Get the story right. Bring it to life.
Remember, somebody has hit the restart button. Most markets have changed. Be realistic. You must have a clear picture of your current value proposition and competitive advantage. Don’t put your company in jeopardy by investing in a tired or irrelevant message. Stop, reset and validate your brand strategy. Maybe it’s time to rebrand?
4. Try something new. Nothing risked is nothing gained.
If there was ever a time to try something new, it’s now. Consider the change in customer behavior. The social media explosion has brought the customer smack dab into the middle of the conversation and influence. Traditional media ideas have left the building. Every statistic you read says digital media budgets are replacing traditional spending. If you have not built a new customer acquisition strategy/plan with digital media as a primary consideration, now is the time. The risk of not trying is greater than the risk of getting out there.
5. Re-Energize your staff.
It goes without saying, these are tough times for the American workforce. Your employees are under incredible pressure to deliver. Most organizations look radically different than they did a year ago. Take time to fully engage employees in your strategy and align them with the key initiatives. (Alan’s engaging employees slide deck). You can’t afford the risk of having employees standing on the side lines. Celebrate every positive win possible and remember when business was fun.
So, as 2010 approaches, what’s your risk strategy? What will you be doing differently? I’d love to hear?
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
If you were asked to randomly search 15-20 B2B technology brands online, you’d probably come to the same conclusion. Most are boring. But why? You’d think innovative companies would breathe innovation into their brands. But that’s not the case. Here’s my conclusion and most importantly a few ideas for technology executives and marketers to explore.
Peter Drucker said it best: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Well, most successful technology companies get the innovation part down, but struggle with understanding the role and expectation of marketing/branding. Let’s be real, technology companies only really start thinking about branding and marketing when they have to. And it’s very difficult to educate a technologist on the importance of branding and marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “the leaders of the company don’t get it and don’t know what it costs.” The result: boring brands and uninteresting branding. So, what can we do about it? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Know your audience. Talk in their language.
First of all, you’re not selling branding, you’re selling hope and future business success. So, you need to find the hot buttons of the sponsor you are trying to educate. Start by identifying the benefits. CEOs need to hear about maximizing the corporate value (get the category and story right for increased profits). CMOs want to demonstrate preference for increased pricing (smart branding can drive market share). COOs need to understand how internal branding can align the organization (increased performance). And smart CFOs need to know how brand strategy can help during M&A (eliminate risk and maximize investment).
2. Demonstrate versus complicate.
Another way to help executives understand what great brands are made of is to find relevant examples that allow them to visualize themselves. For example, if you are in the B2B midmarket software space, go find examples of outstanding work they can relate to. But make sure you link it back to a clear business strategy/brand strategy and examples of fresh marketing. Excite you audience with what’s possible. Set the bar high.
3. Have a process. Get buy-in for the deliverables.
Two quick points here: follow a proven best practice process and make sure everyone has a clear understating of the deliverables. It’s critical to have your executives on board before the creation phase begins. Building a world class B2B brand starts at the top. Don’t think you create it in isolation and expect them to buy off. This just does not work. Remember you’re selling hope and imagination.
4. Be courageous.
Lastly, great brands are created by people with courage to try new things. Don’t resort to mimicking safe strategies. Find greatness and promote it fearlessly. Remember your job is to inspire and create. And if you do it right, you’ll be rewarded for the efforts and leave a wonderful legacy.
But that’s just my point of view. What’s yours?