My grandfather was a strong-willed, hard-working man who fathered and raised ten children. He lived over 80 years. Later in life, his mind was not as sharp. He would keep his money in his night stand drawer and place his pistol on the money to guard it. His pistol had protected him for decades and it most certainly was going to protect his money. Except that my cousin, whom he raised, regularly stole our grandfather’s money. The gun was the right tool for protection. But, the gun itself does not protect. It must be properly used to perform its function.
Business leaders, too often, treat their brands like my grandfather treated his gun. Business brands are extremely important to the owner’s well-being. Yet, owners often incorrectly use its power. A brand clearly has a job to do. Owners must make sure it does that job! A brand represents the business to the marketplace. So, why do many businesses do a poor job deploying its brand? To get a brand to do its job well, three elements are essential.
For a brand to work properly in representing and nurturing its business, it first needs a sense of identity. Before the brand can perform, the business must answer, “What is the brand’s purpose?” The brand communicates. If your business brand is fast service, then your operation must deliver quickly. A brand that is a low-cost provider, must sell its goods for less. The brand communicates an expectation and the business delivers it. A brand that fails to live up to its claims is literally lying. And, how long do customers really trust a liar? A brand must have a recognizable identity and it must live up to it.
Effective brands have images that are clearly known and associated with the business. The name does not have to describe the business, just be clearly associated with it. In 2016, Apple is the most valuable brand in the world. Their products and services have nothing to do with fruit. But through images, communications, and execution, the brand clearly articulates extremely cool, somewhat pricey, technology. Less prominent businesses have to be more intentional. Being memorable is achieved by communicating exactly what the business does, performing what the business does, then telling the marketplace it just did it. Most importantly, the business must do this repeatedly.
For a brand to be authentic, it requires a two-step process. First make claims that it can easily keep. Next, repeatedly keep those claims. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. The best brands keep their message simple. Then, they benefit from a culture that keeps corresponding actions simple. If Chick-Fil-A says that they are closed on Sunday for religious reasons and have personally pleasant employees, they better do that every time. Chick-Fil-A is authentic because they maintain a culture where stakeholders understand that the operation delivers a really good chicken sandwich from pleasant employees, every day – except Sundays.
Fundamentally, brands have a purpose. They represent businesses to the outside world. Bad brands struggle understanding their own identity, having outsiders recall what they are supposed to be, and being true to whom they claim to be. However, organizational self-awareness allows brands to perform their function properly. Businesses execute most successfully when genuinely reflecting their brand! Successful brands are not what they say. They are partially what they do. Ultimately, successful brands do a great job reflecting what they truly are!
By Glenn W Hunter
Managing Director of Mo Patton Sports, LLC