The Inside Story of the
Brand Building 80/20 Rule

Marketing professionals’ perspective on brand is twisted which ties their brand- building ideas up in knots. This perspective shows its limitations when marketers attempt to convince senior management of the strategic importance of building a strong brand and of course providing more resources in support of the idea. Every senior executive understands the business benefits of being the “brand of choice.” However, many executives have a different perspective than marketers on how strong brands are built.

Many executives intuitively believe that becoming brand of choice is 80% excellent execution by the entire organization and 20% marketing. These leaders are convinced that allocating more marketing resources is not the answer to building a stronger brand. Generally speaking, executives believe that employing a competent marketing team supported with a marketing budget that meets industry best practices is a reasonable commitment to support the 20% of brand-building impact. What’s missing for many executives are the practical leadership tools to act on their intuition about the 80%.

Savvy executives instinctively understand that their organization’s strong, aligned culture is the authentic strength of its brand. More precisely executives believe that employees’ passion for how their authentic culture makes a difference for customers is the fuel for the brand. Developing a set of leadership tools that strengthens the vitality of the culture’s link to customers is the executive’s itch that’s looking to be scratched.

Marketing leaders are staring at a big brand-building opportunity, but it will take a new perspective to become recognized as the organization’s brand leader.

Unleashing the Power of the Brand Inside Your Organization

As an innovative marketer you understand that a new perspective on brand building is in order. The new perspective starts with the notion that you and your team are not the only brand-smart ones in the room. It’s the opposite; as an enlightened marketer you understand that brand-building know-how and enthusiasm resides throughout the organization. Brand building in this larger context is brand with an uppercase B, versus the lowercase b version, where brand is constrained to the marketing team. Identifying and energizing the brand power that resides in the culture is at the core of your “new” brand management strategy.

Brand building is a collaborative effort that needs the leadership you can provide. Your professional understanding of brand is a necessary ingredient to guide the collaboration that will unleash the power of the brand-building energy residing throughout the organization. By focusing on the following four key activities you can scale up the brand-building potential of the 80%, making your 20% direct contribution be even more effective.

  1. Create a Broader Understanding. Help executives understand the principle of the brand-building “iceberg.” Understanding the “brand inside,” represented by the part of the iceberg below the surface, is the most important driver of sustainable brand strength. The brand outside in the marketplace, the part of the iceberg above the surface, represents you and your team’s responsibility to make sure the market gives the culture credit for its outstanding qualities and the difference it makes for customers. Learn more about the iceberg metaphor here. In addition, you can help executives and other leaders understand the core principles of brand, e.g., the power of perceptions; the brand strength requirements of being perceived as being distinctive, relevant and consistent; the power of making a discernable difference.
  2. Define Brand Platform. One of the largest untapped brand-building opportunities is defining the brand of the organization in practical terms that everyone in the organization can understand and connect with on their terms. Typically, marketers, like you, define the dimensions of your organization’s brand to support effective marketing communications. The rest of the organization needs to clearly understand the brand in terms that will enable them to personally relate to the brand and guide their everyday behaviors. You can lead the leadership team to clearly articulate the brand’s authentic qualities and values and how they show up for customers.
  3. Align Leadership Team. It’s no surprise that aligning the leadership team is a very important step in energizing the culture to build a strong brand. Brand building is guided and inspired by the actions and words of leaders. There are two things you can do to engage the leadership team in your organization to embrace internal brand building. The first part is providing leaders with a practical understanding of the connection between culture, leadership and brand building. Secondly, taking leaders through a leadership development exercise that facilitates leaders to personally identify with the values of the organization’s brand and simulate leadership actions that support internal brand building.
  4. Engage the 80%! The true brand-building potential resides with everyone inside the organization and personally engaging them is at the heart of sustainable brand building. By collaborating closely with HR you can develop an integrated organizational development program that helps every employee personally identify with the values of the brand. Included in this process is a professional development process that helps employees personally identify with the organizational brand’s values and simulate behaviors that support and expand the brand’s potential to make a bigger difference for customers. To ensure the long-term success of internal brand building your collaboration with HR needs to be an on-going team effort – that ranges from recruitment to performance management. Internal brand building is not a single initiative with a start and stop time frame. An effective, on-going internal brand building is the lynchpin to ensure the vitality of the authentic qualities of the culture and that make a distinctive difference for customers.

You have the opportunity to elevate your status as a strategic leader in your organization, all it takes is expanding your perspective on brand building and delivering on the four key internal brand building activities, described above, that will engage and inspire the 80%. If you are up for it, executives will be all ears!

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