Who really drives your brand?
The initial title of this article was going to be ‘who is responsible for brand?’, but the danger is that most people would automatically assume the answer is ‘the marketing department’, and would move on, without reading any further.
In a strict sense, it’s true that the marketing department is responsible for the way a brand is perceived externally; for its general awareness, its equity across its markets and for developing the marketing communications strategies to improve those attributes and drive customer acquisition.
But true responsibility for the brand ultimately rests with the CEO, and there’s a very good reason for that.
True responsibility for the brand ultimately rests with the CEO.
Behind the brand, driving it, is an ideology – the vision, purpose, beliefs and the behaviours that drive them. The ideology is what gives a brand meaning and momentum. It sits at the heart of a business and dictates what it does, how it does it and why it matters to its staff and, ultimately, to its customers.
Only those leaders, and their strongly aligned leadership teams, who understand the pivotal role that ideology plays in making their whole organisation what it is, can maximise its true potential.
Whether CEOs know it or not, their businesses already have an ideology underpinning their brand and their whole operation. It may be their customer focus, it may be their drive to innovate, to streamline production, to maximise profitability, or to create a working environment that fosters collaboration. But it exists. The trick is to understand it, and to harness its power.
To see what’s really behind a brand – what the underlying ideology is, the following questions need to be considered:
- What is the one thing, if taken away, would change the very essence of the organisation?
- What is the organisation’s core competency?
- Are the answers to questions 1 and 2 all about enhancing the customer experience?
- Do the brand and marketing efforts reflect the answers to questions 1 and 2?
Answering yes to questions 3 and 4, indicates that the organisation well on its way. The ideology is well understood, and it contributes not just to the brand identity, it shapes customer perception. It attracts business.
Harnessing the power of ideology
The incredible thing about ideology is that it creates believers. If the vision, the purpose, the beliefs and the behaviours that drive them are strong, credible and attractive enough, employees and stakeholders alike will all buy into the ideology, and become advocates for the brand.
Make it a priority.
The only way to make this happen is for the CEO prioritise it and demonstrate to the leadership team and the wider organisation that he or she is wholly committed to the promises it makes.
Convert employees into believers.
The most important people to enroll in the early stages of overtly adopting an ideology are the employees. They need to be the first ‘true believers’, because if they don’t believe, the customers never will. Think of the staff of ideologically driven companies like Virgin, Disney, Tesla, FedEx and Changi Airport – they all live the ideology, and because of that, they enroll their customers.
It takes a lot of understanding and consistent, clear communication.
Inevitably, it will require some degree of adaptation but, once the employees are on board, the customers can’t help but follow.
Link all brand activity with the ideology.
Next, it’s critical to ensure the brand activity – corporate identity, messaging, promotions, platforms and language etc. – is interconnected with the ideology.
Ideology and brand are two sides of the same coin, so it’s vital that they work in synergy. Again, this requires investment in time, resources and patience. But the results do come.
Stay the course.
Even some of the most famous ideologically driven companies in the world didn’t attain success overnight. They got there because their CEO led by example and kept them on track, perhaps tweaking elements of their brand along the way to better suit their customers and market conditions, but never straying from their core belief.
In the end, they all achieved success because they had an ambitious CEO who understood the truth of Morris Berman’s statement: An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you.
We are a creative management consultancy that brings together business strategy, brand and culture to create meaningful relationships.
We work with ambitious B2B leaders to drive transformation and accelerate growth by unlocking competitive advantage within their businesses. We get to the heart of an organisation’s unique reason for being, its ideology, and build the brand from the inside-out by embedding it in the culture and in every customer experience.