“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
Many times during the course of my business life I have come face-to-face with Carl Gustav Jung’s simple truth.
Tactics and strategy are vital for success in any form of human endeavor. But without action even the best plans have no value. Action transforms thinking and ideas into reality, a reality that can be experienced, assessed, measured and improved on.
In its purest and most simple form, brand strategy is simply that – a strategy. A good brand strategy is, after all, built around the clearly defined and well-orchestrated set of emotional and functional experiences that we want customers to have when interacting with a company. Without that experience there is no brand. Strategy and action are both essential for brand building, and yet I am continually mystified by how many companies struggle with execution beyond worthy words and pretty pictures on the website.
Every day at BrandingBusiness we help companies execute their brand strategies. On the basis of our experience, we have identified five key points to ensure the promise defined by a strategy becomes an engaging reality experienced by customers.
1. Brand roadmap. We observe it with every engagement: a brand strategy is approved and the CMO needs to integrate resources, agreements and plans from multiple functional areas to turn a brand strategy into an experienced reality. The barriers often faced, combined with the ongoing business pressures, can lead CMOs to settle for sub-optimal plans that don’t deliver the experience intended by the brand strategy. To overcome this obstacle, we embed a brand roadmap in the development process. The roadmap enables a company to identify the internal and external initiatives that are instrumental in delivering the experience defined by the brand strategy. It enables the CMO to begin to execute immediately with clear priorities and assigned resources.
2. Employees first. Brands are created by people for people: employees’ clear understanding and enthusiastic endorsement of a brand strategy (its purpose, vision, and benefits) are essential to ensure that customer interactions produce the intended set of impression and associations. For example, our client First American, the financial services company, understood the importance of “employees first.” Working collaboratively with the company’s management, we were able to create a program that reinvigorated the brand’s purpose and relevance across the entire workforce. The program was so successful that Fortune named First American one of the top 100 companies to work for. The success gained through the initiative reverberated to customers.
3. Customer experience innovations. This is often the most time-consuming and difficult part to execute of a brand strategy. It is also probably the most critical. Any successful brand strategy must be associated with a set of customer experience innovations that align with what we want people to think and feel when they interact with a company. To assist clients, at BrandingBusiness we map the customer experience innovations along the customer journey, which normally stretches across multiple functional areas and often touches operational workflows of a company. If a brand strategy’s core positioning is built around the notion of agility, we develop roadmaps of activities designed to improve and deliver a customer experience that will reinforce agility at every interaction with the company.
4. Corporate narrative. The strongest brands in the market share a common trait: they go beyond building preference and differentiation; they focus relentlessly on shaping the industry dynamics and evolution in such a way that aligns with their own strategic vision and growth plans. This strategic goal is accomplished through a corporate narrative, which presents an inspiring yet believable future state enabled by the company’s unique value and perspectives. All effective corporate narratives need a storyteller, a role perfectly suited to a CEO. John Chambers, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson are some of the most visible master storytellers of recent memory: their powerful narratives provided frameworks for understanding the future, reassuring customers and investors they knew how to get there.
5. Measure! The old adage is correct: you cannot manage what you can’t measure. Once developed the effectiveness of a brand strategy needs to be continually assessed often resulting in corrective actions aimed at achieving the intended goals. At BrandingBusiness, our Brand Performance Platform™ methodology enables the development and delivery of a dashboard that management can use to manage brand performance over time with precision and confidence.
Action is critical to realizing the potential of a brand strategy as long as it is purposeful, planned, intelligent and honest. Otherwise, action is just motion.
Ultimately, we’re all measured by what we do. As Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”