Change from within — what is brand?

It’s the balance between our creative thinking and the impulse to experiment and discover, and our language abilities and cooperative natures that have got us where we are today. We’re social animals, primed for communication. Why then, in running a business, or any type of organisation, do we find so many obstacles to cooperation?

Last year a report by Marie Curie showed the implications of poor communications on the National Health Service costs the British taxpayer in excess of one billion pounds every year, not to mention the medical implications such inefficiency has for patients. Why so often does business seem to force us to work against our natural instincts, which are in truth often the keys to our successes.

Companies on the couch

We hear a lot about ‘brand’ these days. But what is ‘brand’? Within global companies, such as Coca-Cola, Nike and Microsoft, with the ever-increasing expansion of digital services and culture, there is a move away from considering a company’s brand to be powered by visual aesthetics such as logos and colours, to a view that brand articulation is now one of shared experience, in part created by its customers and fans, often referred to as ‘audience’ in marketing terms. This is evidenced by initiatives like Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke. With Connect + Develop, Procter & Gamble has even gone so far to publish a selection of technical challenges it was unable to solve internally in the hope that others outside the company could find solutions. These companies are simply reaching out to their communities to try to create a relationship with them that goes beyond selling them a product.

Why are the world’s biggest companies doing this? As with our own self-development, companies that can show a healthy amount of introspection will have a greater level of self-awareness, which in turn will help them to identify both their own strengths, and weaknesses. Defining your company culture is the first step to creating an authentic brand. The competitive advantages of this can be substantial in terms of customer loyalty, employee retainment and leadership succession, but few companies operating day-to-day find the time to invest in this corporate self-reflection. Getting it right from the start is the easiest way to succeed and grow brand value in the long term, so it’s just as critical for start-ups as going concerns.

Emulating success

But if you’re a company without the resources for your own open innovations lab or multi-million pound customer research budgets, how do you go about putting such thinking into practice?

Sharing of information between employees can help foster understanding. Ensuring that a culture of openness exists can be hard though, and needs to come from the top. Building mutual understanding is hard, but critical to morale and productivity.

At the heart of most important communication is a respect for the other party. Depersonalising conversations, especially in the case of disagreement or negotiation, so that they become about a relationship between two systems or priorities, rather than two people or teams, can help remove friction. And friction is one of the main reasons communication stalls. As in any relationship, being able to see things from the perspective of the other party is at the heart of finding a resolution.

Four ways to improve your company’s self awareness:

  1. Define what you stand for and communicate this consistently, inside the company and out – If you’re a law firm that prides itself on its integrity, surely it makes sense to demonstrate that through public activity that involves all your staff, rather than commissioning a PR agency that will spin a story just to secure you coverage.
  2. Ensure your company culture fits the products or services you offer – Your business is constantly under scrutiny and at risk from very public discourse via social media. Taking time to establish ‘employer branding’ helps you align your team and build a consistent corporate reputation.
  3. Invest in introspection – Ensure you regularly take time to reflect on your successes and failures, and learn from them. If you need help with this, recognise the value of doing so and have the confidence to bring in an external facilitator.
  4. Provide the right tools and support – You can unburden your teams and avoid friction by providing the right tools and training for them to work together. Enable positive communication and be prepared to change old processes that aren’t working.

You don’t need to do everything all at once. The trick is to embed this type of dynamic thinking so that it becomes engrained in your company’s culture and less of a major obstacle. The journey won’t necessarily be easy, but the view from the top will be a satisfying reward.

To make a start book a free Exonera Review and discover your options.