Today’s economy is characterised by product commoditisation and customer disloyalty. The most successful companies are transforming into service companies, being demand-led, not production-led.
Premium positioning, superior preference and enhanced loyalty can only be gained through an advantageous reputation or image, derived through experience, not just communications. The reality of delivery shapes brand reputation – making employee actions and behaviours, not marketing communications, the key conduit for creating (and delivering) uniquely relevant customer experiences and uniquely compelling customer expectations.
Employees are responsible for meeting business goals not by ‘doing my job, my way,’ but by recognising that their job is to delight and satisfy customers – in a manner which is unique to their organisation. An indistinct reputation is no reputation.
Brand Engagement is the process of bringing the organisation, its policies, processes and people into alignment with brand values, so they are geared around meeting customer needs.
This is not shallow internal marketing, nor dry process re-engineering. It is a communications led commitment to establish ways of working which deliver customer value and enrich brand reputation. It is a means by which differentiated behaviour is understood, welcomed and acted out as ‘the way we work around here.’ The process is designed to manage change by building awareness, understanding and acceptance, and then reinforcing and sustaining it over time.
A four-phase process – Prepare, Launch, Internalise and Reinforce – takes an organisation through this change cycle.
For most people, change of almost any type, not just branding programmes, will typically meet resistance. Employees must buy into their brand through individualised communications, which make the issues relevant to them and actively solicit their feedback and involvement. Ultimately change must be institutionalised: behaviours must be mapped out, monitored and measured, requiring revision to job profiles, working procedures and protocols.
We can map and measure the relationship between ‘our values’ and customer satisfaction – the link is our behaviour. We can all agree that it makes sense to adapt personal behaviours to meet customer demands. It’s better to greet an irate customer with calm efficiency than with anger. We can further agree that the process of engaging employees in customer-orientated behaviours needs to be interactive – bought into, not beaten into.
But the tricky bit is agreeing how you join up the potentially conflicting agendas – my personality, my customer’s needs and our brand values. How can you reconcile brand differentiation with customer relevance and employee’s individuality?
The answer is in the shift from the first person singular to first person plural. We are all – like ducks – social animals. Our needs include the desire to be part of and take pride in communities, to join energies with like minded others, to gather around shared principles to co create distinctive cultures.
We’re not asking people to subvert their personalities to the ‘brand’ and we’re not asking people to hymn the corporate song or slavishly recite a mantra. We are inviting people to appreciate being part of something bigger is inspiring, not intimidating, and the differentiation is crucial, not cosmetic.
If you’d like to chat to our team about your brand, do get in touch on +44 (0) 1133 365 365 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org