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Living the brand - daily

Most brand strategies fail because employees do not 'live' the brand in all their daily work activities. The stumbling block, according to Shukri Cornelius, MD of BTS Africa, is that brand strategies generally fail in the communications effort.

"Although well-intentioned, communications initiatives are generally insufficient in aligning employee behaviour to the brand strategy," explained Cornelius, who said a multi-dimensional approach to brand-building was essential.

"Organisations are often lulled into a false sense of security when their initial brand-building programmes show some encouraging signs of changing the organisation's image. These early successes mask the real - and most important issue - that of fulfilment of the wider ideals of the brand strategy.

"On paper, these ideals - which include getting employees at all levels to change their own behaviours and establish a stronger sense of purpose and a shared sense of direction - look great. The reality is that these ideals are rarely translated into action."

Cornelius says communication is a necessary part of a brand-building effort, but is not sufficient to capture the full benefits of a brand strategy. Using an example from John Kotter's book, Leading Change, he said the average employee in a large organisation received an average 2.3 million words or numbers in internal communication messages over three months. Of that, only 13 400 words related to the organisation's strategic initiatives.

"Most employees simply aren't getting the appropriate level - or type - of interventions that will make them effective champions of the brand strategy," he said.

The key difference between an average corporate brand and a great one lies in the behaviour of the employees, he said.

"Employees who actively and enthusiastically deliver the brand promise every day are at the heart of every successful brand. And serious brand leaders invest time, money and effort in powerful internal brand-based initiatives that empower employees."

He described a typical brand leader as one who scored highly on factors such as agility and innovation. "Brand leaders also score highly on their capability to deploy drivers of brand success, including market and customer research, segmentation and positioning. They are also able to effectively display their corporate assets and the depth and quality of their employees, management and leadership.

"'Brand leaders develop comprehensive and powerful internal strategy-led brand programmes, including executive education efforts, leadership development and change management initiatives," he says.

"Organisations have to be internally aligned to deliver the brand promise through their culture, reward systems, key success activities and structure. However, it's not a simple process. Lectures, workshops and traditional training programmes may illustrate the theory, but they're unlikely to revolutionise employees' work practices on any sustainable basis," he says.

He believes the only way is through discovery and experience. "People learn by doing. Workplace simulations provide the ideal process for developing human capability and organisational capacity to focus on effective delivery of the brand promise.

"Discovery-based learning can be tailor-made to meet the needs of every area of an organisation, from the supply chain to the sales force, from the chairman to the char. Understanding, knowledge and skills are instilled through actual experience, and employees are motivated to use what they've learned to achieve the business goals.

'Brand leaders are brand learners," Cornelius said. "Even with the best intentions and flawless theory, if the brand promise isn't translated into action, it's nothing. To quote David A Aaker, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, "there is nothing more wasteful than building a brand around an empty promise."

Editorial contact

Holland Park Communication Group for BTS Africa

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