Brand strategy should be fundamental to your business future

(This article was originally posted on eu.cmo.com on October 3rd, 2014. We thought it was worth another share.)

Businesses sit at the centre of the perfect storm of technology, globalization and empowerment. Traditional business models are under pressure as organisations respond to rapidly changing buyer behaviour, influence and engagement. Businesses are looking for a more intelligent, responsive way to direct everything from production and distribution of their products and services to the way they are seen, heard, thought of and cared about in a buyer-led world.

Engaged businesses see that they must become more collaborative than ever. They need to connect and coordinate more powerfully and flexibly, across entire organisational functions and operating units, to deliver what the business needs and markets demand.

We see the understanding and application of brand and brand strategy as the key informer for business strategies, culture, offers and operation today and in the future. Organisations react to this idea differently, coloured by their view of brand. In many, ‘brand’ is confused with ‘branding’ and left solely to marketing teams; this means the true power of brand and brands strategy is lost.

The Two Essentials Of Business

So let’s strip everything back. To the two essentials of not just marketing, but business. Buyers and the people they buy from, brands.

Increasingly, the world thinks of brands as what they buy from, not the business, products or services behind them. Buyers are people who buy from, and into you – including customers and employees and anyone who knows you.

These factors suggest that above all else, your brand and its strategy should be the driver for everything to do with business and organisational change.

After all, brand is everything people think about you over a sustained period of time; this is where long-term value is derived. Brand should provide rigour, and be the factor that makes buyers of all kinds care about, and align with, you over the long term. This is the key to loyal buyers, and growing brand value. By increasing brand value you will ultimately grow shareholder value, increase sales, engage more buyers in more appropriate, sustainable ways over a longer period of time and create powerful, future and risk proofed competitive advantage – isn’t that what all businesses want?

Following the logic that the key elements are buyers and brands, the first step is to look at the brand (the business) as it is now – and ask what it needs to be and do in the future. Then define a vision for that brand to inform future strategic focus and how it can deliver against future buyer and market needs. Buyers and their preferences will change; the key is to ensure that the brand can lead change, respond to it, and do so sustainably.

Change Is Certain

Whatever form change takes – organisational shift, new market requirements, competitor threats, emerging technology, or operational parameters – one thing is certain: it’ll happen. Yet many organisations approach change reactively, rather than with strategic intent. This causes loss of unity, impact and efficiency; losses that could have been avoided had a coherent brand strategy been developed. It’s no accident that the organisations that have brand at their centre tend to be the ones that survive and thrive, even in adverse conditions – and that the world’s biggest, most successful businesses achieve, and actively evolve, the most cohesive, recognisable and enduring brands.

However, there are barriers to success. One of the biggest is the understanding of brand and its importance to the organisation. This can lead to ‘brand management’ being handed to marketing – and treated as a specific project rather than a strategic business decision. While this can lead to positive ‘awareness’ campaigns, without organisation-wide understanding of brand the results will be limited and short term. Many brands that adopt this strategy see a reverse in market loyalty as customers and consumers see through the ‘marketing spin’, and feel let down by the brand.

Planned And Sustained Change

The key is to deliver profound, planned and sustained change across the whole organisation. This can be achieved through a true Brand Strategic approach.

By engaging with a Brand mindset, you enable your business to make more people care about you for longer, and engage more richly with you to ensure they ultimately buy from, and into, your business. This will go on to ensure you gain richer future employee opportunities and talent pools and attract more customers who are of higher value. It will also mean more efficient and effective operation within your own business and more motivated teams within departments, all driven by a culture that is defined by Brand Strategy. And then ultimately you will increase shareholder value because you are achieving more and are able to adapt to evolving and changing markets better, faster and in ways that create and maintain competitive advantage.

What CEO could argue with that?

 

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