A great resource to our industry, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), recently released a report of research insights on corporate branding, from The Conference Board’s “Corporate Image and Branding Conference.” We have a few clients going through the corporate rebranding process currently, a process which can be fraught with indecision, emotion, delays, conflict and more delays. Of little comfort to any client going through this process is that these are normal occurrences.
The document released by the 4A’s contained case studies of six corporate brands, of varying size and industry, that went through the corporate rebranding process for varied reasons. David Leis, of Lippincott, a global brand strategy and design consultancy, presented three interrelated components that allow brands to connect with customers:
1. Beyond Communications — More holistic delivery of the brand concept throughout the customer experience. (Don’t just say something, BE something.)
We see this with many of our clients. Consumer purchase behaviors are no longer defined by the old purchase funnel. The market is crowded, and new players emerge daily. Consumers are seeking brands that connect with them on a deeper level — brands that say something about who the consumer is and how he or she sees and defines him- or herself. Additionally, the end point of a purchase is not the holy grail of consumer behavior — brand advocacy is the new standard for customer loyalty.
2. Beyond Consistency — Brand balances authenticity with freshness. (Strive to embody both the true and the new.)
A brand must remain true to its core values, mission and vision to deliver a consistent experience to its customers, employees and other stakeholders. A brand must also engage in new and meaningful ways to provide continuing value to those stakeholders, and keep consumers engaged. Achieving balance between these two ideals is tantamount to a brand operating in its sweet spot.
3. Beyond Customers — Focus on inspiring employee belief and enabling internal action. (Employees may be just as important a target audience for communications as customers.)
As I mentioned in a previous post, employees are such an important and also incredibly overlooked aspect of a successful brand. If your employees don’t buy it, your customers sure as heck won’t. Selling a new brand, and brand vision, to your employees must be done with as much thought and effort as the sale to the customer. Employees who buy in are empowered by the feeling of ownership and the ability to contribute to something bigger than themselves. Leis gives the example of Zappos’ hiring policies to illustrate: they only hire people who “get” the brand, which means they’re 90% of the way to representing the brand upon being hired. Some of our clients tend to overlook the importance of their employees’ role in their brand and business, which can make for a disastrous brand launch. Conversely, some clients over-involve their employees at the wrong point in the reinvention process, and have the wrong voices at the table when strategic decisions need to be made, miring and bogging down the process.
Leis illustrates that embracing these three rules is important to the bottom line: companies that implement these components have a 12-16% better year-over-year shareholder return.