“And then we started the brand work“, said the CEO while I listened to her talk about the behind-the-scenes effort to reimagine their product. Then, later the same week, I received another company’s business plan. A comment hidden in the notes for one area said, “Brand doesn’t play a part in what we do…“.
These two examples ‘mis-place’ brand within organisations and also misunderstand the role it plays.
These days, people usually agree brand is more than marketing. Still, most of the time marketing is where it gets placed. By placed, I mean where the person in the organisation accountable for ‘doing it’ is located.
But what exactly are they doing? Marketing has no oversight of the myriad of day-to-day promises which add or eroded value stored in the brand. Marketing doesn’t control product quality, workers’ attitudes, distribution processes, research, hiring, technology choices or financial decisions.
A brand is not something one area does and hands out. It’s the result of everyone’s effort and the promises they keep. Rather than a bottle of water dispensed by marketing on request, think rivers of effort running into a dam that stores the value their work creates for everyone to use.
Taking full advantage of the resulting resource requires a shift in more than where brand sits. How and when it gets to play also needs an overhaul. The CEO who thought the work had a start date is a classic example of misunderstanding brand’s role.
Back to the analogy of dams and rivers. Brand is a dam and a store of value, and rivers are the collective currents of the organisation’s work. The work travels from identity (purpose and values) via promises, and value is accumulated or eroded as they are kept or broken. In this way, the ongoing ebb and flow redirect brand away from something with a start and finish date and pool it in an ongoing result.
What if everyone understood the value created by their effort and promises flowed into the brand? Surely value would accumulate more consistently.
The shift might show up as a new process where brand isn’t solely a way to present products and services to customers. Instead, where questions get asked such as how does the product achieve our purpose, and will it represent our values when people use it? Where the idea of brand informs every aspect up to and including packaging and promotions.
It might look like fundraising activity that finds stories and approaches built on affinity with what you stand for, instead of wearing people down with well-worn tropes based on guilt and endless requests until they opt out.
It might galvanise investment decisions that consider more than the dollars on the table. Weighing the intention of those offering the money and whether they will undermine what you’ve said you’ll do.
Or it might take you beyond hiring 101 where musty ad formats, tepid interview questions and creaky processes harm more than your appeal. Instead embrace how you do things and weave it into a fresh approach that signals a place worth choosing.
Mis-placing brand in marketing is a barrier to others seeing how their work adds or erodes value every day. The resulting misunderstanding stymies endeavour that can invigorate your organisation, so it consistently deposits value in the brand. And a value-rich brand frees up other capitals so you can grow.
See you next time.