As I write this I am heading to St Johns, Newfoundland- I am going to be working with two different groups of women entrepreneurs and we will be working on leadership as it relates to growing the business.
Last week I was on the same program as Gair Maxwell, author of Nuts, Bolts and a Few Loose Screws. Gair is a branding expert and his presentation was all about understanding the vision that started the business, how to dream big for the vision and how easily recognized brands have used the principles of building a strong and viable brand.
My session followed on leadership strategies to grow the business. While I sat in on Gair’s session it reinforced for me the importance of leadership buy in to the brand, leadership vision for where the brand is going and contagious brand delivery by highly engaged employees. In the case of Apple one of today’s most profitable brands almost everyone who works at Apple are brand ambassadors but more importantly users of Apple products are brand influencers.
This is because Steve Jobs leadership was to instill the love of simple technology into all of his leaders and into the culture of the company. His vision and creativity will remain one of the key components of Apple’s success into the future.
For smaller organizations that are working to grow the same strategies used to build globally known brand can be used to get to the next level of success.
Here are 3 ways leadership can leverage a brand:
#1- Revisit the reasons the business was started- what was the key emotional factor when the business was born? Was it to change the world through technology (Apple)? Was it to connect the world in a new way? (Facebook) Was it to make the world a healthier place? (Whole Foods)
When leadership is recommitted to the brand promise it is easier to communicate and engage the employees back into the purpose and focus of the brand.
#2- Is your brand still aligned with your values? If not why? If yes how does the brand re-confirm what you believe?
My friend Gair says that the best brands are those that tell a compelling story. Starbucks is a story that began with a visit to Italy and concept brought back to Seattle and the story continues. Starbucks has recommitted to their values of ethical coffee bean production and providing fresh water to impoverished countries.
#3- Re-tell the brand story in every staff meeting, in every communication with employees and customers. This is not a saga but sound bytes of why the brand exists, what it is here to serve and how it makes the planet a better place.
McDonalds is now making an egg white egg McMuffin because they want to capture the healthy eating market that has gone elsewhere. They are looking at reducing the calories in all of their meals and openly disclosing the caloric content of their foods. They resisted this for a long while until the customer reality and research pointed out that many Baby Boomers who grew up on McDonalds burgers and fries are now middle aged and health conscious and they are not eating at McDonalds nor are they bringing their children unless there are healthy options.
Through employee communication and customer education the brand of McDonald’s is shifting from ‘junk food’ to fast food provider that offers healthy choices.
In this fast paced and sound byte world it is the brands the communicate their story easily and with emotion and have the leadership to convey the brand story in a way that is integrated with everyone within the organization.
When the employees are engaged with the brand promise the customer gets the benefit of feeling good about the brands that they choose to spend their money on.