When you break it down to the simplest definition, a brand can be defined by how others see your product, service, and organization. Branding is a sum of perceptions. How well your organization manages the perceptions defines the brand.
Let us be clear. We do not mean your logo or tagline, although proper use of those elements can reinforce a brand position. Rather, we define brand as the most important invisible asset your organization can cultivate, a whole system of meaning and experience. Branding starts with a strategy, a position, and works both inside an organization and in the market to grow value for the firm it represents.
Here is where it gets more complex. The old, command-center style of brand management that worked in the later phase of the Industrial Revolution is too rigid to allow growing, dynamic brands to flourish in the Post-Industrial economy.
When a single blogger can put a dent in the sales and reputation of a product manufacture when the company does not live up to its brand promise, you know that the old model of maintaining a brand no longer works.
Rather than a rigid, orthodox rulebook that the “brand department” must approve or deny each request, empower everyone in the brand’s village to be an enthusiast or evangelist on your behalf. Instead of setting up a top-down silo for brand management, create a framework that allows others to flex with the brand as it participates on social media, public relations and other communications platform.
More critically, never fall into the trap that branding is relegated only to the communications discipline of business. When the brand can serve as the filter for making more effective choices about innovation, product pipeline, operations and customer service.
When a brand can flex to engage in a vital way it has the solid identity of a mature, healthy sense of itself. When a brand can empower growth instead of just police a too-preciously guarded asset, then it can be a force of authentic power. Such a brand may take lessons from exemplary customer service run companies like Zappos or Nordstrom. In these cases, their employees can speak for the brand and have the authority to speak for the company and resolve the conflict in a win-win manner. Yes, it takes hiring good people and training, but it is a model that ensures an experience that keeps people engaged with the brand and buying from it again and again.
B2B companies, even distributors, can adapt to this emerging brand flex model. As a leader, your job is to provide a framework where the brand can thrive in today’s market. This is a primary function, and it can make all the difference.
Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.