Your brand is your reputation. So investing in a brand engagement is one of the best ways to determine who you are, what you stand for, and help you ensure that everything you say and do is aligned with the reputation you want to own. But how do you drive the best possible value from the experience? With over 30 years in the business, we know a bit about successful brand engagements. That’s why every time we begin a project with a new company, we recommend the following five best practices to maximize both impact and value.
One: Engage a cross-functional team
Often, people equate branding with marketing. So when they create their brand steering team, they involve only marketing folks. This is a mistake. A brand is not a marketing tool or a logo—it’s a lever organizations can use to shape their reputation and drive growth. Any brand engagement—whether it’s a brand revolution or a brand evolution—needs vested leaders from all departments of an organization. Think beyond marketing to research and design, product development, human resources, finance, and even IT. Every aspect of an organization needs to give their perspectives and have their thumbprint in the brand. When all leaders are involved from the very beginning, the results are always stronger.
Two: Tie your brand strategy to your business strategy
Never create a brand strategy in a vacuum. For best results, it should be tied to your business strategy. When a brand is positioned as a key strategic goal, it serves as the filter for decision-making, better informing the business strategy in regards to the alignment of resources, processes, standards, accountabilities, and rewards. A strong brand strategy will also set the stage for product development, service standards, communications, and so much more. It should be used as a key decision-making tool for the entire organization.
Three: Internalize the brand
When branding or re-branding, engage employees across all departments early and often so they feel invested in the experience. Educate them on what a brand means. Allow them to have input in defining the new brand and explain how it is differentiating. Ensure they understand the effect their behaviors will have on external perceptions. But don’t just talk at them—collect their ideas too. Create an ongoing conversation so they play a role in defining the brand, hearing the brand, believing in the brand, and living the brand. And yes, inspire them with contests, prizes, and parties too.
Four: Activate the brand
To progressively strengthen your brand and produce maximum return on your brand engagement investment, the brand must become part of the company-wide culture. So you need brand operationalization. When you operationalize a brand, you ensure it is driven to all functional areas of the company and that the brand is used as a driver for decision-making. You do this by training employees on how to weave the brand into their day-to-day responsibilities. You do this by infusing the brand into performance and compensation programs so team members are motivated to live it. And you do this by putting brand ambassadors and a brand council in place to measure its success, embrace its challenges, and share its value to the company – and individual employees – often. But you also need to give employees tools to live the brand. So you can hold division-specific workshops, e-learning experiences, and many other activities—key word, activities. Because operationalization is never a one and done operation.
Five: Create an activation roadmap with metrics to measure success
Once you have determined the reputation you want to earn, you need to do more than throw a party—you need to create a plan. So go ahead, get granular about it. Create an activation roadmap that details what you are going to continue doing, start doing, and, most importantly, what you are going to stop doing if you are to earn your desired reputation. What is the best way to maximize your resources in a way that will have the greatest impact? The roadmap you create will guide you.
Finally, remember: a brand isn’t static. It’s important to measure results. Weave brand metrics into what you are currently measuring or create a new tool to measure brand performance.
Internally: Do employees understand the brand? Are they living it? Are they making decisions based on your brand? Is it contributing to their engagement? And externally: What is our brand health relative to our competitors? What role is brand playing in customer satisfaction? Acquisition? Retention? By keeping up with marketplace trends, you’ll understand what’s working and not working and you’ll be able to continuously tweak your brand and maximize your impact.