Most companies assign the responsibility of managing and defining the brand identity to the marketing or communication team. As a result, these teams will define branding guidelines and policies everyone needs to follow strictly; however, are these in line with your company culture? And don’t you lose authenticity in your content because of these?
And the most critical question is, can these rules adapt quickly to changing market conditions?
Brand management by control
In the first place, the brand identity should reflect how people feel, think and act within a company. So, if you have done the brand identity exercise correctly, your staff will breathe and live your brand without any need for control, policies or rules. It grows organically, and you don’t have to make any special efforts or give any pieces of training for it. It’s just the way your company is and acts: the culture.
Nonetheless, companies often make the marketing or communication team responsible for the company and employer branding identity and messages. The only way they can coop with this though responsibility is by applying control:
- They hire an external party to help them define and visualise the company’s brand identity. Writing out a briefing with values they think would look great for the company, without checking in with the staff, partners, customers and community how they feel and think about the company and what actions they believe it represents. Preferably the company is represented as the ideal one.
- They conduct competitors positioning research and focus too much on differentiating it enough from the competitors. The main focus is the market leader, forgetting this giant can spend millions on marketing and advertising budget.
- They summarise everything in a fancy brand guideline that dictates how you should use the visuals, colours and messaging. Or a brand policy to which everyone has to live up to, whether you like it or not. The team reviews every piece of content before it is published to ensure no unwanted messages go out.
Why keeping control over your brand is a bad idea
Brand management by control is not the best way forward because of many reasons:
- If you force your staff to apply consistent messaging that shows the brand /company as ideal, this can also shoot you in the foot, as we’ve seen with Volkswagen. If your company acts differently than it is, this will soon be discovered and gives negative publicity. Also, when you set higher expectations than what the company can perform or offer, the customer, partners, staff and community will be very disappointed, resulting in a bad brand reputation and perception. Which is precisely the opposite of what we want, right?
- Next to this, control kills the motivation and creativity of your employees to do personal or employee branding. The results: they will not write about or promote your company. The marketing and communication team will have to create all the content themselves or hire a copywriter. And, as you staff will not talk to friend and family about your company, you will have to create all the brand awareness yourself. Otherwise, nobody will know your company.
- The marketing or communication team mostly sends out messages about how good their product is. No offence, but this messaging builds no emotional connection at all with your customers, partners, (future) staff or community. Why would they care about your brand or company? What’s in it for them?
- Often, one famous face - mostly the founder or the CEO - of the company evangelises your brand or company. However, if this person leaves, you will need to rebuild your brand and company image from scratch with a new famous face. It’s much better to have all stakeholders being engaged and organically contributing to your vision, no?
Apply agile brand management instead of control
Always stay close to yourself. This means your brand identity always needs to be in line with your company culture, mission and vision:
- Your brand’s purpose or reason for being, what it stands for, the higher cause you want to reach together with your stakeholders.
- Your fundamental brand values, what makes your brand unique, how do you do things your way. Make sure your values are authentic to the natural behaviour in your company. Don’t act or speak about values that you are not/don’t have.
- Your brand attributes: how you act and differentiate yourself from others, your unique characteristics and personality, and how you show yourself to the world.
Ask your marketing and communication team to facilitate the brand identity exercise and get all the stakeholders around the table. Let them stimulate the staff, clients, and community to share their knowledge and experiences, be authentic, dare speak up for their opinions, and be transparent.
- How is your internal company culture? How would your staff describe the company’s values, purpose and personality?
- How do your customers, partners and community see your brand? What higher cause do you want to reach for with them? Do they acknowledge you for it?
- How do your competitors position themselves? Can you clearly distinguish your brand from them? What makes you unique?
Next to this, make sure your brand identity is flexible and scalable.
- The marketing and communication team could facilitate even more by giving the staff, customers, partners, and community the support they need and request, such as:
- Offer a guideline they could follow but don’t have to.
- Talk about their fears and risks to expose their opinions.
- Trust them; give them the autonomy to do this.
- Give your staff, customers, partners and community the autonomy to write a personal post without the need to review it repeatedly by the marketing or legal team. This will encourage them to communicate inclusively. Also, did you know there is a direct correlation between individual posts and brand awareness/engagement?
- Completely give up on control over your brand and foresee a good crisis communication plan for when it would get out of hand, and you feel the need for security.
- Learn from mistakes, adapt where needed. Celebrate successes.
- Embrace continual change. Make sure your resilience is in good shape, and you work according to agile principles.
What’s in it for you?
First of all, engaging your staff and trusting them to contribute to your brand identity with personal or employee brand messages without the reviewing process will lead to happy employees. Employees reflect this happiness in their messages and actions, which leads to satisfied customers, partners and communities. And as a result, your company will earn more revenue out of it. Also, allowing your staff, customers, partners and community to take brand ownership will build loyal, long-term relationships.
Next to this, you’ll have lower operational costs as everyone becomes a content writer for your company — no need for expensive brand campaigns, external brand agencies or copywriters to get the job done.
Most importantly, your brand and company get more in the picture in an authentic way, which leads to higher brand awareness and perception with your future employees, customers, partners and communities. Staying true to your values makes you original, and nobody can claim you are not acting like yourself. It’s who you truly are as a company.
To summarise, applying agile brand management positively impacts the company, the stakeholders and even the readers. So why wouldn’t you do it? Try it out. If you need guidance or mentoring, don’t hesitate and reach out to me.
I hope you enjoyed my blog article about agile branding. My next article will focus on agile marketing. Keep an eye on our website or subscribe to our RSS feed to get a notification once published.
Some book tips about agile, personal and employee branding
If I triggered your interest in agile brand management and personal or employee branding, I highly recommend reading the following books.