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Brand Experts

Your Brand Leadership

Today’s businesses need to get their stories straight so they can use their brand to build a competitive edge. They need to better understand, use and communicate their reason for existing, and they need to do it in a way that makes their customers take notice.

Profit without purpose
A leader’s failure to define an organisation’s unique essential value to the world (or even just to one customer), beyond the usual mission statement mumbo jumbo is a warning sign your brand will quickly become irrelevant to its audience.

Take a look at the following mission statement: ‘It is our mission to appropriately increase shareholder value through the sale of our technology and proactively develop team building innovation to stay competitive in tomorrow’s world’.

Quick, check your website. Is that your company’s pitch? It isn’t, but it could be. I created it with the ‘Mission Statement Generator’.

The problem with this jargon-laden description is that it only expresses the ‘me-too’ technical elements of what your brand does. These expressions of value fail because they use bland, cliché words like ‘innovation’, ‘proactively’ and ‘competitive’ – generic terms that are easily matched by the competition. A description like this does nothing to describe what’s special about your business – its people, products or philosophy – or to process the elements of the brand that customers flock to embrace.

When a leader can’t define a unique point of view of how his or her organisation fits into the landscape, a brand will become inherently weak, and the experiences that define that brand will suffer accordingly. But when a leader takes the bold step of creating an actual statement rather than pandering to generic mission statement conventions, the strength of a brand can become almost indestructible.

Take Google’s purpose: ‘To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. This language clearly and compellingly tells the world why it needs Google, what value Google brings to the world, and how Google is different from every other organisation on the planet. With a complete understanding of its purpose, consumers can anticipate what their relationship with Google will be, both now and in the future. As long as it sticks to its mission and doesn’t do anything ‘off brand’, Google will always be relevant, whether we interact with it online or offline in the future.

Make brave decisionsThis is where you must become a leader who takes the reins and creates a clear and compelling purpose for your business. Including too many opinions in the decision-making process around your marketing effort can create a political battlefield. To maintain your relevance and respond with speed and relevant action in a market that changes not by the week, but by the second, requires decisive decisions that come from the top.

When everyone’s opinion matters equally, and the leader’s goal is to create harmony and not excellence, opportunities pass by. I have sat in too many boardrooms watching leadership soliciting feedback from an entire executive team only to hear later that they felt paralysed by the number of conflicting ideas or opinions to consider. When no one can make a decision, valuable time passes and revenue diminishes rapidly.

A good leader must accept the mantle of brand leadership, with both its responsibilities and its risks, listen to all counsel offered, weigh alternative scenarios, then make an unambiguous decision and stand by it. Remember: strong brands deliver strong revenue.

Fear of the unknownWhen leaders are fearful of being creative with their brand image, they fail to provoke emotional reactions. Sure, really provocative creativity is risky, but it’s the kind of risk that only a gutsy leader can take. Without these moments of risk, your brand can never reap the rewards of making deeper connections with your target audience.

So, what can you take away from this diatribe on the importance of strong brand leadership?
– Define your brand story and consistently tell it – make decisions.
– Avoid missing the boat by pursuing safe, ‘same same’ design solutions – make decisions.
– Take creative risks, be prepared to go with your gut instinct and oh, yes – make decisions!

Katie Selby