Your company has done the work to determine your brand identity through the brand development process. You have staked out your area of distinction from the competition. You have planned diligently to align your brand strategy and your business strategy. Now what? Enculturation™.
You’ve got all these great ideas and now, you have to put them to work. You’ve got to “operationalize” the brand as it’s often described, or what we like to call Enculturation™.
So, where do you begin this operationalization process? Denise Lee Yohn, author of the book “What Great Brands Do” emphasizes “Great brands start inside,” as one of her core principles. The brand must be the responsibility of everyone in the organization, from the CEO to managers to each employee along the line. To be effective, everyone in the organization has a role in supporting the brand. After all, establishing a brand isn’t just marketing on steroids. It’s a strategic initiative. No, make that the strategic initiative that drives customer loyalty, differentiation from competitors and market leadership. And to achieve it, everyone in the organization needs to understand his or her role in bringing the brand promise to life.
Making the Brand Promise a Reality
According to authors Scott M. Davis and Michael Dunn in the book “Building the Brand-Driven Business” success in operationalizing a brand depends on achieving success in five different areas:
- Achieving total alignment between business and brand strategy
- Demonstrating a clear and consistent level of commitment to brand building by top executives within your organization
- Controlling critical interactions your customers and stakeholders have with your brand, based on what your brand stands for
- Transforming your company into a brand-driven organization and culture, which includes having all employees understand the brand’s promises, the role they need to play in bringing the brand to life within their functional area, and the critical importance of permanently changing their behaviors in accordance with what the business and brand strategies are trying to accomplish
- Implementing a consistent measurement and reward system that allows companies to monitor, benchmark, and upgrade their brand performance.
We wrote recently about aligning business and brand strategy. Let’s focus on the third and fourth points above. Changing the culture of your business to match the brand, or Enculturation™, is a crucial step. A great ad campaign isn’t anything if you can’t deliver on the promise. And delivering on that promise is dependent upon a multitude of touchpoints the customer has with your organization. Which means where it interacts with your representatives, i.e. your employees. If the real world delivery of your promise falls short, the entire customer experience with your product or service, and subsequently your brand, will suffer.
Effective Enculturation™ Encompasses Everyone
Enculturation™ is the process in which everyone in the organization becomes engaged in the brand promise and thereby learns to “walk the talk.” And by everyone, we’re not only talking about staff members who regularly engage in touchpoints with outside stakeholders, i.e. the customer service representatives or the sales people or the marketing team. We’re talking about every department in an organization, including human resources to engineering, to manufacturing and to finance. This commitment to the brand should be so ingrained that it extends outside the work day and work place.
Why is that the case? Here’s what Zappos founder, CEO Tony Hsieh wrote in the Huffington Post a few years ago in a blog post named “Your Culture Is Your Brand:”
“The fundamental problem is that you can’t possibly anticipate every possible touch point that could influence the perception of your company’s brand,” wrote Hsieh. “For example, if you happen to meet an employee of Company X at a bar, even if the employee isn’t working, how you perceive your interaction with that employee will affect how you perceive Company X, and therefore Company X’s brand. Every employee can affect your company’s brand, not just the front-line employees that are paid to talk to your customers.”
Zappos is an online clothing retail company whose primary brand promise is to provide the best customer service in the industry. That commitment begins with the hiring process, extends to the training program and evolves over the long haul by continually monitoring policies and procedures to fulfill the brand promise.
Taking Initial Steps to Walk the Talk
A good operationalizing process will identify areas where vision and execution don’t line up and advise you how to address and improve those. You need to see where the walk and talk are incongruent. Then look for where there are opportunities to make great strides with small changes. This is an all-encompassing undertaking that is far more than a process. It’s a strategic shift in how you do business. You’re choosing to align your business and brand strategy and to put in place procedures to continually monitor that alignment.
Brand strategists may approach this effort in a variety of ways, but you’ll likely start with a task force. This team will collectively be responsible for implementing and overseeing brand development both internally and externally. This team should include the CEO, senior managers and your brand consultant.
The task force will outline and examine all the consumer touchpoints, i.e. every point of contact or interaction between the business and its customers or consumers, and study how they impact the brand. Those include touchpoints at all stages of contact: prior to purchase, during the purchase experience, after purchase and others that influence purchase. Some of these touchpoints will be within your control and some will be outside (as in customer reviews). Every facet of a company should be subject to scrutiny, from operations to customer service to finance and HR.
The next step will be to assess how well your team is performing in each of these interactions. You’ll uncover strengths and weaknesses and decide what optimal delivery looks like at each point. At this stage, you might also want to include an examination of key competitors. Examining their delivery processes compared with your organization’s may yield some valuable insight.
Key Internal Questions for Successful Organizational Transformation
Identifying consumer touchpoints and assessing how well employees are currently performing in those interactions is a critical part of the task force’s initial internal evaluation. However, the group needs to review performance on a wider spectrum in order to initiate effective organizational transformation.
Andrea Fabbri, an accomplished brand strategist, stated in a recent blog post for BrandingBusiness.com, “No matter how inspiring it may be, no brand strategy designed to lead a company to a new future can succeed without organizational transformation,” he writes. “Used as a strategic lens, the brand helps companies to conduct a future-ready assessment to identify the key organizational areas that need transformation.
He suggests the following factors to take into consideration:
- What are the current gaps in skills and knowledge required to enact changes and fulfill the brand promise?
- What processes and systems affect employees’ ability to deliver on the brand promise?
- What resources are required for change to be realized and for the brand promise to become a reality?
- How should roles and responsibilities be shifted to improve the effectiveness of an organization to deliver on the brand promise?
- How do existing policies enable the desired behaviors to deliver on the brand promise?
At this point, you’ll begin to identify strategic changes you can implement to align delivery with brand strategy and “close the gap” at each touchpoint. Ideally, you’ll explore several design models, then test, review and re-test. You will likely want to focus on the touchpoints that can have maximum impact on brand perception. Those should be addressed first to make the best use of your resources.
These are just the initial steps in building the momentum for organizational transformation. But once the flywheel is going, it will take on a life of its own and produce its own energy.
About the Author
As EVP at BrandSavants, Sharon heads up account management as she thrives on connecting with people and building relationships. But she also has an unrelenting interest in all things research which has her always on the look for the critical insight which will make a difference.
At BrandSavants, we transform organizations by elevating the brand conversation. That catapults our clients' thinking which grows brand value and increases worth.