In his 2011 article for HBR, A Logo Is Not a Brand, Dan Pallotta declared: “Brand is much more than a name or a logo. Brand is everything, and everything is brand.” In recent marketing history, it would seem everyone has reached the same understanding, that “branding” is not the same as “brand.
Pallotta expanded “brand” into eight strata. He stated that brand is...
- Your strategy
- Your calls to action
- Your customer service
- The way you speak
- The whole array of your communication tools
- Your people
- Your facilities
- Your logo and visuals, too
His emphasis that really, everything is brand is crucial.
You might have a pretty sale banner that adheres to all the right visual standards, but if it’s sagging and hung up with duct tape, that’s your brand. It says you don’t pay attention to the details. Can you imagine seeing a crooked banner with duct tape in an Apple store? Never. And that’s their brand. It says that the motherboard in the Mac isn’t hanging by a thread either.
It’s an apt demonstration of how, to the consumer, nothing is unimportant and nothing is missed. While you may know that your products are fantastically made, because you’ve seen the R&D team’s dedication, and know the quality of materials, to the outside consumer eye, all they have to go on is their perception of who you are as a company. They can only judge based on the interactions they have with your brand.
So yes, something as small as a crooked banner could undermine the likelihood of them buying your products, no matter how unrelated the two may seem.
Every single touchpoint counts—and the negatives can hold as much sway as the positives. You need to be creating a cohesive customer experience, with no room for off-putting hurdles as they follow your brand journey. In order to achieve this level of brand cohesion, the experience needs to be consistent across the whole company.
That said, it’s also essential that a brand is decisive and streamlined. Apple is so great because they know who they are—minimal, sleek, techy—and they don’t try to be anything else. Too many voices are unhelpful to creating a cohesive feel across a business, and any confusion or overloading of qualities will be noticed by customers. So while the brand experience needs to cut across the company as a whole, deciding on what that will be needs to be limited to the key stakeholders.
Below we explain which key stakeholders should be included in the process of deciding brand, why, and what you should expect from them.
Your CEO is a crucial piece of the jigsaw for a number of reasons. The experience and strategic nouse that have got them to the top of the hierarchy will stand them in good stead to contribute ideas on the overall direction of the brand.
They preside over the whole company, meeting regularly with the board, which means theyhave a top level view of the company as a whole. Not only will they be equipped with a true feel of the whole business, but they’ll know what can realistically be achieved in terms of budget and capacity.
They ought to give final approval, to ensure whatever pieces of the brand have been decided further down the chain fit into the overall vision.
Finally, in some companies the CEO and the brand will intermingle, and possibly eclipse one another. Take Facebook, for example. Mark Zuckerberg’s name is synonymous with the company; our perceptions are coloured by The Social Network, a film about his life; when Facebook was on trial earlier in the year, Zuckerberg was on trial. It’s hard to think of one without the other: everything Zuckerberg says or does gets tied to Facebook, and vice versa.
Nowadays, with thought leadership such a huge part of marketing—most often with CEOs being the thought leaders—they speak on behalf of the brand, and the brand is shaped by who they are. Not only do they need to be completely aware of exactly what the brand is that your company’s trying to project, but they need to help shape it because they’re a crucial part of it.
While the CEO may well be a good mouthpiece of the brand, and have the final say, the person who will be overseeing the fleshing-out of the brand vision, and day-to-day implementation, is the CMO.
The CMO needs to own brand. This is their primary jurisdiction, and as such, they need to make sure they know it inside out, and work effectively to make the brand excel. The CMO needs to be thinking about high level messaging and the brand’s core narrative.
From here they can effectively strategise brand guidelines, campaigns, events and content, ensuring that everything is inline with the direction they’ve agreed with the CEO. It’s important they take responsibility for creating briefs for other teams and agencies, and that they communicate regularly with them. Since they have access to what other teams are working on, they need to facilitate cohesion across different areas.
This is where frameworks, templates and brand guidelines are a CMO’s best friend. Messaging templates to ensure emails are on brand, for example, can be given to the content team, the events team, and the customer services team to ensure that whatever department consumers are touching base with, they’re receiving a similar experience.
Roxanne Taylor, CMO at Accenture is clear on the need for CMOs to involve themselves in all areas of the business, and take responsibility for ensuring the brand is acting in unison no matter which part a consumer encounters.
“Chief marketing officers are experiencing a renaissance. Digital disruption has flipped the tables on customer relationships, introducing a glut of new channels and competitors that are making it harder to break through the “noise”.
Future growth hinges on a differentiated customer experience and tighter client relationships that connect the entire organization. Looking ahead, CMOs must have a deep understanding of customers, behaviors and market trends — and, ultimately, become the “glue” to drive needed transformation through all parts of their organizations.
They must also prioritize data-driven insights to fuel growth. The CMO is no longer just the chief client evangelist or head of digital. They have evolved and must go beyond their “traditional” role and responsibilities to drive revenue growth that brings tangible ROI.
Marketing is a critical business function in this environment of rapid disruption. The payoff: an opportunity to outperform peers and potentially achieve 2-3x greater revenue growth.”
This chance at such growth can only happen if the CMO has a full picture of their customer, which their Insights Team can help them achieve.
The Insights team need to take responsibility for brand from the ground up. They should be directly communicating with consumers at all times, and feeding back what they learn.
Ultimately, a brand is nothing, if consumers don’t see it the way you intend. If you want your brand to be ‘established and upmarket,’ but consumers see it only as ‘out-of-date and overpriced,’ then your brand as you’ve conceived of it doesn’t exist.
Operating in an echo chamber, while it may be comforting, is ultimately useless. The Insights Team are your brand’s chance to ensure what you decide upon in the boardroom is translating in your adverts, your shops, and your website.
Ensure your Insights Team are basing their findings on data that is representative, and constantly updating itself. To talk to Attest about starting a constant feedback loop with your consumers, click here.
It’s useful not only in terms of finding out exactly what’s working at the moment, but you can creative test all future campaigns, and also talk to people who aren’t currently in your customer base, to find out what you need to do to expand and grow.
This is where the traditional associations we have with ‘brand’ come into play. And from a consumer perspective, these are no small matter. While a customer’s overall feeling about a brand will be made up of the various fragments that contribute towards an interaction, the look of a brand will probably be what comes to mind first when asked to think about them.
You only have to think about how angry people get when a beloved company changes their logo to something that feels out-of-step with the brand, to understand just how much of a role the design team plays in creating a company’s aura.
The internet was outraged when Gap changed from classic, to technological. A neuromarketing company, NeuroFocus, even conducted a study to explain why people’s brains expressed chemical outrage at the change.
Depending on the business, the design team will be crucial to the fundamental value of the product, and therefore the company. For a fashion brand, or even something like an upmarket food brand, much of the value of the items comes from brand look. There is huge markup on designer clothes, for example, and Tyrells can sell crisps for much more than Walker’s can simply because their brand has been designed to look more expensive.
The design team will also be where the most artistically-gifted of the company are found, and so their views need to be heeded because—particularly in this age of window displays, social media friendly shop fronts, and highly visual website interfaces—if something doesn’t look right, it’s unlikely to take off.
Even a brand like Amazon, whose website is famously ugly, has clearly been designed with brand in mind. They stand for utility, and no-nonsense convenience; their website projects exactly that.
The sales team should be included for the simple reason that they deal with customers on a day-to-day basis. Ensure you have an excellent feedback channel established, so that they can log the hurdles they’re running into, the messaging that does and doesn’t work, and the nuggets of information they glean about the brand from what’s being said on the shopfloor (or B2B equivalent!).
Through the inclusion of your classic inside sales team (for B2B), your eCommerce team (for B2C), or your store managers (for retailers), you’ll get the low-down on where the holes are in your current brand, and what’s not translating. It’s the perfect starting point for a discussion on what you still need to work on.
Morrison’s is one brand who optimises their shop floor feedback into company wide strategy. Drew Kirk, their Fruit and Veg director, explains one such change.
“We’ve listened to customers concerns about using plastic bags for fruit and vegetables and that is why we are bringing back paper bags. There’s more work to do, but this step will mean we prevent 150m bags from being used in our stores every year.”
It’s small edits like this that may not be considered in boardroom strategy plans, but make more difference on the ground to the user experience.
Head of People
Finally, the Head of People function needs to ensure that the brand you create is lived and breathed across the company. How do you operationalise brand strategy in all areas of your organisation so that everyone is trained in how to carry them out?
For brand to succeed, internal comms need to be fluid and constant. Brand handbooks are a good idea, and internal branding in offices, documents, and company goods can help to make people feel they’re part of a cohesive union.
That said, the brand itself needs to be spot on in the first place for this to work. Does your brand connect to your existing company’s values or will it jar? If your brand isn’t a natural extension of your company’s existing vision and values, it’s much less likely to succeed. It will need more explicit education and retraining to actually take hold across the culture.
This is why it’s crucial to have the Head of People involved from the get-go. Understand your employees, and make sure your brand’s in line with who they are. Do this, and you can make your People function work amazingly for your brand. Create company social accounts and snapchat, Insta story or Twitter story life in the office, team events, and company highs! If you make sure the brand’s in line with the people, in turn, the people can become your brand.
Hootsuite’s Instagram is all about giving people a glimpse into what fun it is to work for the company. It’s vibe is the epitome of ‘sociable’, which is what Hootsuite’s all about.
Brand is so much more than just branding, but that should be an exciting prospect rather than a daunting one. Remember, brand shouldn’t be created by one person at the top of the tree. Done this way, it will inevitably feel like an overwhelming task, and the results will be unlikely to resonate with broad swathes of the population. Tap into the expertise of these six different people (or teams) and let their collective brain power help you forge something representative and unified.
Finally, if all these people contribute to building the brand, they’ll know it inside out, and have the confidence and passion to live it and spread it far and wide.
If you’re looking for tools and frameworks to kick-start your brand strategy, we’ve got you covered with these 6 tried-and-tested tools and frameworks.
And to ensure your conversations are built on real consumer insight and data - from testing the new look and feel of your brand, to understanding how consumer attitudes are changing - Attest’s scalable intelligence platform is here to help.
Get in touch with us to ensure consumers are as on board with your brand as you are!