Brand building from the inside out

Last week I went to a seminar at Aston University on brand building from the inside out.  The speaker was Alan Gilmour, Brand and CRM Consultant at agency Cogent Elliott.  I thought Alan’s talk was really interesting so I wanted to share the notes I furiously scribbled why he was talking:

Firstly what is a brand?

A brand is something that engages us emotionally and rationally. It is a delivered promise, it stands for something, it has a unifying response in all consumers- i.e. people’s responses to the brand should unite them.  For example, how we all feel love for apple- we like to be part of a ‘team’. When I got my iPhone I felt I’d become part of something special that I’d been excluded from before.

So what is your organisation’s brand promise? Do you deliver against it?

A bad ‘people’ experience can wipe out the effect of all the marketing promotions you do so when a customer calls your call centre and has to go through a complicated system to talk to someone that doesn’t know the answer to their problem, it un-does all your communications messages. 

To establish the brand promise and deliver against it, you should ask yourself if your marketing department needs to be more involved and influential in the cross-functional activities that impact on the customer.  If the answer is yes, which I expect it will be, then ask yourself if your colleagues are going to let you in!  And if they won’t let you in, how can you slide your way in?

To deliver the brand promise, organisations need to:

  • Lead from the top.  The CEO must champion the brand and the natural leaders at whatever level they work at, should be leading from within the organisation.
  • Segment your audience and tailor the message.
  • Don’t treat brand engagement like ‘a sheep dip’.  Your organisation’s values cannot be embedded through a workshop or by printing them on a mouse mat.  Embedding the brand takes time and effort.
  • Dramatise the messages and make them different, bring them to life, create ‘stories’.  Alan gave the example of a CEO who went round the office snapping pens that had some old branding on.  This created a legend within the company that brings the need for being on-brand-message to life.
  • Keep it simple- by defining what you are! And what you are not!

To achieve the above you need to change behaviours. To do that you need to look at what influences behaviours (ego, social norms, incentives, commitments etc) and once you’ve understood the influences you need to nudge people in the right direction by stamping out poor behaviours and removing blockages. 

Easily said but how can you really change behaviour? 

It can be done! Check this video out- to encourage more people to take the stairs they were turned into a piano!  Why would you choose the escalator when you can make a tune as you walk?

I thought Alan’s point about removing blockages was really interesting. The DVLA wanted to encourage people to apply for their tax discs online. The policy was that you could only apply for a tax disc up to the 15th of the month the disc was due to run out. They did some research and found this was a barrier so they changed the policy so that you can now have 15 days AFTER your disc runs out to renew it.  Now more people apply online.

Do you need to change policy and processes at your organisation?

Another aspect of changing behaviours is to consider what business you are really in.  For example, Revlon is not in “the makeup industry”, but in the industry of hope.  Re-thinking the offer in this way changes your mind-set and therefore your behaviours.  You can read more about this here.  Could you carry out a staff engagement exercise where everyone gets creative to think about what business your organisation is really in?

Alan mentioned a book called ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler that explores the themes about changing behaviours in more depth. Check it out on Amazon

So, building a brand needs to come from the inside of the organisation.  You may need to change behaviours to make it happen but if you’re successful, you could become one of the brand greats like Apple.

Thank you Alan and Aston Uni for some interesting thoughts.


3 thoughts on “Brand building from the inside out

  1. And thank you for helping to publicise my thinking. And you were obviously listening too!!!! You said it much better than me.

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