Long Term Brand Success
Every year, companies spend billions on high-profile advertising campaigns and integrated marketing efforts. They allocate exorbitant sums for Super Bowl spots, complex digital websites, trade show vendor space, sales conferences, industry sponsorships, and more, often hiring advertising agencies, event management firms, and public relations agencies in the process.
What they may not realize is that these are not the only long-term, brand-building activities. They are short-lived tactics. Senior executives need to start thinking endemically, strategically, and long-term.
How do we measure long-term brand success? Many years of experience in scaling brands has taught me it’s how well the employees, suppliers, and vendors (I call this a tri-engagement), as well as customers, understand and connect with the brand. There must be internal/external brand alignment. When there is a favorable and enthusiastic brand connection and affinity toward your product and services; you have brand success. Tactics should be designed to achieve this end result.
Brand purpose encompasses company values, culture, and commitment. Here, “company” refers to each and every employee, supplier, and vendor, stretching far beyond the reach of the marketing team. What matters is that every individual who interacts with the brand can describe the brand’s purpose and how they connect with it, in turn becoming brand advocates.
How does this happen?
This connection filters down from broad, cascading brand training and acculturation programs. For a new brand, a clear articulation of purpose is paramount for a successful launch. To create this clarity, a brand should outline a strategic marketing plan that describes its beliefs, defines its behaviors, and delineates how future decisions should be made. And while there is room for dynamic change to these attributes, a set of rules should guide the process and leave room for adaptation as the brand grows.
These programs should not be created in a vacuum. Rather, they should be the result of an ongoing discussion with a broad audience of employees, customers, suppliers, vendors, and other stakeholders. All parties should be given an opportunity to think strategically and creatively about how best to grow and evolve the brand. There must be a sense of personal ownership.
I’ve outlined five key areas to consider in establishing and maintaining your brand’s long-term success and cascading acculturation:
- Culture-culture. Sure, we’ve all heard the term “culture” thrown around when describing a company’s free lunch policy and other low-grade perks. But ‘culture-culture’ goes beyond. It encompasses the mission, vision, values, and purpose of a brand. When created effectively, it becomes easy to express and share with peers and new employees.
- Collective responsibility. Everyone is responsible for creating and upholding the brand. At every level of an organization, employees should be able to discuss the basics of the brand strategy and understand the goal of customer interactions with the brand.
- Learning styles. When it comes to educating employees about the brand, recognize that people have different learning styles. Create an integrated training program that adapts the messaging and tactics to the appropriate target audience. Make sure that, for every department, there is a clear answer to the most fundamental questions for effective learning: “What’s in this for me?” and, “How will this affect my role/team/etc.?”
- Performance evaluations. Consider incorporating brand adherence (that is, how well an employee embodies the brand’s mission, vision, values, and purpose) into their individual performance feedback. Where possible, use full 360-degree peer review processes in these evaluations. And always recognize and reward individuals publicly for taking actions that reinforce the brand’s purpose.
- Human capital. Corporate accountability and compliance for human capitalism is of the utmost importance and need to be a direction from the top (i.e., the board) down. Forward-thinking corporations, such as Alliance and Bank of America, treat human capitalism and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) not only as moral responsibilities but also as compliance and risk management mitigators. Having human capital and brand purpose annual reporting will help attract and retain both employees and customers.
A successful brand training program is not a one-and-done session. Rather, it is an ongoing process—an integrated tactical communications plan that is cascaded throughout the organization day in and day out. Think of it as an external advertising campaign but directed inwardly in an organization, getting at the very root of what builds a brand that stands the test of time—the values of its employees, suppliers, and vendors—with alignment from customers and shareholders
Allan Steinmetz CEO