There is a disconnect.
As a brand consultant, one of the main things I find is a disengagement between the employees of an organisation and an organisations brand values. In most cases I come across, the values are produced by leadership or marketing teams but they don’t mean much to the average member of staff. They are words written on paper. They don’t ladder up or down to anything meaningful.
This is a problem. If the brand is designed to stand for something in the customer's mind yet employees don’t ‘get it’ then customers can begin to have undesirable experiences.
Your Employee Experience (EX) affects your Customer Experience (CX).
Branding is not just marketing.
Another issue I stumble into is that branding often sits with Marketing teams. However, a brand is not simply a marketing tool. It is a leadership and HR tool too. Brand strategy has to be inside and out. I’d argue it has to be inside before it goes out - else it becomes simply a veneer. A claim which is untruthful. A hoax. And in today's social media-fuelled world you will be found out.
Your brand strategy is wider than simply marketing. It should help the business make decisions, innovate and create experiences that both customers and staff crave. It links to operations. It links to leadership. It links to HR.
Brand values are often set by one of these groups (Leadership / HR / Marketing) but then not connected to much else.
HR teams are having to go out onto social media platforms to attract talent. They are being tasked with creating cultures where people want to work. These are brand strategy subjects. These activities mean that the businesses ideas around branding need to accommodate behaviours and culture - not simply advertising slogans, packaging, marketing, fonts, colours and logos.
But how does it all fit together?
How can brand values be used effectively as a tool to fuse both the internal culture to the external customer?
As this is a problem I have been coming across year after year, this is a question that’s been on my mind for a while now. I’ve been running brand workshops with leadership teams for the last ten plus years and so I’ve used many of the traditional methods. However, apart from being a rough guide, I struggle to see how they really connect people within an organisation to the meaning the brand wants to have in peoples minds outside of the organisation.
So I’ve been busy. Developing and testing a method I’ve called the “Brand Proof Point Mapper”. It builds on traditional models but with two important differences. It forces you to see how the values you set work both without AND within. It’s been developed to help solve these tensions between those focused on what the brand looks and feels like from a customer perspective and those who are focused on how that should translate internally. Also, it is designed to help leaders focus on results. Values should not be a series of words on paper but lived and experienced. This tool helps leaders to align around the meaning of the value and how they translate from theory to real life.
The brand proof point mapper tool
A few weeks ago I revealed this tool on LinkedIn. I'd been working on it and using it in workshops with my clients. It caused a minor stir and I got a lot of positive feedback from businesses of all shapes and sizes - some public and some private (*thanks to all those who have begun to use the tool and given me their thoughts*). I thought I’d share it here in more detail.
Like all good tools, it’s simple. It assumes work has been done on setting (or if you have an established business uncovering) your brand values. It assumes these are values which you want customers to attach to the brand as well as members of staff. It assumes leadership is aligned behind them. It assumes these values are what you wish to stand for and hold yourselves accountable for as you fulfil the vision of the brand.
The values are listed down the centre column. To the left, there are spaces for you to list out what you would want customers to experience or see in order to prove that the brand really does live into that value. What proof is there or could there be? What evidence is there that there brand values this? What should the customer experience to indicate this?
To the right of the centre, column is another column which is there to list out what you would want employees to experience or exhibit in order to prove that the brand really does live into that value. What behaviours are expected of staff which could show this value being lived? What evidence would there be? What type of thing would we celebrate and reward because that employee has become a living example of our brand?
In the far right and far left there is also another column. This is the proof that you want potential clients and potential employees to witness about your values. For example, if we value “fun” then we would expect potential employees to witness current employees posting on their social media about the “fun” they are having at work. This would be proof of this value being lived.
How to use the Brand Proof Point Mapper
As most readers of my content will know I’m a champion of agile strategy. Of getting the right people in the room to make decisions. Of getting leaders and champions of customers and culture together as a multi-disciplined group to work on big questions. Tie together Marketing and HR. Tie together your inside focused and outside focused people. Align. This is a tool for such an occasion.
Get your multi-disciplined team in a room. Present the current values. Split the group and get them to brainstorm ideas for each of the values both internally and externally.
Get the group back together and share ideas.
From here select the best examples and identify if the pieces of evidence are currently being exhibited or if they are desired. If they are desired then you will need to work on a change management action plan to put things in place to build these out.
The good thing about this tool is it ensures the values are not just theories that can be taken or left. They are outcomes. They become results. They become a leadership tool which helps to show where effort and focus need to be added and they become ways of gathering brilliant stories to lift moral.
Talking this tool further. Once you are clear on what kind of proof points you desire to see to evidence the brands values, the next step is to put in place routines which gather data to check if they are actually happening.
How could we measure and “prove” the proof points are being met?
Simple customer and employee surveys asking about the proof points (and not the values themselves) is the key. Focus on the outcomes and the results.
“Have you had a pleasant visit to our store today?”, “Was our website easy to use?”, “Did you enjoy our waiter service today?”, “Do you believe we are innovative”? etc etc.
Make it easy to get feedback and create scores (maybe measure results out of 10?). Ensure you have a system where it is someone's job to obtain a relevant score for a box and a regular time when they will all be documented and discussed. Keep track of the results by reviewing if the scores have dramatically increased or decreased. Look for ways to improve your scores over time.
Routines, rewards & reminders
To keep the momentum you also might want to consider how frequently your leadership team will review these proof points. At first, you may want to track this weekly or monthly and then when this is embedded in the organisation, perhaps quarterly.
You may also wish to look at how your existing routines (such as onboarding new staff) to ensure the Brand Proof Point Mapper is introduced to them and becomes part of their ongoing employee experience (such as manager one to ones or quarterly/annual reviews).
If you want people internally to begin to adopt these new behaviours you may also wish to consider how you will reward and recognise them for adopting and exhibiting them.
It will also be important to continually remind yourselves and your staff about the values and how they translate internally and externally. Reminders, both physical and in routine form, keep up awareness and keep the momentum going.
Finally, if you adopt the Brand Proof Point Mapper it will be crucial you launch this effectively into your organisation. One way I find that is helpful in this is to have a day with all General Managers or People Leaders and get them to add more detail to the behaviours they would expect their individual teams to exhibit attaching more meaning and value in their individual contexts.
Make it a day. Make it a show. Excite and inspire people. You have to get them to believe and engage in order to effectively roll a tool like this out.
So as you can hopefully see - the Brand Proof Point Mapper is a simple tool but packed within it is so much power to create meaningful brand experiences, both inside and out. Good luck using it and I’d love feedback if you do.