Live your brand Featured

1:06pm EDT March 1, 2011
Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

Creating a brand-focused organization shifts it from a commodity to a position of brand preference, which equates to higher marketplace value. Making the brand the central focus of the organization helps employees understand what is on brand and what is not. This is essentially why brand development and brand commitment is a top-down initiative and is the CEO’s job.

It is all about the customer experience

In their book titled “Satisfaction,” authors Chris Denove and James D. Power IV offer research and case studies that prove the impact a great customer experience has on organizations. From their studies, I have developed a simple exercise to help companies determine the impact that improving the customer experience can have on an organization. It is eye-opening. To access that exercise, go to www.brandproblog.com/customer-experience.

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re like most businesses, the majority of your customers are relatively happy, but they have no attachment to your organization. Most companies have a small customer base that is so committed, they would never leave. According to the studies by J.D. Power and Associates, relatively happy customers have a loyalty rate of 40 percent versus committed customers, which have a 70 percent loyalty rate. It speaks volumes when you think about your customer attrition rate and the cost of customer acquisition. If you increased customer loyalty, how would that impact company sales?

As said best by Denove and Power, “Every company says that customer satisfaction is a paramount goal. … In truth, talk is cheap, particularly when it comes to customer satisfaction. … The leaders, like Lexus, Starbucks, Volvo, Nordstrom’s, BMW and Ritz Carlton have made the commitment that goes beyond conversation, below the surface and into actual daily mechanics of doing business.”

Building the culture

Employees need to feel a sense of pride, ownership and personal connection with your company, its brand and its customers. When this occurs, there is energy, excitement, empathy, passion, purpose and conviction. Employees who interface with customers play the lead role in living the brand, but all employees are members of the team and have a role in delivering the brand experience. The goal is to have every person aligned in thinking, speaking and behaving in ways that create the experience and the lasting impact that your brand promises.

There are three primary stages that employees must surpass in becoming advocates of the brand: hearing it, believing it and living it. This translates into observing from you that it is important and why it is important. As leaders, it is our job to keep the brand top-of-mind and to weave it into the fabric of our daily operating procedures. Identify barriers that prevent employees from delivering the brand promise. If you’re not sure what those are, just ask your employees.

Making the commitment

Obviously, there is a lot of work to creating a brand culture and keeping it alive within an organization. So where do you start? I suggest you start with your commitment to embrace the brand as an essential asset of your organization and then become the champion of the brand as you drive it through your organization. Building on and leveraging the brand over the next three to five years should be a part of your strategic plan. Tie the brand to specific financial goals and commit publicly to the brand promise.

Parting thoughts

To operationalize a brand requires a major shift in how the company is run. And, the most important element of bringing a brand-driven culture to life within your organization is your employees. It will require an investment in resources and training, but there is no telling the impact it can have on the future success of your company.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 20-year-old brand development and strategic marketing firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or kborth@greencrest.com, or for more information, visit www.greencrest.com.