We have all been to networking events and experienced a designer standing up to say that they can help create our branding. This got me thinking about how much the average micro or small enterprise really understands about the whole concept of what a brand really is. Branding is much more than your logo and strapline. It is an ethos that should be reflected throughout all aspects of your organisation. The well known saying that ‘your people are your most important asset’ is no accident. They should be well trained and informed in representing your brand particularly if you operate in the service sector where you don’t have a tangible product.
A brand is the successful integration of several key components, e.g. company ethos, customer interactions, employee communications and marketing efforts. It extends outwards touching employees, customers, suppliers, the media and the general public. Inconsistency can fatally damage you; consistency can drive sales and help you flourish. Your brand will add value in the eyes of those wishing to establish partnerships with your business while potential investors will see you and your brand as a valuable investment opportunity.
Employees who don’t deliver can soon damage a carefully built reputation, whereas employees who understand your brand values and consistently deliver them can have a significant impact on growth. You would think that in an age where customers can instantly give their opinion to thousands, organisations would have realised the importance their staff play in customer relationships. They are the key touch point in the whole sales process. And yet, walk into many a high street chain store and you will experience that even here the message is not getting through. An experience with sales staff can destroy the £millions spent on advertising and marketing.
Establishing a philosophy that guides how your company operates is the first step to reinforcing your brand among your employees. A great example of this is the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain. They have created the following five “Gold Standards” for their business operations to reinforce the brand and detail an employee’s role in delivering on this brand:
Be sure to follow through on your brand promise. If part of your brand is based on being a caring employer then you have to be seen as just that. For example part of the stated brand values of a major US retailer states “We believe that one of the keys to our success is our people and how we treat them”. However, the company has been the subject of unfair employee wage practice lawsuits. Hardly consistent!
To ensure brand consistency, it is important that your organization establishes a framework or set of brand guidelines for all to follow. Here I am not only talking about logo or corporate identity guidelines, but actual brand guidelines that communicate the brand positioning statement, key messages, core values, brand attributes, measures of success and processes for handling customer issues or feedback.
Finally, particularly if you operate on an international basis or are internet based, you must also consider how cultural differences could affect your brand. Words and phrases in the UK might not translate to the same meaning in another country. What customers value and perceive as positive here may be interpreted in a very different way abroad. It is your responsibility to ensure that your brand can transcend these cultural differences, if they are to have real geographical reach.
The Brand extends well beyond your marketing efforts. Your brand is only as good as the people behind it…and the people in front of your customer. Think and take the time to effectively build a corporate culture that reflects your brand. Train your employees to represent that brand. Evaluate your consistency in delivering your brand across all aspects of your business. By doing so, you will strengthen your brand value and position your organisation for greater success.
David has worked in advertising and marketing services for 30 years both client and agency side. Having worked with local, national and muliti-national clients, he set up DLH Marketing to help small organisations, owner managed businesses and those organisations without in-house marketing.