To determine if your brand lives, or is on life support, keep an ear out for some of these comments:

  • “We are focused on other things and can’t get to it consistently.”
  • “We need a strong, consistent story to use everywhere.”
  • “We talk to four people and nobody knows what we stand for.”
  • “We have some history to overcome and need to change the narrative.”

These comments are part of real-life conversations Karl James experienced with CEOs. All illustrate the need for a brand narrative and positioning that becomes the driving force of consistency. Brand is more than an external marketing narrative. Brand is the epicenter for all actions inside an organization. Whether formally declared or informally evolved, a brand becomes what individuals experience.

At its base value—from a tactical, pragmatic perspective—the brand narrative and positioning guides all marketing efforts. Without it, materials produced and messaging outreach will be inconsistent at best and at worst portray a company in a confusing, undifferentiating manner. At its highest-order benefit, a brand serves as an umbrella for multiple and disparate offers, which is often a challenge in aligning all actions across an organization.

A relevant brand is compelling and differentiating to multiple decision-makers and influencers with distinct concerns. In other words, every contact, whether online, in-person, signage, literature, human resources, customer service and more, all should be based on and guided by the brand narrative. A clearly-defined brand provides a guide to the entire organization to take action. This is the promise or commitment to produce a specific, distinguished experience in every interaction. Your brand is the sum total of all of an audience’s experiences. In fact, your audiences determine your actual brand. Translation: if everyone within your organization is not living your declared brand, the brand becomes the experiences of the audiences you desire to influence.

The power of a well-communicated brand with operational impact is illustrated by Southwest Airlines. Its market position centers on being the low-cost airline provider. If all employees are engaged in delivering on this statement, decision-making streamlines and operations become more efficient. If a purchaser for the airline, for example, must decide between placing a higher-cost chicken salad sandwich on the in-flight menu or not, this person easily can make a decision. The purchasing agent simply asks whether adding the cost of a sandwich delivers on being the low-cost airline provider. One quickly determines not to add cost.

Simply put, brands live within an organization first. Otherwise, brands develop from random, uncoordinated, non-strategic actions.

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