How do you strategically ensure that your customers consistently experience your brand positively? Your customers will receive a clear brand message from your company only if your employees’ actions exude your brand. COVID has created a challenging environment for creating that consistent brand experience. But you can orchestrate that clear brand message if you operationalize your brand throughout your company culture.
Your brand message will not be clearly received by your customer if their experiences with your company are not consistent. If your customer receives one message from your advertising and then their experiences with your team contradict those messages, then they will be confused. And confusion kills branding.
Through dozens of interviews with CEOs, I have found that if a company does operationalize their brand, they usually employ only one or two strategies. As a result, most companies do not gain the full benefit of their brand because they do not employ all available strategies to operationalize it. In order of frequency of adoption, here are the four strategies you can use to operationalize your brand.
1. Demonstrate your brand
Many companies adopt the strategy of demonstrating their brand. They model their brand through their interactions with each other and with their customers. They have certain things they believe are important to have in their culture, and they look for that as they hire new employees. But that’s where it stops.
Many companies believe that their new employees will absorb their culture through osmosis. They feel that their culture is good because everyone gets along. And that can be a sign of organizational health—but it’s not always the case. If the people hired are all relatively similar, then they will be more likely to fit the culture. But that won’t work in a more diverse environment.
Unless these companies commit to writing what those demonstrated actions should be, those actions won’t be consistently lived out because the team won’t know what they are. It’s not fair—nor prudent—to assume people’s actions will conform to the norm if they aren’t told what the norm is to begin with.
2. Communicate your brand
The next strategy is to communicate their brand. They have codified values that they want everyone to adhere to in living out the brand. They tell their team what is expected of them when they are hired and they reinforce those values through formal or informal training.
The leadership deliberately trains their people to act in certain ways to reinforce the brand. They want to make sure that everyone on the team understands clearly how they are to work—both independently and collectively—in order to convey the brand message accurately.
There is much greater clarity about behavioral standards in an organization that employs the communicating strategy. The team can conform to the standards when they have clear guidelines, and yet they still miss an opportunity to drive the brand deeper.
3. Celebrate your brand
The next strategy is to celebrate the brand. Companies that employ this strategy not only demonstrate and communicate the brand with their actions and their trainings, they also incorporate the brand into regular points in their organizational calendar to function as consistent reminders.
These companies embed the brand into their annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily activities to emphasize the importance of the brand in everyday actions. They also incorporate the brand in regular contests, events, and (of course) celebrations to underscore the brand message.
Employees at these companies gain the benefit of being immersed in their culture through their regular interactions. People understand the importance of living, teaching, and celebrating the brand because it becomes a regular part of their corporate interactions. And yet companies can make the brand even more a part of their culture.
4. Curate your brand
The last strategy is to curate examples of the brand in action. Companies that curate their brand understand the importance of experiencing the brand and sharing those experiences with their team and their customers. Curating examples of the brand allows others who were not there to see how the brand is designed to be lived, explained, and celebrated.
Companies with this strategy look for and document stories of employees exemplifying their brand. They document those stories and share them with the rest of the team. They also gather stories of customers encountering the brand because these narratives are even more powerful: they exhibit how the brand should be represented and experienced externally.
Brand curation extends the opportunity for you to operationalize your brand further into opportunities for vicarious engagement, so the experience can be retold, relived, and shared. As a result, these stories are useful tools for culture creation in how they underscore in a real life scenario.
The keys to all four of these strategies are intentionality and consistency. It’s important to be intentional about what you demonstrate, communicate, celebrate, and curate. But then it’s equally important to be consistent as you operationalize your brand throughout your culture. By applying these four strategies, you can provide your customer with the experiences they want with your brand—every time.
How many of the four strategies are you employing to operationalize your brand?
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies make ideals actionable.