Andrew Stothert, Founder, alignment specialists Brand Vista lists the best 10 lessons the company has learnt over the past 10 years.
1. Differentiation demands innovative and penetrating research techniques
If you seek genuine differentiation then you have to go beyond questioning your customers and staff, you have to interrogate them using innovative and penetrating research techniques. If you are using the same research as your competitors then it is unlikely to help you differentiate from them. The right work will also help you unlock where you can take the brand and what you have to do to get there.
2. Mind the Gap
Understand the gaps in your game that your customers see, and are kind enough to point out. Your staff will also see these so you will need to speak to them as well at this stage. The insight you gain from point 1 should help you begin to close the gap between the promises you are making and what actually happens when customers encounter your service.
3. Develop your vision to truly differntiate
Once you have the knowledge and insight that defines the landscape ahead of your brand, make sure you develop a vision for you brand that differentiates not just through words but that drives behaviours. Brand values are vital tools in helping your team understand on and off brand behaviour.
4. Get the top table on board
The development of the brand vision must be done at the highest level and across a number of functional responsibilities as Brand Alignment is a trans-organisational journey.
Having the senior management team as a part of the vision team is “not just a matter of life and death it’s more important than that” (to paraphrase one Mr R Shankley), as without their buy in and vision it will be impossible to deliver the brand.
All the arguments to getting it right at this stage will be time well spent in the long run and help ensure that the brand contributes to the business objectives in the same way as any other operational asset.
5. Walk the walk
Walking the walk is essential and the team will know if the top table are committed to the brand, not through what they say but by what they do, the most powerful communication medium available.
One thing we have found to be totally true is that “you can’t stop the insides leaking out” no matter how hard you try. In fact those businesses that are really well aligned love the insides leaking out as it makes the brand infectious internally, and therefore for customers.
We know from evidence we have gathered from a number of different brand alignment projects that your staff spot mis-alignment very early on, often before the customers and certainly before the accountants.
6. Stay in touch with your customers
Are the products and style of service really what your customers want or are they more about what you want to provide. Facing facts is often very hard but the ever changing pace of life today says that products and services can fall behind the pace of the market, and have a significant impact on the brand. Customers will not wait, they expect you to be able to know what they want, so you have to stay in touch, experiment, challenge and evolve, just to stay still.
7. Stay in touch with your people
Engaging, inspiring, explaining and exciting your people is essential to deliver a successfully aligned brand. They have stopped listening to your word, looking at your notice boards or reading your email, they are watching your actions.
If you say one thing and do another, why shouldn’t they behave like that? Stay in touch with them, help them deliver the brand and get excited about it, you may just find it becomes infectious.
8. Align your internal communications
Aligning your communication channels internally and externally is a huge challenge in today’s connected society, but you have to find a way of doing it. Internally seek out the natural media channels not just the most convenient, understand where formal and informal communication takes place and the different types of conversations that go on in both.
9. Enable your people to deliver
Just asking your people to deliver the brand and its values is almost always not enough; you have to enable them to do so. Removing the barriers to getting on brand wherever you can, sharpening up and improving the way work gets done, improving those processes that are critical to the delivery of the brand and putting in their place stream lined ways of working
10. Measure the right things
Measurement is key to not just the Holy Grail of ROI but to help build momentum in the alignment of the brand, showing people the progress being made, the wins, and the greater customer satisfaction.
Use it to do better business and make it a part of your MI system – in other words take your customer into the boardroom with you and get people to understand if you do what you say you are going to do it tends to result in happy customers who may well feel happy to repeat the experience.
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