Leadership must clearly understand, embrace and communicate a brand direction for their firms. When is it time to develop or reconsider a strategy? Some clues:
1. You’re taking your peeps for granted. Brand and culture are intertwined. One simply cannot be strengthened without the other. Are your employees coming to work only because they have to? They’ll be uninspired, and far less productive, than their cohorts at innovator brands. Listen to your ambassadors. Remember your “why” – why is everyone here at this firm anyway? What is the better world or state of affairs you’re trying to achieve? (That’s different than what you do, or even how you do it, and thanks to Simon Sinek.)
2. You’re basking. Success can breed complacency. It may not be readily apparent, but the factors that landed customers and revenue in the last 10 years likely will be drastically altered over the next 10. That’s why well-run companies have their feet on the gas, even in down times – effectively looking out the windshield, not the rear-view mirror. They’re paranoid about the brand. They question. They experiment. They take risks. They say, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” Progressive comes to mind.
3. Your place feels like a rummage sale. It’s obviously time for a refreshed brand strategy for firms facing a merger or acquisition. But what if you’ve simply accumulated a series of sub-brands or introduced products and services that aren’t cleanly connected in identity or culture? In that case, more is less. A brand strategy process will ask the right questions about the business … and answer them.
4. You’re “too busy.” Like a child tinkering with toys, is your firm moving from one ultimately unsuccessful tactic to another? Is strategy exhausting to think about? Innovator firms develop a strategy that optimizes every aspect of their brands, using multiple touch points to engage with customers and partners to build loyalty. Every contact reinforces the brand promise. Every piece of messaging – from the way phones are answered, to the elevator pitch, to the website, to the way the office looks and functions, to the LinkedIn updates – are tied directly to the lexicon of the brand strategy.
5. You’re feeling stale. The identity (name, logo, tagline) is the physical manifestation of the brand, which the intangible set of expectations and memories that reside in the minds of all stakeholders. Ask: “If this brand identity were an employee, is it pulling its weight for this firm?” If the answer is “no” or “not sure,” consider an employee evaluation – and maybe a firing. Moreover, that process should trigger a broader, strategic, forward-thinking look at the brand. Traces of stale pieces could be everywhere. How about that Times New Roman font on your website?
The brand is like a house. A fresh coat of paint will look nice for a while. That’s a tactic. But consider the foundation and the framing underneath the paint: Are they weak or even crumbling? Addressing those is strategy.
When it’s time, firms must go through a thoughtful process of defining and codifying brand attributes and personality. What are those brand elements today? With the proper strategy and investment, what should and will they be?
What do you think of these five? Perhaps you can guess at two or three more?