by Douglas Spencer
President & Chief Brand Strategist
Spencer Brenneman, LLC
Here’s the challenge: Everyone is marketed to so everyone thinks they’re an expert on all things branding. Isn’t that cute?! Not really, especially when it comes to getting your job done in ways that improve your bottom line and build your brand.
When your colleagues are focused on short-term goals, e.g., quarter-end results, it’s hard to get them to think more broadly about the business and the underlying brand that supports it. Why worry today about things you can worry about later, or, well, never?
As a marketer, you know that building a strong brand that builds your business requires discipline, consistency, and commitment. Here are some suggestions for engendering those qualities in your peers across the company:
Start at the Top
Leadership. We use that word to describe the role of a CEO for a reason. CEOs are meant to lead. Nowhere is this more important—nor potentially more challenging—than with the CEO. S/he ultimately has to be the one to affect true change here. If you’re a public company chasing quarterly numbers, that could be even more difficult. If your chief executive doesn’t get branding, here are some tips to sway them:
- Identify the brands they admire and demonstrate how their brand strategies give them so much clout.
- Provide competitive analyses that compare your brand strategy to theirs, illustrating why they do not have the same problems as you.
- Show the connection between strong brands and shareholder value. Forbes reports that according to research by the Marketing Accountability Standards Board, brand contributes 19% and 10% to enterprise value amongst B2C and B2B companies, respectively.
- Encourage them to speak with their peers.
- Bring in a third party to provide some executive education.
Engage Your Peers
With or without your CEO’s full commitment, you still have to build alliances with your colleagues from other departments. So, here are some tips just for them.
There’s an old adage, “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.” Great advice in most situations, particularly in this one. Before having that one-on-one meeting with your colleagues, take a minute to consider their professional life. In other words, take a walk in their shoes.
Identify your colleagues’ priorities. Of course, everyone wants the company and brand to succeed, but what are their specific priorities for contributing to that success? Think carefully about them to uncover the less obvious ones.
If any of those priorities could potentially seem at odds with tackling the brand strategy, find ways to reassure them they’re not.
Most likely your colleagues see their priorities as more important than yours—which, of course, is only natural. Find a way to align working on the brand strategy with contributing to meeting their goals. Point out what’s in it for them beyond the overall betterment of the company and brand.
Since, as we discussed, we all have different strengths and perceptions, start by asking them about what they see from their purview, then work toward sharing what you see from yours.
Clarify. Your colleagues may have come to their own conclusions about what’s wrong, what you want, and/or how to fix the problems your organization is facing. There’s a good chance they are spot on. There’s a better chance that they are over-simplifying or over-complicating the scenario simply because it’s not their area of expertise. Clarify what you think has to be done and why. While you’re at it, address those potential fears of culpability right away and commit to a unified front should one be required.
Show them the money. There are plenty of sources of data to back up the role brand strategy plans in creating a profitable, well-oiled machine (see Appendix). Point to the facts when at all possible, but be ready for the “that doesn’t apply to us” arguments.
Articulate the opportunity costs. Here’s your chance to dip your toe in the pool of Draconia. List and quantify the potential costs of inaction! For example, the:
- Number of hours lost to turnover and the high cost of recruiting
- Lower margins from all the new client acquisition required to replace those you’re losing
- Wasted investments in developing products that are outside your focus
- Continual drop in shareholder value if current trends continue.
Use the Org Chart If You Must!
Know when to go up the ladder. All organizations are different, so only you know how the hierarchy works at yours. Before you start playing the seniority card, make certain that’s your last resort. No one likes to be told what to do and even fewer give it their all when they are.
Isolation is never fun, particularly when you’re the only one to see how important something is, like your company’s brand strategy. Take heart, however, and step back from the situation to consider why others do not see what you see. Then, start a thoughtfully crafted campaign to help them see your brand’s situation for what it is: a crisis of identity.
For more information, visit spencerbrenneman.com