Does your brand fail at the execution level?

So often, companies invest heavily in a brand, including hiring a skilled agency to help. Yet the brand never gains traction. Why?

For the most part, branding is seen as a job for the marketing team to handle with support from the C-suite. But that support is often shallow and fleeting. It may entail a few memos to all employees or perhaps a video about the new brand. Some companies may even have a festive brand celebration with tchotchkes and signature cocktails.

Seldom do we see the C-suite keep hammering home the importance of the brand after the initial launch. And since branding task forces are almost never made up of senior executives from finance, legal, R&D, engineering, HR or manufacturing, much of the company is clueless about how the new brand applies to them. If you want your brand to take hold as more than great messaging and a new visual identity, here are some steps to take:

Allow enough time to develop a comprehensive brand.
Twelve to eighteen months is often the timeline to get all stakeholders involved at a meaningful level. If you are a smaller, nimbler company, you may be able to do it faster.

Engage your CEO upfront about what it will take to develop a new brand and execute on every level.
Have the CEO select key executives and notify them that they must take the time to be part of the effort. Make sure everyone in the company knows the CEO is personally tracking the branding effort.

Don’t assume you know your audience.
Invest in external research that can be done without breaking the bank. Don’t be bullied by long-term employees who say they know what their customers think. Customers change, the economy changes, technology changes. You have to keep asking what is working.

Set up a plan.
Have each part of the company report back on how they are executing on the brand. The final reports should be presented live so your executive team can hear the details and ask questions.

Don’t stop with the rollout plan for the new brand.
Have quarterly updates throughout the life of the brand. Consistently reinforce the brand in all internal meetings and share successes.

Give brand awards to those who execute on the brand at an exceptional level.
These awards should be given year-round and be something your people care about, not just plaques. Make it something meaningful, particularly to hourly employees, where a gift card or a new piece of technology can make a real difference.

The bottom line is that branding will never work if it is embraced and understood only by the sales and marketing teams. Every single person who touches the brand has to understand his or her role in executing it. For example, if your promise of value is innovation but you don’t embrace technology in your accounting department, the brand suffers. If your brand is about exceptional service but your shipping department is rigid on how things move through the system, the brand suffers. If your brand is about teamwork but your sales team sells things engineering can’t deliver, your brand suffers.

Every single person who touches the brand has to understand his or her role in executing it.

Rebranding can be a powerful business driver. But the entire company needs to invest time and energy for it to work.

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