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What is your brand? Is it based on product or service or perhaps some snazzy logo designed to encapsulate everything you stand for. Whatever the answer it may be fairly safe to say that once you have involved marketeers and advertisers, endless hours of discussion have taken place on the form, shape and meaning of your brand.
And yet, whilst for some the brand is king, it is a rare organisation which takes the brand and infuses it throughout the business. In fact show me a company in which every action is taken with the brand in mind and I’ll bet that that company is also way up there in strong company culture and innovation.
But we still come back to what a brand actually is and why it is so important. Is it just something which the company offers or does it run deeper into quality and service, or are we still looking in the wrong place? Interestingly, a recent discussion piece in Money Marketing highlighted the way in which many organisations may be looking at their brand in the wrong way. The article followed on from a recent survey which revealed the way in which consumers regularly choose investment products and services which are not appropriate for them. According to the report, the more complex the product, the more the consumer is likely to make their decision based on a few headline facts such as interest rate rather than the product as a whole.
Within the article the author commented that whilst every brand is a story, it is a story about the consumer not about the brand. Assimilating this one simple statement turns every company process on its head. It asks organisations to think about the consumer, not as a user or purchaser of products but as the reason behind those products. It moves away from the advertising principle of persuading people to buy and towards creating products which consumers will actively seek out. In effect, thinking about the brand story as being the story of the consumer puts the customer firmly at the heart of the organisational process.
This move towards thinking of the customer as the reason for the organisation requires the business to gear up to providing an outstanding level of customer care. It means focussing on the way in which we do things rather than what is done. In effect, it means leveraging an innovation culture to create a brand image which is customer focused and based on a reputation for outstanding care for customers.
In the past few years the business world has in fact started to move towards a customer led regime. In fact 81% of companies in the UK recognise that ‘understanding the viewpoint of the customer’ will lead to improved performance. But however many customer surveys you send out, whatever customer workshops you run; unless you transform your company culture into one of innovation then all you are doing is wasting time. Standing up and telling your employees that “Mrs Smith prefers red apples to be packed in bags” is meaningless unless your suppliers, your packers, your transport, your display teams and your sales people are actively looking for ways to provide Mrs Smith with the produce she wants at a price which is right and with outstanding levels of service.
Innovation culture is not about telling a few employees to brainstorm in a room. It is about engaging the entire organisation from CEO to cleaner in working together to find newer and better ways to serve the customer. It is about doing away with silos and jobsworths. It is about constantly seeking to improve how you provide a better product or service for your clients.
What is your brand? To be quite honest, unless it is backed up by a culture of innovation which makes the customer the reason for every action then your brand is just an expensive marketing gimmick. Backed by an innovation culture, well that is another story altogether.