Meet the Expert
Founder, Principal Consultant, BrandWorks, LLC
- 23 years experience working and consulting in brand positioning, communication, identity, growth and development.
- Clients have included Johnsonville Sausage, The Hershey Company, Tully's Coffee, The Outdoor Channel, Living.com, Deutsche Post DHL, Corporation Service Company (CSC), Pepsi Foods International, Cadbury Schweppes, Beatrice Foods, Proctor and Gamble, PepsiCo, Nabisco, Miller Brewing Company.
- Strategic focus group moderator and qualitative researcher conducting seminars and workshops in branding, concept development, positioning, and messaging and communication strategy development.
- National marketing director for the Häagen-Dazs Company and senior product manager for Frito-Lay, Inc.
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Developing and Selling Your Brand Internally
Founder, Principal Consultant, BrandWorks, LLC
- Global growth and the need to operate in new geographies requires brand adaptation and well-defined parameters to frame what can, and what cannot be the brand.
- Many brands face different product delivery requirements in different geographic areas. For example, a business known for donuts in its core geographies, but delivering chicken sandwiches in new international markets, has some internal alignment to pursue. While that issue is primarily directed to different consumers, it forces a discussion internally about who and what the brand actually is. The company has a fundamental need to pull employees into the loop and teach them positioning and language and to articulate brand messaging relative to the brand's shifting marketplace and brand architecture on a fairly proactive and continual basis.
- The Internet produces an overwhelming volume of varied messages directed at consumers, but similarly affecting and possibly confusing employees.
- In a dense online space occupied by competing efforts to gain consumers' attention and share of mind, it is crucial for an organization to have its own rallying cry and a simple straightforward brand message for everyone in the company to understand and be able to communicate. Fragmented brand input from a multiplicity of sources easily pulls employees away from brand values and specific appropriate messaging. Employees constantly need to be reeducated to know the brand and sincerely communicate brand value.
The onslaught of communication from a host of self-directed sources can lead to employee dissonance about the brand. Employees have an ongoing need to be assisted in brand ownership by repeatedly redefining the brand truth and reiterating its ideal message.
By the same token, the Internet enhances the company's ability to mine and collect brand feedback from a multitude of sources. Incorporating feedback loops into the company and assessing, then adjusting appropriate input to the brand's identity creates an ever-shifting brand picture. While the company has the advantage of capitalizing on the increasing volume of potentially valuable brand input, it requires constant reevaluation, assimilation and then internal brand training and explaining so that everyone in the company always knows the brand better than anyone outside of the company.
- Companies face challenges when consumers that have historically driven sales volume have adopted beliefs and behaviors that are contrary to the organization's fundamental business.
- In today's environment a number of companies are feeling the pinch of rapidly changing consumer tastes. This is especially true in large packaged goods companies like Kraft Food Group, carbonated soft drinks like Coca-Cola, and fast food franchises, for example, McDonald's. Consumers today are more conscious than ever about healthy eating and that ongoing trend has morphed in the past few years into huge sales losses for a number of organizations. Beyond the impact on sales, stock valuation and investor enthusiasm, changing consumer interest has exposed organizations' overcapacity and positioned them to appeal to activist investors for takeover by private equity firms.
Brands, their equity and identity, will undergo massive shifts if rolled up in a huge acquisition. Businesses that are accumulated in a zero-based budgeting environment must find ways internally to support and propagate the brand's message. As externally-facing budgets dwindle, internal innovative means of brand messaging must be cultivated. Done well, these brands' identity and messaging can be more powerful with greater reach through the use of digital and social media.
In the meantime, the shoring up of brands in companies not yet under attack is ever more crucial. Companies need to determine how to protect their existing brands, as well as how to better compete through new offerings, line extensions and adjustments to current brand franchises in order to address consumers' changing needs and expectations. They also need to engage their employees in the positive strengthening of the brand, its intrinsic value, and how well it is communicated.
Changing competitive environments is relevant for all business categories and the need to strengthen employee-perceived brand equity is increasingly important. As consumers change, company and brand must adapt, and employees need to be engaged positively in the process.
- Companies have begun to embrace the idea that their brand is more than their advertising – it lives larger in the delivery of the customer experience.
- Increasingly, company functions touch the customer experience more than they do marketing or marketplace communications. As such, brand definition does not rest solely in the hands of company executives or the marketing department. Brands, in becoming more interactive with users through the explosion in digital and social media, are now shaped by customers and their experiences more than ever. Consumers on social media present a "validated" viewpoint and often their input carries the weight of truth and trust.
In the world of social media one bad interaction can be broadcast everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, even Instagram can tell the brand's story, both favorably and not. Unfortunately human nature is such that the negative stories and criticisms often rise to the top, and while the good stories do exist and appear, somehow they are less juicy.
The brand needs to be managed at every consumer touch point, and companies need to exploit opportunities for positive customer brand experiences at every turn. Because of all the areas in which brand "talk" will occur in today's increasingly complex selling environment, a real need exists to incorporate public brand input into the brand's sphere and to its messaging.
This is not to suggest that companies set up brand/consumer interactions to favor and support the brand. More important than brand experiences is the need for the brand to be credible, truthful and void of public manipulations. Organizations need to focus very specifically, with planned and exacting guidelines, how to increase positive brand experiences with core consumers.
- As digital/social media displaces traditional forms of brand communication and advertising, companies must ramp up their digital readiness.
- Social media is increasing steadily in multiple areas – in the number of consumers who use it, the number of outlets communicating and the number and significance of the messages flooding our collective visceral space. Companies that have not yet embraced the social media revolution are missing opportunities to reach today's consumers in the ways they want to receive information. If the competition is very social media savvy, the company is at great risk of losing market share if it chooses to not compete in the social media arena. Companies must adapt to and adopt the digital revolution internally or their brands will become irrelevant.
Organizations need to acquire digital skills, defined methodologies and the right partners to enable communication about their brand in ways most relevant to the brand's identity and communication strategy. Employees, in turn, need to be well-positioned to see the brand through the myriad ways it might best capitalize on the rapidly evolving digital platforms that exist today, and that will become, tomorrow.
Developing and Selling Your Brand Internally: Key Trends