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Closing the Gap to Accelerate Growth

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The creation of a brand-shaped organisation is by no means an easy task but if brands get it right and they can align the interests of customers, staff and the company itself, it will pay off, writes Mark Byrne.

Nearly all of us have had experience of being excited by an upcoming movie trailer. The dialogue is flawless, the jokes hilarious and the action scenes are jaw dropping. We arrange the babysitter, buy the popcorn, take our seats and … are let down by the movie – 90 minutes of your life that you will never get back.

How did it make you feel? Most of us feel disappointed, annoyed and can’t wait to share our frustration with friends and colleagues.

This, in summary, is the classic “communications – behaviour” gap. Brand owners spend time and care crafting the right message, without acculturating the brand into organisational behaviours. Friction and pushback from customers comes when marketing communications set expectations that are not, or cannot, be met at point of consumption.

Increasingly customers, management, leadership, owners – in fact, all stakeholders – are judging brands on what they do, not what they say they do. This is a particularly acute issue for service brands –  the development of digital has impacted their business models to such a degree that there are often many substitutes available with little switching cost. Therefore, closing this gap is critical to the success of the business.

It will become more and more important to build not only understanding, but also emotional commitment among staff, who represent the brand through their actions and behaviours. They play a crucial role in delivering the brand experience promised by marketing communications. This applies even in businesses with a heavy emphasis on B2B relationships or manufacturing. We have found that from the shop floor up staff needed to “buy into” the brand purpose to align their day-to-day actions with what is being promised to customers.

While products, pricing, advertising and packaging can be mimicked, a branded experience is more difficult to copy and therefore offers a sustainable point of difference. Starbucks did not invent the café, but they did create a successful branded experience that resonated with customers, and continue to deliver it consistently.

Starbucks did not invent the café, but they did create a successful branded experience that resonated with customers, and continue to deliver it consistently.

In order to deliver on the brand promise, companies need to evolve and develop into brand-shaped organisations. The brand-shaped organisation ensures the purpose and promise that MCCP helps put at the heart of the brand is lived throughout the organisation. It should galvanise teams, give them direction, foster pride, and, most importantly, be a key driver of performance. Our ongoing work with Heineken Global is helping them to grow cider through both internal and external changes.

The most important aspect of developing a brand, is making sure that it lives in those who represent it, so that customers feels its impact in a positive and differentiated way.

So, what will brand and company owners need to do in order to create this brand shaped organisation?

  • Build the brand from the inside out. From proposition development to communications launch and roll out, staff who will deliver the brand experience should have a role in co-creating the brand. If staff cannot support the promise being made in communications, the brand is destined to failure
  • In addition to a sense of brand ownership, staff need to be able to link on-brand attitudes with rewards and recognition, it’s not just “what you do”, but “how you do it” that counts
  • Staff need clear, consistent and regular communication about what is expected of them and their role in delivering a branded experience for customers
  • The brand should act as a consistent lens through which all activity is organised and delivered. Because the brand is a customer facing articulation of the business strategy, all organisational functions: finance; HR; operations; NPD; sales and so on; need to optimise their activities through the lens of the brand, thus truly placing the customer at the heart of the organisation
  • Leadership in the organisation need to “walk the talk” and role model actions and behaviours. If leadership can’t do this, why should we expect modestly paid front-line staff to follow?
  • Finally, ongoing measurement is key. You cannot manage what you do not measure. It is important to understand the levels of staff engagement with the brand and the drivers underpinning it. MCCP have conducted engagement measurement with multi-national organisations like Smurfit Kappa and Openet which uncover the commonalities and differences in brand understanding and behaviour across territories, departments and levels

So, what are the benefits of becoming a brand shaped organisation? Make no mistake, embedding the brand into the culture of your organisation is not a simple, easy fix. It requires time and commitment from everyone in the organisation, from the CEO down.

Many studies point to the benefits of an engaged workforce: greater productivity and profitability; lower turnover and absenteeism; and higher market valuation.

Staff engaged through the lens of the brand also have a better understanding and connection to customer’s needs and thus have the knowledge and abilities to deliver a differentiated, branded experience for your business. This enables brand owners and organisation leaders deliver an authentic brand, inside and out, unlocking business growth.

Mark Byrne, strategy director at MCCP.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ September 2017)© to order back issues please call 016611660