If you can’t get it right on the inside, you’ll never get it right on the outside.
The strongest brands are built from the inside out. The brand simply reflects the culture of the organization in a focused way.
Once, when I presented a positioning strategy to a senior manager of a client company, he clearly felt let down. “Where’s the magic?” he asked. “This simply describes the way we are on our best day.” That’s when I told him that I thought his words were the best description of brand positioning and strategy I’d heard in a long time. Suddenly, we both had a better understanding of brand strategy.
So let me state the point more formally:
Your brand position distills, focuses and bottles the essence of who and what you can be on your very best day.
Some brands begin with a clear view of their positioning from within their organization and build their brand strategy on that foundation – but what do you do when it comes time to introduce a new brand strategy into an existing organization? It’s not so easy, especially if you want to do it right. How do you avoid the skeptical (and typical) organizational response that the strategy you’ve spent so much time developing is merely the latest in a long line of marketing initiatives?
Obviously, the best starting point is to have the right strategy. One that seems real. Not only must the strategy be more than right analytically, it also must feel right to people who know. It must be emotionally compelling. And it must seem to have arisen from the culture itself- even as it focuses and drives that culture.
The right brand strategy screams competitive advantage. There may be many places where a company’s internal culture meets the needs of the external customer, but there are few that actually yield competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the customer can’t tell you which ones they are. It’s your job to find the best of those few.
Let’s assume you’ve found the right strategy, that optimal brand position. What’s next?
First, you need to recruit your senior management team. This team must become serious brand advocates or failure is all but assured. Most of all, your CEO must become the brand champion. If he or she cannot channel the brand in a natural way, someone has a lot of work to do.
Don’t worry: most serious marketing organizations do this part of the process pretty well.
The second step is to “operationalize” your strategy. That is, you need to bring the strategy to life in activities that your employees actually do every day. Ask yourself the following questions:
-How does the strategy drive product development and design?
-What about engineering?
-How does the strategy impact the office environment?
-How is the strategy “sold” by the sales force?
-How can HR use the strategy to help hire the right people?
Unlike the first step, not as many organizations handle this second course of action well.
Third, you need to “launch” your strategy to your organization, typically through some combination of a company-wide meeting, departmental presentations, and internal marketing vehicles such as the company’s Intranet, brand books, screen savers, etc. But thinking beyond the launch event, consider an ongoing media plan that targets internally, just as your external media targets your customers.
It’s a psychologically healthy cult, minus the isolation and chanting, but plus the consistency and repetition. Watch out for inconsistencies and stick to your mission.
Take your time. Sell the strategy internally. Build organizational understanding and support. Make the strategy and the brand position a cultural focus inside the organization before using them in the outside world.
Put simply: make it real inside if you want any shot at making it real outside.
Check back next week for Austin’s latest installment on how to build great brands.