In my previous post, I examined the relationship between an organization’s brand promise and the brand experience produced by customer interaction with its workforce.
In this post, Mr. Folu Adeyeye, a creative strategist with a leading Lagos-based strategy and innovation firm shares his views on how to ensure that an organization’s employees deliver its brand promise to customers.
Winning with People by Folu Adeyeye
Your organization is only as good as its people. No matter how cliché this proposition has become, it still holds immense truth especially for businesses in the 21st century that are serious about catalyzing business growth based on consistent brand delivery. Just as your organization is only as good as its people, this group of people are also only as impactful as the creed that binds and guides them. This notion, perhaps, best underscores the importance of “branded behavior” in creating the right corporate culture that will guarantee effective delivery of your brand’s promise.
More often than not, business owners go about setting up their businesses without giving consideration to the kind of environment the business will sport or the kind of people that will best deliver the business’ value proposition. Ultimately, the employees of such businesses get the front row seat in defining what culture will pervade the business – more often than not, this culture is not very enabling.
Your people continue to be a major pillar in your business strategy, but now more than ever before, these people must become the key drivers and builders of your brand. If the people that represent you to your customers and your market do not understand your brand, then it would be near impossible to deliver that brand. While marketing communications play a vital role in the brand building process, it is people who deliver the vital brand experiences and encounters that reinforce your values and fulfil your promise.
A classic example of this would be most Nigerian banks. Very often does a bank communicate to the public their utmost commitment to service, creating some anticipation of almost celestial encounters when you do business with them. However, one cannot help but notice the sharp contrast during actual physical transaction with staff of that bank. The sad result is that the millions on Naira spent on marketing communications have gone to waste because disappointed customers will not only withdraw patronage, they will also become negative advocates for your brand.
The global business landscape, over the last decade has witnessed immense changes; so much more than the preceding century. The most obvious consequence of these changes is the transfer of power to the customer within transactional relationships. After years of empty talk, the customer is now truly king. They have developed an ever evolving taste, they have access to lots more information and now seek to be more included within the realities of business owners. They want more.
These customers, however, are people; people who still need other people to interact with in the course of their lives. The implication for your business within this new paradigm is that you have to “humanize” your brand and distil all that you stand for into personal interactions. This is where your people come in. Customers do not interact with your brand in a vacuum. They interact with you through your people and if these people do not effectively portray what your business stands for, then that sharp contrast which I referred to earlier will mark off a dangerous slide for your business.
So how do you ensure that your people effectively deliver your brand? It’s simple really. Over the last few years of working at Headstart Consulting, a strategy and innovation firm, we have developed comprehensive brand acculturation program which we call “Living the Brand*”. This program employs a comprehensive and systematic way of entrenching an organization’s values, ideals and aspirations and creating a pervasive a corporate culture that is aligned with corporate objectives. The format for the program shows clearly the steps for taking your staff through that transformational process: from employees to brand champions. Here are four steps to achieve this:
Understanding the Brand
The first thing to do is create a pervasive understanding of the key elements of your organization’s brand. These include a clear definition of why you exist as a business, the value proposition on offer to your customers, specific character traits of your brand and a sturdy position you intend to occupy in the mind of your customers. These elements make up your brand platform and when effectively applied, can be a viable springboard for effective brand delivery.
Living the Brand
This stage is called the “Baptismal Stage”. After ensuring a clear understanding of your brand across your business, the next step will be to cascade this knowledge into your corporate culture. This means that in re-writing your culture book or HR manual, you must take account of the kinds of behavioral characteristics and personality attributes that your people need to foster in order to fully take on your brand image.
Delivering the Brand
At this phase, your people are ready to begin the process of delivering your brand. However, you need to ensure that their knowledge of your brand is matched by a comprehensive consideration and understanding of the peculiar need, expectations and aspirations of your public (internal and external). This way they can be sure to create consistently delightful brand experiences.
Championing the Brand
Finally, you need to ensure that you entrench a deep sense of pride, ownership and responsibility amongst your employees as they take on the role of brand ambassadors. You can achieve this by not only identifying but by also rewarding brand-centric behaviors and actions.
It is important to note that to realize your true potentials as a business, you need to effectively and efficiently tackle cultural misalignments and deficiencies by entrenching a culture that reinforces corporate aspirations and a workforce who’s collective and individual behaviors support corporate values and ideals.
*Living the Brand is a proprietary brand acculturation program of Headstart Consulting Limited