organizational goals

Brand is a Co-created Activity

by Trudy on October 26, 2012

In the past week I have had a few intense discussions around brand, with three different businesses. What I find interesting is the unchallenged support for the concept of brand in a business – everyone appears to be on board. However, the interpretation of what brand actually is, is vast, from those that still believe it is about a logo, to those that see it for the strategic business tool it can be.

At PROVOKE we have a rather defined perspective of what brand is. We got to this point after me personally having worked on some of the top brands in the world (McDonald’s, General Motors, etc.) and PROVOKE having developed, evolved or planned no less than 50 as a company, I feel our perspective is pretty well grounded.  I thought it may be a good time to put some of our thoughts out there to provoke some thinking.

Of course we all know that brand is perception, and exists in the mind of the audience. These perceptions are the direct result of every single interaction and impression they have had with the organization.

While many spend lots of money pushing out carefully crafted creative and messaging, which is good and proactive, it is but one small part of the formation of perceptions. Brand happens in every moment of every day, everywhere, by everyone in the organization.

Which means, brand occurs with you or in spite of you. It also most often occurs outside of the well crafted creative.

Just last night, I had one financial services person say to me that consistency at the front line is a tall, perhaps impossible order. He asked how as a leader could he ever expect to get thousands of people to deliver consistently? My response was that when you have that many touch points, brand as a guiding strategy in the organization becomes even more critical.

You see, at PROVOKE we believe that brand is an important business strategy. It is in fact an organizing structure for business that is there to guide every person to make good decisions that will nurture and secure positive relationships, in alignment with the corporate goals.

To us, the relationship is at the core of every business’ success. Relationships with customers, employees, products, services, communities, investors, etc. healthy, mutually satisfying relationships are the easiest way to financial success and longevity of an organization.

PROVOKE has observed three main ways in which organizations approach branding:

One of the crowd – the organization tries to be all things to all people, they look like their competition, pricing becomes their only competitive variable, and their customers can easily replace them.

Differentiated – the business has done the work to rationally differentiate itself, there is clarity about who they service, they have achieved visual continuity, the client feels valued, a fair price is paid for service/product.

Evolved – brand is a focus of the company as a core business strategy and focusing force. Every interaction creates value for the client, with an artful, attentive, flawless consistency and continuity of effort everywhere. The client is loyal and unable to determine who else could ever take care of them, and the organization is permitted premium pricing. Goodwill exists to endure service failures.

Look around and observe where different organizations live on this continuum. Where does your organization live?

A good brand lives in the minds of its audiences. An enduring brand lives in their minds and hearts.

Every contact is an opportunity. What will you do with it?

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I sometimes hear executives voice concerns that their employees are not delivering the results they had expected.  You would think, then, that when we talk to those same employees they would express feelings of pressure to do better or the disappointment that they were struggling to get the best job done.

Often, it is the opposite. The employees actually feel pretty good about their own performance.

Here is what I think is the disconnect –

The problem typically doesn’t lie at the employee level.  It lies in the lack of clarity around performance expectations and organizational goals.  If the expectations are not crystal clear and instead are left open to interpretation at the front-line level, employees are most likely going to feel like they are doing a good job because they will have their own set of performance measures on which to evaluate themselves.

So, if it appears that the front-line in your organization isn’t delivering the results you expect, I’d suggest looking at what the employees understand the performance expectations to be and if that is aligned with your objective.

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