To make better organizational decisions, define your brand

In my last post I talked at a high level about how your brand can be used as a management tool (not just a marketing tool) to create a more effective and successful organization. But that may leave both of my avid readers asking, “how exactly can you do that?”

One of the best ways is by using your brand strategy as a framework for decision making. When defined properly, your brand strategy identifies (among other things) what business you’re in, the needs you’re addressing, and the characteristics and behaviours that make you different and better. Specific elements like your value proposition and positioning statement should already contain the information you need to ensure that everyone’s making decisions that are aligned with each other and have the same shared intent.

For example, let’s say your brand is defined by innovation and the development of leading, next generation products. Operationally, this may translate into a culture that takes calculated risks and follows a “fail fast, fail often” approach in order to find its next winner. It only makes sense, then, that when an employee is considering starting a test project with risk attached, that they use this brand characteristic to guide their decision about whether to proceed with the project or not. In this case, if the project allows for a “fail fast” result in a worst case scenario, then it would make sense to move forward. For another company with a more conservative brand and a longer-cycle/risk averse approach to product development, this decision would not align with the brand, so the employee should not start the project.

Or consider the company defined by its world-class customer service. For an HR department responsible for hiring front-line staff, whether it’s for a call centre or in-person customer contact, it only makes sense to hire people with experience or capabilities that will result in that customer experience. That may seem obvious but one of the less obvious implications is that it could mean hiring people with no experience whatsoever in your industry or functional area but who have that desired world-class customer experience mentality. Without the brand to guide these decisions, potential employees without industry experience but who have the desired customer service experience or capabilities may be passed over in favour of those with advanced industry knowledge but less experience delivering world-class customer experiences.

Since an organization is just a collection of people ultimately working toward the same goal, it’s just good business to make sure that the decisions being made throughout the organization are based on the same criteria or characteristics. To help everyone in your company make better decisions, then, make sure that the brand has been effectively defined and everyone truly understands that definition.

Brand is a Management Tool, Not Just a Marketing Tool

In the past I’ve described the Three Simple Circles approach to content strategy that includes asking and answering the following questions:

  1. What is/are the competitive advantage(s) of my organization?
  2. What are the higher-order needs of my clients and market?
  3. What are the themes/topics that address those higher-order needs that also reinforce the competitive advantage?

The first question about competitive advantage could easily be re-phrased to ask, “what’s my brand?”, and knowing the answer to this question will not just help you develop an effective content strategy but it could also lead to a more effectively run company.

The reason is that once you’ve identified those key characteristics that define your brand/competitive advantage, you have also implicitly defined the guard rails within which your organization should be managed. In other words, you’ve created a plan that you can use to align your entire company, based on those key characteristics. Your brand has become a management tool, not just a marketing tool, which is how most view it.

For example, if your brand stands for premiere customer service, then you know that every aspect of your organization should be focused on creating that experience – you need that alignment throughout the company to be successful. That knowledge has tremendous impact on how every aspect of your organization is led and managed:

  • For HR, it means you need to hire people with core competencies and skills that will result in excellent client service; it also means your rewards and incentives need to be aligned to motivate behaviour leading to that experience
  • For Marketing, Sales, and Client Service it means that every message sent and platform used needs to focus on and reinforce a value proposition and positioning of excellent client service. One specific application could relate to Twitter – if you’re on it, you better have someone closely monitoring it because clients are using it to voice issues that need to be resolved quickly and efficiently in order to be considered a premiere client service brand
  • For IT, it may mean using a top notch CRM system so you can track and anticipate the needs of your best clients
  • For Product Development, it means that any new products developed need to further the experience of premiere client service

The list could go on but I think you get the idea.

By using your brand as a management tool, you’ll be better able to ensure alignment throughout your organization around a shared idea or goal, resulting in a more effective and profitable company.

And you thought brand was just for marketingl…