The concept of the brand has always fascinated me. I’ve always intuitively felt that a company or an event or a product or a person has to stand for something – otherwise how can we truly decide if we want it to be part of our lives? Sure, we can make a functional assessment, but ultimately there has to be more than that.
I now know that the “more” part is all to do with values. We are naturally attracted to those who share out values and this extends to businesses and organisations, products and services too.
I like to “do business” with a company whose values are clear, in line with my own – a company I believe and trust.
One of my favourite definitions of a brand comes from Paul Feldwick: “At its simplest, a brand is a recognisable and trustworthy badge of origin, and also a promise of performance.” And we have often heard it said that a successful brand “keeps its promise”.
Yes, the product or service has to be fit for purpose. The end to end customer experience has to be appropriate, maybe even with the occasional memorable magic moment. And somewhere in all this there will be people responsible for delivering, whether they are customer facing or not.
I was lucky very early in my career in the 1980s to work for one of the best known brands, Shell. In my first week, my office supervisor explained what it meant to work for Shell. He said that when Shell employees went down the pub with their mates, they didn’t moan about life at Shell. Oh no. They were too busy telling anyone who cared to listen what a great company Shell was to work for and explaining all the reasons why everyone should buy Shell petrol.
That was probably my first lesson in the fact that your people are your best asset. Something I’ve heard many times since but unfortunately those saying it don’t always seem to honour it.
We all know how we feel after a desperate retail customer service experience or when a senior spokesperson just doesn’t come across as quite telling the truth.
So, my interest in the role each individual within an organisation plays in the success of that organisation, in delivering the brand promise, has grown over time. An engaged, motivated workforce capable of being influential ambassadors is worth a thousand creative design awards.
I may not have been the most popular girl on the block when, on joining a commercial training college, I expressed the view that, as marketing manager, I had an interest in everything that impacted on our customers including queues in the restaurant and the level of training for front office reception staff. However, the concept of the “total college experience” soon took hold and marketing were no longer just the people who produced the nice colourful prospectus.
In many organisations the silo mentally still persists, internal communications are challenging in the extreme, junior managers feel lonely, and staff and team motivation fluctuates. And the brand struggles to shine.
And for those companies that are basically healthy in these respects, well, what a huge difference they could make by harnessing the power of their people.
It doesn’t have to be a theoretical debate. Transforming your brand through taking care of your people can be a reality. You just have to be ready to step up and meet the challenge.