As a marketing executive, you understand your brand’s value proposition and market position better than anyone. And because of that, you have a unique vantage point that can help inform your business’s overarching growth and innovation strategies.
Yet you may frequently find yourself in the role of responder rather than influencer. Factors like product acquisitions, new service offerings, and complex mergers often occur at such a dizzying speed that it’s hard to keep up. This can lead to a reactive rather than proactive approach to your brand management and operations. As a result, your brand could miss out on the opportunity to become an impactful guiding force for your organization.
These challenges are compounded by the fact that consumer behaviors and cultural norms are changing at the fastest pace in recent memory. By extension, your brand will undoubtedly need to adapt and change in a number of ways. But will your brand lead your company forward proactively? Or will it react to changes after they have already come to pass?
It’s up to you.
There is so much potential for brand expansion — whether through rebranding or achieving more by leveraging an existing brand — when you are free to apply your knowledge of consumer trends to your company’s strategic direction in the marketplace.
Here’s how to both reach and harness that potential.
The power of an operationalized brand to drive innovation and growth
The secret to pivoting from responder to influencer lies in an unexpected place: your marketing and brand operations. By optimizing your brand governance and operations across all areas of your business, you can begin to bridge the gap between marketing vision and operational execution.
Why? It’s simple. Having a strong operationalized brand allows you to shift your focus. Rather than spending your time solving problems and managing issues, you can instead concentrate on scanning the horizon to identify exciting, bold opportunities for your brand and your company. The well-oiled machine of an operationalized brand becomes the engine that drives innovation and growth.
A great example is videoconferencing and the rapid changes that have unfolded in that industry. Yes, innovation in this area was necessitated by the onset of a global pandemic and a quick pivot to remote work. But marketing leaders played a key role in proactively and quickly identifying how consumer expectations were evolving within that paradigm and pushing product development to meet those changing demands. That led a few companies — those with the right brand infrastructure in place — to differentiate themselves in a suddenly competitive market by offering truly innovative features like instant language translation and captioning for teams working internationally. And their brand value skyrocketed as a result.
Take Microsoft for example. Microsoft Teams is not the same platform today as it was before the pandemic. The team at Microsoft innovated, creating new virtual collaboration tools on their platform, like whiteboarding, instant reactions and live transcription of meetings.
Chances are you can clearly see opportunities (and disruptions) on the horizon in your industry, too. And you likely have a good idea of how your brand should navigate those waters. Therefore, you should be using your brand to influence your company’s future direction rather than simply responding to it. Here’s how.
First, understand (and refine) your brand’s positioning
In order to move your brand forward, you need to have a deep understanding of where things stand right now. To be sure you’re clear on your position — and to assess how accurately your brand reflects it — answer the following questions:
- Have you grown through acquisition in a way that has fundamentally changed your organization’s DNA? Or will you be doing so soon? If so, are you articulating that change in a cohesive way that helps customers and stakeholders understand the total value your newly evolved brand brings to the table?
- Have you expanded your consumer base beyond the boundaries of your current positioning and product strategy? If so, are you thinking about modifying that product strategy into more adoptable and digestible packages for a client base that expects something different?
- Are you actively planning to evolve your products and services into new territories? If so, have you thought through how your brand will incorporate them into your existing framework?
If any of these scenarios apply, then it’s time to think about your product portfolio and brand messaging in a different way.
Chart the course for your brand’s future direction
When you have a rock-solid understanding of your current brand positioning, you can begin to look three to five years into the future to predict how your brand should evolve to meet changing demands over time. By leading the conversation about how your brand functions within your company’s overall vision, you can help your product and service teams, sales teams, and other internal teams align around ways to move your brand forward in powerful ways.
Sometimes it’s enough to rework some of the messaging, and sometimes a full rebrand may be required. A good strategic marketer will perfectly communicate and consolidate the brand vision into a well-defined product architecture and strategy. For example, if you are a company with a team of engineers who are working on forward-thinking products, your brand vision helps to ensure they are doing so within the appropriate framework. Without that, your developers might produce innovative products that don’t actually make sense in the context of your brand.
You may not develop digital products, but this principle is true across industries. Lack of consistency will ultimately lead to market confusion about who you are and what you do. This is why it’s so important for your brand to help spark innovation, not just respond to it.
Operationalize your brand across the organization
Once you have defined and communicated your overarching vision — or once you’re actively in the process of doing so — you will need to operationalize that vision. Operationalized brand governance involves more than a top-down approach of establishing brand-related rules and enforcing compliance. Companies that govern their brand well ensure that all systems and people are part of a holistic brand-execution strategy.
To accomplish this, apply the principles of operational brand governance in the following areas:
- People – Every person in your organization needs to understand the part they play in both protecting and advancing your brand. Therefore, you need to clearly define roles, responsibilities, ownership, and accountability for your team. Don’t forget your vendors. Do they understand how to make decisions based on your corporate vision? Have you empowered them to elevate any variances they see in how the brand is displayed across assets, including signage, fleets, products and packaging, apparel, and more? Treat vendors like the valuable brand governance partners they are.
- Processes – What brand processes do you have in place to help your people understand where a product or innovation falls within your brand architectures? Are your processes efficient, effective, measurable, and actively managed? And do they serve your teams well?
- Training – Thorough training is a vital part of brand operationalization. For example, your product team needs to understand the value of innovating within the context of brand vision and how the brand framework actually drives sales. Likewise, your sales team needs to be trained on how to communicate your brand to prospective customers.
- Technology – Provide the right technologies, tools, and resources to support your teams in everything from developing branded assets to managing automated workflows.
Will your brand influence or respond to market changes?
As your team’s north star, your brand has the power to inspire the innovation and agility that will take your company forward into an even brighter future. But as a marketing leader, you should be the one to establish the overarching vision, strong brand governance, and operationalization that will allow your brand to become that guiding light.
It takes dedication and perseverance, but the payoff is a brand that can boldly lead you through any uncharted waters that lie ahead.
Want to brainstorm ways to get your marketing and brand operations in order so you can spark the innovation and growth your company desires? We’d love to talk.