Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Poking staff with a hot iron isn't branding. (Give staff a voice! Part 10 of 10)

Branding your cattle is as simple as heating an iron and then applying to their skin leaving a permanent mark. So why is branding so hard for an org and it's staff?

I think it is because branding is misunderstood. I think Seth Godin says it best in this post:

define: Brand
Here's my definition: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. A brand's value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.
A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand. If you’ve never heard of it, if you wouldn’t choose it, if you don’t recommend it, then there is no brand, at least not for you.
If you hear a designer say this (believe it or not, I didn't make this quote up), “A TCHO Chocolate bar, with its algorithmic guilloche patterns, looks like a modern form of currency. “Modern” was always part of the brand brief — no faux traditionalism, but resolutely forward-looking for a new generation of chocolate enthusiasts...” then I wonder if there’s a vocabulary disconnect.
Design is essential but design is not brand.

Understanding branding is not enough. You have to create ways to influence each part of the brand that Seth defined: expectations, memories, stories and relationships.  

You have to work to balance your desire to control or manage your brand while enabling your staff to influence it. But your staff WILL influence your brand whether you help them do it or not. In many ways your staff are your brand.
I think back to some of rebranding that I have been a part of. I was told what the brand is. I was told what to say as a staff person. It was made clear to me that only the leadership team was smart enough to define our brand. My job was to only carry out the orders and stick to the company line.

Some of those things are necessary during a rebrand. But telling someone what the brand is won't change anything until they feel it, support it and become a part of it.

Sorta like a new recipe. You can tell everyone that it is good, even that it is the best. But how can you know until you try.  And even after you try, you may not agree.

Here are the basic steps that I would suggest (most of which you have already started if you read my other posts in this series)

  1. Monitor all communications about your brand from your audience and from your staff
  2. Publish a set of guidelines to direct brand communications, see this AWESOME article from NTEN about creating a philosophy!
  3. Provide constructive feedback and positive encourage on all staff brand communications (as much as possible)
  4. Create metrics to inform your efforts
  5. Spend time reviewing, sharing and reflecting on the outcomes from the metrics.

Managing a brand is not a simple task, but it needs to be done.  Good luck!

For some further reading on this topic, here is a recent article from Mashable! (if you consider 2010 recent, but just shows this isn't new stuff)

Thanks for reading all of my posts in the series of giving staff a voice. (if you did)

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