Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, says a brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. In other words, your brand—your reputation—is about what you do, not just about what you say.
You can proactively manage your brand by ensuring everything you say and everything you do is aligned with the reputation you want to own. This means everyone in the organization matters when it comes to weaving the brand into the fabric of your company—so everyone should be involved, whether they are customer-facing or not.
The most successful companies have products, cultures, and marketing strategies that all stem from their purpose – what they stand for. Maybe you’ve heard of Tesla. Tesla stands for making electric vehicles better, quicker, and more fun to drive than gasoline cars. And they do what they say they do. They have truly woven their brand into their organization.
But here’s the thing: strong brands do not happen overnight. Strong brands are built by people. And strong brands take a consistent commitment to delivering upon a brand promise.
Your brand and your reputation are built upon the activities you do each and every day. Ultimately these activities translate into your outward perception in the marketplace. Everyone in the organization lives the brand to make this successful, not just those in the marketing or branding departments.
Zappos is a good example. Their brand stands for customer service. Every day, Zappos receives thousands of phone calls and e-mails, and they view each one as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best in customer service.
Zappos looks at every interaction through a branding lens. For instance, most call centers measure employees based on “average handle time,” which translates into reps worrying about how quickly they can get a customer off the phone. Obviously, this does not deliver great customer service.
However, Zappos does not hold reps accountable for call times (the longest phone call Zappos has on record is 6 hours—during this time, a rep helped a customer look at what seemed like thousands of shoes). And Zappos doesn’t upsell. They care only whether the rep goes above and beyond for every customer.
Then there’s GE. GE has built its brand around “Imagination at work.” They believe world-changing ideas can come from anyone, or from anywhere in GE’s organization. And they backed up this belief when GE Appliances launched FirstBuild, a freestanding innovation lab to augment the strengths of a long-established company with those of an entrepreneurial start up. Kentucky-based and university affiliated, the small, lean lab can rapidly prototype appliances. This is a great example of how GE continues to reinvent and live imagination at work.
As these examples demonstrate, a brand is more than words on a page, a tradeshow booth, or the logo on your business card. A brand thrives once people bring it to life.
Your brand does not belong to the CEO or the marketing department. It belongs to each and every team member. It is brought to life both “on stage” and ”back-stage.” On stage is what you imagine – external communications and interactions with customers or potential customers. It’s what you put in your messaging, in your sales and marketing materials, on your website, and in your trade show materials.
But what is often not realized is that you should bring your brand to life “back-stage” as well. These are things that are done in your company that are not directly customer facing—things that happen in a warehouse, in finance, in product development, in HR, and in accounting.
By bringing the brand to life throughout your organization, and remembering that what you say—but most importantly—that what you do really matters, you will be well on your way to weaving the brand into the fabric of your organization.