Thursday, February 26, 2009

Be a brand fanatic, not a brand lunatic

For an organization’s brand to successfully make its mark on the world, the people who work inside the organization must be fanatically devoted to it. This means that everybody needs to make a commitment to do three things:

1. Demonstrate the brand’s values in everything they do
2. Tell the brand’s story or message when they talk about the organization
3. Visually display images that are consistent with the brand

This can be difficult for people to adhere to, especially when we are talking about a large organization that has a variety of offices and distinct subcultures associated with each. Very naturally, each of these groups sees themselves as distinct and wants to be recognized for what it does. But at the end of the day, if the strategy of the organization is to create awareness around the unified brand (sometimes companies or agencies choose to promote their components rather than the parent), then the employees within distinct subcultures must rise above their day-to-day affiliations and make a decision that they represent the organization as a whole.

This is where the role of the brand function comes in. The people within the organization whose job it is to establish, protect, and promote the brand need to rally the employees around the chosen identity. It is their job to make sure that everybody in the company becomes a raving fanatic about the brand – is so proud to be affiliated with the brand that they themselves practice “brand discipline” in their behaviors, words, and so on.

A word of caution though: Sometimes brand fanatics can turn into brand lunatics. These are the people who are also known as “the brand police.” They seem to be forever looking for the slightest infraction of the brand, not focusing on engaging people but rather on rebuking them. When brand lunatics take hold, enthusiasm for the brand wanes, as people feel forced into complying with it rather than carried along on a tidal wave of enthusiasm to build something amazing in a very collaborative, collective way.

It is not always easy to walk the line between enthusiasm and overdoing it. But it is important to do so in order to preserve the organization’s overall brand health. Because at the end of the day, the brand is only as good as the employees who willingly support it.