Posts Tagged ‘brand communication’
Welcome back to the conversation about tech brand audit. Last time we talked about the important (and difficult) strategic questions that a tech brand audit answers:
• How do customers, employees, investors and prospects really see us?
• Which brand attributes and personality do we and our competitors ‘own’?
• How much ‘permission’ does our brand(s) have to offer new products or enter new markets?
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• What internal and external challenges do we face in developing and strengthening our brand to drive our business forward?
• Which touchpoints have the most impact for building our brand?
To answer these questions, usually an outside company undertakes a number of key pieces of analysis. So let’s talk about the analyses that typically comprise a brand audit, and how they help answer the strategic questions above.
Keep in mind: the ultimate purpose of tech branding is not answering tough questions or pretty logos and websites. It’s about revenue deriving from the sale of your technology/products. Revenue is driven by:
1. More people being aware of you, or increasing brand awareness.
2. The trial period of people trying your product or service.
3. Consumers preferring you and then coming back for more, or brand preference and brand loyalty.
That’s it. Period, end of story.
So what key pieces of information need to be identified to accomplish this feat? There are at least three key analyses that typically comprise a tech brand audit:
1. Competitive analysis: what competing technology providers are offering and/or copying?
2. Customer insights: how do customers think about and buy your services/technology?
3. Communications audit: how are you presenting your technology and company to the world?
I should mention here that the most critical part of brand strategy work, one almost always overlooked, is a rigorous analysis of business strategy. Brand strategy development without this critical and often difficult analysis ends up being flimsy and incomplete, even if it covers other internal, competitor and customer insights well. A thorough brand audit will highlight the specific business strategy issues that senior management needs to iron out before working on the brand.
For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on communications audit (point number 3 above), which includes reviews of the following brand communication components:
• Data Sheets
• Case Studies
• White Papers
• Annual Reports
• Stationery/Business Cards/other branded 2D items
• Social Media
- Tradeshow Booth: Interior/exterior
- Product nomenclature/architecture
- Brand guidelines
Each of these components is reviewed with the following questions in mind:
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• How effective and relevant are these pieces in communicating our unique value to the world?
• Do these support our business now?
• Do these support our plans for the future?
If any answers to these four questions are not a resounding “Yes!”, then this piece of a brand audit has done its job. Namely, highlighting areas of the brand, and possibly business strategy as well, that need rigorous and thoughtful development and execution.
Next time, I’ll give some insight into the first of two points relating to a tech brand audit: customer insights and competitive analysis.
If you have any questions or comments about a brand audit please do not be shy, I’ll be quick to respond and happy to assist your efforts.
Last time we talked Brand Council, it was about who should be on it and what the Council can do to inform the strategic decision-making in a company. The Brand Council should bring a brand lens to organization-wide decisions and activities to ensure adherence to the brand promise and to protect and build brand value.
How to “turbo charge” your Brand Council
1. Define the right Mandate for your organization
I would suggest that your Brand Council clearly articulate its mandate and have the authority to hold your organization’s people accountable for decisions, actions and behaviors that align with the brand.
The mandate can be simple, “To consider corporate decisions from the point of view of their impact on and alignment with the brand.” Or it can be elaborate, “with tactical objectives and metrics to evaluate business decisions.” Your mandate should also specify the rules and conditions under which issues are brought to the Brand Council for discussion, resolution and communication to the broader organization.
“Our expectation is that the Brand Council be a stakeholder-led control and implementation of the brand against a clear set of guidelines.” – Managing Director, Leading European retailer
2. Meet regularly
Frequency and continuity are vital to institutionalize the Brand Council into your organization’s culture. To establish continuity, the Brand Council should meet at least once every quarter on strategic issues and even more frequently on tactical issues.
In addition to regular meetings, the Brand Council should have the flexibility to convene as the need arises. For example events or operations that impact the brand, responses to recent competitive and/or internal developments such as analyst report releases, new hires, customer satisfaction surveys, etc.
3. Be “brand-centered”
a. Your brand must have a high profile inside your organization. This responsibility typically lies at the door of the C-suite. C-level managers must maintain a high profile for your brand by making a business investment in the brand and supporting the investment by demonstrating a personal pride in what the brand stands for. Simply stated, they need to lead by example in living your brand.
b. Your brand lives beyond marketing. View brand building as a holistic organizational responsibility as opposed to the duty of your marketing department. The functional areas and business units within your organization need to understand, through their leaders on the Brand Council, how they contribute to brand value.
4. Inspire your organization through Brand Ambassadors.
“The key is to ensure that the Council is controlling the brand, but also that it provides the freedom to work within a defined set of parameters.”
– Managing Director, Leading European retailer
The Brand Council also guides and manages the activities of your Brand Ambassadors. Your employees can make or break your brand. When properly inspired and empowered, your Brand Ambassadors will lead your employees to make the brand thrive within your organization and, ultimately, with your customers.
Potential bumps in the road
1. A lack of consensus on the importance of the brand to the organization
The Brand Council is a holistic representation of the organization. Therefore, its members, regardless of functional area, should believe in the brand as a vital corporate asset that merits the time, discussion and collaboration of the organization’s senior leadership.
2. The absence of a clear mandate
Branding can be abstract, even to experienced leaders and managers. Part of the Brand Council’s function is to educate its members and the wider organization about the role and potential value of the brand. A clear, well defined and well communicated Brand Council Mandate ensures that the organization understands the purpose of the Brand Council and the value it can bring.
3. Infrequent meetings
A lack of regular Brand Council meetings hinders the momentum on brand-related discussions and sends the message that the brand is a lower business priority.
4. The absence of C-suite support
C-suite support of the Brand Council is critical, especially at the outset, in order to give the Brand Council the credibility and visibility it needs to enable effective strategic brand decisions. Without this support, the Brand Council runs the risk of losing relevance among the organization’s functional leaders.
5. A highly fragmented organizational culture
Structure that favors operation in “silos” over enterprise-wide communication and collaboration. Here’s a real quote about how people throughout an organization often use the brand in the wrong way, creating dilution and eroding its power:
“People want to re-interpret and re-invent things.” – Managing Director, Leading European retailer
Organizations predisposed to working as autonomous functions, divisions or markets will need to commit themselves to greater intra-company collaboration in order to benefit from creating a Brand Council.
6. Incomplete execution on Brand Council decisions
Like any organization and its functional areas, the Brand Council should be evaluated on business results. Leadership can only make this assessment if the organization consistently executes on the Brand Council’s decisions, and monitors the resulting impact on performance.
This concludes our three-part series on the Brand Council. In short, the Brand Council oversees the activities whereby the brand contributes to shareholder value. When your Brand Council guides business activities to align with the brand promise, your organization will benefit from satisfied customers. Over time, consistent and satisfying brand experiences will transform satisfied customers into loyal customers, which, in turn, helps you secure and grow future earnings and create economic value.
What are your thoughts about Brand Councils?
Does your organization utilize one and is effective?
Would you agree with or refute anything I’ve mentioned in these posts?
In the B2B technology world the question of “who is control of the company brand” would be answered traditionally in the following ways: Some experts argue the brand should be “owned” and controlled by the CEO and supported by marketing. Others believe it is the role of marketing to control the brand strategy and delivery of communications. And others might say the entire organization controls the brand. Bottom line, it really depends on the philosophy of the CEO or executive team. But I’d like offer a different point of view.
There has been a radical shift over the last several years as to who is really controlling brands. And if you guessed the customer and market, you are well ahead of the game. Think about it, the days of push marketing and market acceptance have been replaced with customers’ ability to socialize experiences, thoughts, interactions, perceptions and ultimately recommendations. You’ve seen all the facts: advertising is down, newspapers are going out of business, commercials are being passed by with digital recorders and trust with brands is at an all time low. I read an outstanding article in Strategy+Business entitled The Trouble with Brands. Its findings are sobering to say the least.
Bottom line, customers and consumers don’t trust most brands. Chalk it up to years of companies, brands and people not being honest, not delivering on their promises and the media sensationalizing every negative opportunity possible. B2B customers and consumers have now become a driving force as it relates to real time brand communication and interaction. One wrong slip up and your company or brand is spot and center. On the other hand, it also presents wonderful opportunities for brands to answer the new needs of communication and brand affection. Corporations and brands must face the fact that the ability to control their brands’ destiny must be managed a different way. So, how can B2B companies take advantage of this new era and reap the benefits of these new opportunities? Here’s a few things to think about:
1. Establish your philosophy. Let it be known.
First of all, CEO’s and executive teams need to get together to discuss this radical shift and determine a point of view and philosophy that can help drive the actions of the entire organization. Keeping your head in the sand is not a strategy. Understand the evolved Eco-System. If you haven’t mapped out the entire eco-system and how it has changed and is being influenced, you may want to step back and take a fresh look. You’ll be amazed at how customers navigate through the sea of choices and information. How you engage and respond is critical.
2. Start stretching. You’ve got to be flexible.
Just like any well conceived plan, you’ve got to have a fresh strategy that addresses these new rules. You can’t rely on traditional approaches alone. Remember, things change incredibly fast in this new world. You must develop a strategy that’s flexible and adaptable.
3. Take advantage of change. Rethink your structure and resources.
Step back and consider how you are structured to address the market. Now is the time to rethink the most effective and efficient ways to meet these new needs. Look for talent that understands this world or get your people educated. Your beliefs will set the tone for change.
4. Content is King. How interesting can you be?
No matter what anyone tells you, no program will be successful unless the content is relevant, fresh and impressive in the eyes of the audience. This is your point of differentiation. Your voice. Choose your content wisely. Pushing bad content or boring communication works in reverse. It will damage your brand.
It’s not often we experience such radical shifts in business (especially in communications). Use this opportunity to create something wonderful. It’s your role to inspire people to think about the possibilities. Put your toes in the water, create amazing things. Amaze yourself.