Ward to the Wise

Reasons Brands Fail: #2 CEO Fails to Champion the Brand

number-2-ceo-fails-to-champion-the-brandThe second most common reason brands fail can be traced back to how the CEO handles a branding change. If he or she does not champion the brand from the start, both inside and outside the organization, it will likely fail.

A brand is a promise to your customers and your employees. It is a way of saying, “This is who we are. This is what you can expect from us.” Notice the “we” and “us” in that promise. That means everyone in the organization must be on the same page for the brand to be truly effective. The only way to create that kind of systemic belief in the brand is for the CEO to provide the leadership required to be the primary champion of the brand promise.

Why You Need a Champion

Championing the brand means not just paying lip service to the brand but taking action to ensure the brand is accepted, understood and carried out, or lived, throughout the organization. This means the CEO cannot abdicate responsibility for brand leadership, for if the CEO does not champion the brand, no one else will either. Managers will fail to create systems and processes that ensure delivery on the promise because the CEO is not holding them to account for delivery of the promise at a high level. Employees may see that the CEO, and in turn department heads, aren’t working to fulfill the brand promise, so they won’t either. Or they may not understand their specific role in fulfilling the brand promise, thinking it is solely a leadership or marketing function.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, front-line employees are crucially important in aligning the customer’s experience with the company’s promise. The people who interact with customers, or support those who do, have the most significant direct impact on brand delivery. But, they can’t properly deliver on the brand promise without support from inside the organization. This is exactly why the entire organization must support the brand and why it must be systemic in the organization.

Creating a Systemic Brand

How does a brand become systemic in an organization? Through its leaders, and leadership starts with the CEO. Brand development must come from the top so that the entire organization can buy into it and, most importantly, stay committed to it. Every department has a specific experience to deliver that is consistent with the brand. The CEO needs to require the management team to demonstrate their understanding of how their functional teams deliver on the brand, provide them with the resources needed to accomplish this goal, and hold management to account for meeting the annual brand-related operational goals.

If the brand hasn’t worked or taken hold as expected, chances are good it was delegated as a marketing effort or isn’t being established and nurtured from the top down. Without leadership from the top, the brand promise to the marketplace cannot be kept. When promises aren’t kept, customers turn away from the brand to find an alternative.

Championing a brand isn’t as hard as it seems. When you think of branding as a business strategy, you can begin to see how every business decision can affect the brand – and eventually the brand equity that influences recurring revenue from loyal clients and the goodwill factor on the company valuation. As long as the CEO keeps the brand promise topmost in mind while making business decisions, by default the brand will become part of the evolving, positive company culture and the new way of doing business. Once this happens, you will feel the positive results on your operations, growth and financial rewards.

Need help getting started? Contact Ward for insight into brand development and follow-through. We can help get the conversation started and get you thinking about how best to drive your brand systemically in your organization.

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