People-based brand experience
I’ve been busy in the last few weeks working for a charity and two large B2B multinationals. They have more in common than you might think. The multinationals have thousands of employees they need to re-orientate around a sharper go-to-market strategy. The charity has thousands of participants (I use this word to protect their anonymity) who engage with their end users in order to deliver what they do. What they have in common is that their key ‘delivery mechanism’ if you will is people. Their people interact with other people to create an impression.
No matter where I wander, professionally speaking, I always seem to come back to the centrality of the brand owner’s people in brand strategy (with the notable exception of FMCG brands). Do our people understand the brand? Are they clear on how their behaviour contributes to the delivery of a brand experience?
I’ll share a story from a few years ago. I was working with a chemicals business, highly B2B, selling adhesives and pre-treatments to various industry verticals. They had 150 product brands that they needed rationalising, and thought this would clarify their value in the market place. But, as we working with them, we stumbled on a lovely story about an account manager who had been talking to an automotive client. The account manager realised that the residual value (ie the second hand price) of your car after, say, 18 months had an impact on the new price you were likely to pay. If the value was likely to depreciate rapidly, you’d be less willing to pay a premium. So the longer the car could look new, the better the new price for the manufacturer. And so the more the paint could maintain it’s ‘new look’ shine the better the new price for the manufacturer. We might be able to help there, he said, by treating your metal work with a pre-coating that will ensure the nice shiny paint adheres to the body of the car better and maintains its ‘integrity’ longer.
The point I’m making here is that the value in this exchange was not in the product, but in the intelligence and responsiveness of the account manager. A seemingly low value, downstream exercise, immediately created upstream value to the client. The automotive client’s loyalty was firmly rooted from that point in the company brand (those smart people from Company X) not the product brand, as a result of the human interaction. Bottle that, I said to the client, embed it across the whole of your business, and stop worrying about your product brands.
More and more brands are waking up to the power of their brand to guide and energise their people, and that this in turn is a key driver of business value. In particular businesses that are undergoing significant digital transformation need a compelling reason to persuade new talent (eg software developers) to join them and not to go to Google, Facebook or some sort of start up. If you want to learn more about people-based brand strategy, go to my very smart former team mates at People Made (http://www.people-made.com) as they spend all their time thinking and working with their clients on this basis and have a lot of good content to review.