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The new generation of brands—Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and their ilk—have revolutionalized consumer expectations. Modern buyers expect all brands to follow in the same footsteps, providing seamless experiences and personalized services, all under a banner they know and trust. If a brand says one thing but does another, the digital world allows consumers to call out that hypocrisy and take their business elsewhere.
That truth tells all CMOs what many already know: Marketers cannot manage the enormous responsibility of branding on their own. Every action a company takes reflects on the brand. For businesses to get more value from their brands, going forward they must quit thinking of branding as a marketing-specific budget item and start looking at it as a companywide investment. And the responsibility for making that investment falls on the shoulders of a unified C-suite.
This begins with leaders who understand the responsibility of their business units to contribute to external trust, especially given how today’s social media users actively contribute to the reputations of their favorite brands. Expectations for transparency also are at an all-time high. Brokering and establishing trust takes more than a few days of meetings, too. Executive teams and their departments must embrace their responsibility to engender trust if the brand is to fulfill its purpose.
HR departments might be a CMO’s best friend in this effort. By investing in internal brand ambassadors and developing a culture that reflects the brand’s value, HR leaders can transform a disconnected workforce into a powerful marketing tool. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' famous PowerPoint deck is a prime example of the power HR has in branding. Hastings implored talent managers to "think like businesspeople and innovators first" and to "make sure every employee understands what the company needs most and exactly what's meant by high performance.” The slide deck has been seen by more than 5 million viewers, showcasing HR's role in shaping a brand's public perception.
The product team at Adidas, meanwhile, went green in its attempt to assist with company branding. The footwear brand committed to using recycled beach waste to produce its shoes, positioning itself as a company that environmentally conscious consumers can feel comfortable sporting. Employees who feel more positively about a brand are more likely to speak positively on social media, engage in community service and outreach efforts, and showcase the company as a place that walks the walk.
Not all leaders in the C-suite know much about the branding process. Many will have questions when asked to think more about branding in their operations. CMOs should listen carefully and explain patiently because even the most straightforward questions can provide incredible insight into a company’s brand strategy. The more marketing leaders ask their colleagues why they do what they do rather than just how, the more motives beyond profit will reveal themselves.
Those motives, the "why" of the company, provide all the fuel marketers need to get other leaders on board with branding. Companies today cannot survive by branding themselves as one thing and acting like something else. Only by working together can CMOs and their executive colleagues establish and build cohesive brands to guide their companies forward.