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Forget the fireworks: Going deep to build a brandcentric business

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Forget the fireworks: Going deep to build a brandcentric business by Stephanie Matthews and Ben Shaw

The launch of any new brand should herald the beginning of a new way of operating, evidenced through different and better activities, products, services and customer experiences that can be touched and felt. Cultural transformation is a journey. It takes time to build understanding of what the brand can deliver, generate pride and inspire advocacy. But so often companies are seduced by the idea of a communicationsdriven launch, only to see short-lived effects. Invariably glitzy events, balloons, branded mugs, mouse mats, posters, desk calendars, stationary or screensavers will never achieve the necessary level of organizational change to truly deliver on the promises at the heart of the brand. Beyond the fireworks of the launch, it’s what happens before and after the moment the brand goes live that makes the difference between success and failure. So before you go to market with the new proposition, it’s essential to first build your internal capability to deliver on your claims. Brands that appear consistent from the outside may promise the earth, but if delivery does not match expectations, they will ultimately fall short and erode trust. In February 2008, returning Starbucks

Chairman Howard Schultz recognized this important fact and shut down all 7,100 company-owned stores in the U.S. to train 135,000 baristas to make the perfect espresso. In a letter to staff, Schultz wrote: “Starbucks partners will have an opportunity to connect and deepen their passion for coffee with the ultimate goal of transforming the customer experience.” Embedding your brand inside your business is not a six-month campaign or an initiative with a known lifespan. It requires a sustained commitment to brand delivery that in turn drives market differentiation, business performance and growth. So if you’re investing and really want to get maximum bang for your buck, plan for the long-term. Start by picturing what you want to achieve, and work backwards. Ask yourself: what should our business look like in the next few years? How can a stronger brand help us to achieve our goals? And what role will our people play in driving the necessary changes to our business? Motivating change Your people are your brand. If the brand

is changing, very often, so must they. In small or big ways, the engagement process needs to achieve shifts in mindset, beliefs and behavior. People are complex beings. Their behavior cannot be programmed or controlled, but it can be influenced. This requires a multidimensional approach rooted in an understanding of what motivates them to do what they do. This motivation should be addressed from four angles: •Enable •Engage •Encourage •Exemplify Step 1: Enable - Get to the root of the issue Changing a business is hard, which is why many change programs fail. Going deep is the only way to understand the scale of the challenge, and what it will take to make the transition. An upfront diagnostic process should look for any barriers and enablers to the change process, and identify ways to make it easier for people to change. For

Forget the fireworks: Going deep to build a brand-centric business

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Step 3: Encourage - Empower them to make a difference Brand building is an exercise in the psychology of motivation. At any time, a wide range of factors will be influencing someone’s desire and ability to engage – personal, organizational and cultural. What we do know is that people are more likely to commit to something if they are given the freedom – within a framework – to find their own solutions. Ask customer-facing staff what causes frustration or delight. Ask your sales force where they think the market is going, and how the brand might achieve greater penetration. Run pilots to experiment with new ways of doing things. Invite ideas from everywhere. Involve people in redesigning the service experience. Beyond this, there should be incentives for participation. Engagement cannot be conscripted, so think about what you might give people in return. Beyond financial incentives, in small and

instance, if employees are incentivized on sales targets alone, this forces a short-term perspective on doing business and opens the door to customer experiences that fall short of the brand promise. Incentivize them to build long-term relationships with buyers and suddenly the sales mindset changes and trust is built with clients. In the longer term, this can only be good for sales growth and profitability. Step 2: Engage - Inspire and equip your people to apply brand thinking Creating an unrivalled brand experience will give you the edge on the competition. It also requires that everyone in the business be on the lookout for ways do things differently and better. The engagement process should equip teams to start using the brand as a filter for daily operations and decision-making. For evidence of this idea in action, look no further than brand-led product innovation at Apple, brand-led service delivery with First Direct and brand-led employee experience at Google’s offices.

large businesses alike, the opportunity to influence and shape the company direction might be sufficiently compelling. Trust and empower your people to come up with the answers and they might surprise you. Take that power away from them and disengaged workforces are likely to dig their heels in further, doing the opposite as an act of defiance, either consciously or sub-consciously. Step 4: Exemplify - Show them the way Leading by example may sound trite, but it is essential. Steve Jobs embodies everything the Apple brand stands for; he is “humanized technology” personified. No one would argue that Anita Roddick of the Body Shop was a tremendous ambassador for her own brand of natural beauty activism, always challenging the industry and educating the consumer. Those at the top can’t just talk about the brand, they have to be the brand and inspire their people to do the same. Crucially, leadership

Multidimensional change – beyond “cascade and comply” to inspire genuine transformation •! Lead by example •! Share and promote best practice – people, teams, initiatives, results •! Hallmarks


CATALYZING BRAND-LED CHANGE Personal & organizational •! Proof points •! Pilots •! Incentives



Break habits Promote lasting change Go deep

ENGAGE •! •! •! •! •! 1 | Interbrand | Brand Operations | 2010

Communications and activities that inform, inspire, involve Client focus Sense of urgency Collaboration and problem-solving New communications

•! Mapping barriers and enablers •! Process change •! Simple tools

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Great brands are not afraid to delay the moment of launch if it means they need to get their houses in order first. claims must be substantiated with action; with progress and results communicated.

to start using the brand as a business transformation tool.

Truly brand-centric businesses like BMW or Apple are guided by an instinctive sense of what is on or off brand. This is so deeply ingrained in the culture it’s become second nature. But this is never taken for granted. Building the brand internally is not a oneoff event; it requires continuous care and attention.

The approach they took had two linked workstreams:

CASE STUDY: Hays • Leading global specialist recruitment group • 6,500+ employees • 340 offices • 28 countries • 17 specialisms Back in 2009, Hays was a successful global FTSE 250 company that had grown rapidly into new emerging markets. Growth had led to a lack of clarity in terms of what they stood for and what made them unique. A betterdefined market-leading brand positioning was required to achieve a more consistent presence and experience around the world. The newly clarified brand positioning of “Powering the world of work” encapsulated their fundamental belief: that the right job can transform a person’s life and the right person can transform a business. This was a bold statement. Hays wanted to be known for being a different and better kind of recruiter; one that delivers trusted consultancy and advice based on deep expertise. While motivating, the Board understood that it would take more than internal communications to achieve their ambition. They needed to mobilize their people

•“soft engagement” communications to ensure employees understood, believed and knew how to deliver the brand •“hard engagement” activities and planning to apply brand thinking to some of the stickier business issues Before launching the brand, brand activation plans were drawn up in each of their four key markets to ensure that Hays was capable of delivering on its promise. In addition to regional and country-level planning, teams ran innovation sessions to generate detailed proposals for biggerimpact, global activities. These went through a rigorous selection process with the Global Board and are now being implemented. They included: • Revising consultant incentives to reward relationship-building not just fees • Piloting a new industry-leading apprenticeship and accreditation scheme for trainee consultants to improve standards of customer service • Building expertise internally with cutting-edge knowledge and information management systems, new research partnerships and thought-leadership • Leveraging technology to improve accuracy, timing and quality of customer communications “Powering the world of work” has had tangible effects on their financial

performance. In 2010, they published solid results in an industry that had otherwise been plagued by the aftershocks of the global economic crisis. In Q1, Asia Pacific posted 23 percent net fee growth, rising to 53 percent in the second quarter. Similarly, Continental Europe and rest of the world posted growth of 21percent for this same period. Conclusion The moral of the story is, if you’re going to make a statement with your brand, make sure you are capable of delivering it. Great brands are not afraid to delay the moment of launch if it means they need to get their house in order first. In this digital age, consumers now have the means to share their experiences, good and bad, and credibility and authenticity are everything. ■

Stephanie Matthews Stephanie is Associate Director of Brand Engagement and Consulting. She has eight years of consulting experience, predominantly with government and NGO clients in the U.K. and Switzerland. Stephanie specializes in developing organizational development and change programs and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Interbrand brand engagement practice.

Ben Shaw Ben Shaw is Associate Director of Brand Engagement in London. Ben has a multidisciplinary background that covers strategic and operational levels in private and public sectors, as well as client and agency. His work is underpinned by broad commercial experience with major blue chip organizations.

Creating and managing brand value


Forget the Fireworks  

Going deep to build a brand-centric business

Forget the Fireworks  

Going deep to build a brand-centric business