Are you keeping your brand promise?

Too many organisations go to great lengths (and expense) to create a strong and distinctive positioning concept and visual identity, only to fall flat on branded service delivery. In doing so – they’ve missed the point of branding!

Author: Diana Parry, Brand Strategist and Storyteller, BrandWell

Synopsis: How to create a branded customer service program and ensure
‘your brand is – as your brand does.’

Too many organisations go to great lengths (and expense) to create a strong and distinctive positioning concept and visual identity, only to fall flat on branded service delivery. In doing so – they’ve missed the point of branding!

What makes the difference between an average company and a great one? Employees who actively and enthusiastically engage in delivering a unique brand promise, day in and day out.

Organisations that fail, typically forget to communicate and integrate the brand into the very fabric of the organisation and empower people to behave in ways which are “on brand”.

Or worse, management has a very clear concept of the vision and mission of the organisation, but it fails to effectively communicate this to the people or put practical initiatives in place to build on it.

What a brand is not

To understand more about the benefits of creating a branded culture for your organisation, you first need to understand what a brand is and is not.

Your brand is not your logo, or your tagline or even your visual marketing system!

Your brand is infact everything that you do and deliver. It’s an experience. It has a culture and it makes a promise about what it stands for.

This understanding is absolutely crucial in a service organisation. Here, you are one hundred percent reliant on your people to deliver your brand. Sure you have unique IP, systems and products which the customer buys. But when it comes down to it, the experience of your brand will be most impacted by the people delivering it – this is what your customer will remember most.

Keep your promise

Brand promises come in many shapes and forms….I always like the car analogy myself. Volvo is all about safety. Its brand promise is to make the world’s safest car. Their single minded proposition is: Volvo for Life. But this isn’t just rhetoric. At Volvo the entire organisation works towards safety in a multitude of ways.

Volvo’s entire product development cycle is built around accident research. In the development of the S80 model over 2000 front end collisions were performed and studied in a safety centre where Volvo reconstructs and simulates road accidents. Their focus on innovative safety design created the first three-point seat belt.

Volvo have a Traffic Accident Research Centre in Thailand. Its purpose is to collect data from some 14000 road accidents each year and use this data to produce safety innovations.

Volvo has it’s own driving academy which teaches defensive driving. The Volvo Cars Driving Academy has over 20 world-class instructors that train about 1200 people per year, and a fleet of about 100 vehicles.

Why bother with vision?

Simply put, if employees do not know where they are going or what they are aiming for, they will get lost and become disengaged.

A company that works to establish a clear picture of its potential future to its employees (it’s vision) and actively develops its internal culture positively, educating its employees on what it wants to achieve and the values it wants to perpetuate will benefit from increased profitability in many ways. Here are just a few:

Talent attraction and retention.

People don’t want to go to work and clock watch all day . . . they want to go to make a meaningful contribution to something they believe in. Not only can vision and values be used to attract the right people to your organisation but people want to stay working for an organisation they believe in and feel valued by.

Employee engagement.

Organisations which communicate vision and values and actively align this to their offering enjoy a higher discretionary effort from their employees. They experience higher productivity, increased tenure and so on.

We are living in an age when intangible values are identified as key indicators of success. The most productive workers are those who are engaged and connected to the soul and purpose of the organisation.

How do you live and breathe vision and values?

Once the vision is clearly defined, this can be connected to the brand promise.

It is not enough to come up with a vision and present it to your staff. To truly effect long-lasting change there needs to be in place a programme of initiatives which are designed to align business goals, with service delivery, operations and brand strategy. Brands cannot live in the marketing department and nowhere else!

Brand authenticity comes from aligning your organisational actions with your promise. This doesn’t happen by accident.

Interbrand (the world’s most foremost brand strategy consultancy) says:

For a brand to come to life with customers, the organisation must be internally aligned to deliver the brand promise through the organisation’s culture, reward systems, key success activities and structure. In other words, employees must ‘live’ the brand values in their day to day interactions. And, management must demonstrate their commitment to these values through behaviour as well as corporate communications, demonstrating sincerity–not just rhetoric.

These benchmark companies signal their commitment to their declared brand values in various ways.
They effectively use internal communications to raise employee morale and commitment through the shared beliefs and vision.

They give managers and staff a deeper understanding of the brand promise and the behaviours and values the promise demands – and train them to adapt their behaviour.

They enable all employees to understand how their own work processes and responsibilities contribute to delivering the brand promise to customers.

They change company policies, e.g., recruitment, service, training, rewards, so that the organisation is also behaving in line with its brand promise.

So where do you start with all this?

Companies who want to gain most from a branding initiative need to ask themselves:

Where do we want to go in business?

How can we engage our people to enthusiastically deliver a unique brand promise which is in alignment with our vision? What values do we want our employees to live and breathe?

To maximise the success of any corporate branding effort, you must develop an integrated programme of internal initiatives that actively support the brand. These actions will move your employees from awareness of the brand vision, to acceptance of the values and behaviours in support of the vision, to a sustained effort in bringing your brand to life.

Figure 1. Integration Programme

This diagram shows how to work with your brand partners/agency to develop a long-term programme

interbrand diagram for body

In a nutshell

The power of a rebranding initiative signals change to employees. They can be fearful and cynical of this change. Or you can use the change process to excite them about what can be! The trick is to involve them and value their input. A rebrand is an amazing opportunity and massive investment. It can reinvigorate the entire organisation from inside out. But the key is in doing it, from the inside out and not expecting a new visual identity and tagline to do it for you.

Afterall, you can’t just put a new suit of clothes on a man and expect him to behave differently! I should know, I have tried.