So, you have a brand strategy.
It represents a promise that customers want and that only your business can deliver. It is ironclad. Well done!
Now what? What do you do with that brand strategy to really make it work for you?
That’s easy: everything. Your brand strategy guides your decisions, big and small. You use it to filter the choices you make as you grow your business. In other words, you operationalize it.
When I interviewed Carter Cast of the Kellogg School of Business for my brand strategy book coming out in 2019, he shared his concept for imbuing everything in your business with brand. (Check out Carter’s book, The Right [and Wrong] Stuff: How Careers are Made [and Unmade].)
I’ve taken his approach and quantified it into the following process for you:
Six Steps to Ensure Brand Is in Everything
- Lay out all your business’s activities and sub-activities. Everything. From sourcing through creation through customer use and post-use. All the things your business does.
- Now, consider your brand promise. Think about that single benefit you promise to deliver to your customers.
- Go through each activity you outlined. Identify how each one enhances the customer’s experience of your promise.
- Prioritize. Pinpoint the activities that deeply or directly enable you to deliver on your promise. If you are a food brand and your promise is “fresh taste,” then your biggies might be sourcing the right ingredients, storage, and packaging technology.
- Identify in your activities, particularly the ones at the top of your priority list, how you can make your business best-in-class at that specific activity.
- Now make your business excellent at those activities. Track how well you nail each of them. Align your goals to them and set performance indicators for employees.
I’ll show you how two brands in my life approach this. By learning from the clear wins as well as the missed opportunities, we can see how important operationalizing brand is.
An Ice Cream Parlor’s Delicious Success
Molly Moon’s brand promise is “simple happiness from homemade ice cream.” The brand character is wholesome, lighthearted, and upbeat.
What are all their activities? They source cream, sugar, and other ingredients of superb quality from suppliers across the world. They store those ingredients. The freezers must run at a consistent temperature to prevent ice crystals from forming. They make the ice cream and package it on-site at each of their stores.
They hire employees to do all of this and scoop the ice cream. The ice cream servers need to have smiles on their face to deliver “simple happiness from homemade ice cream.” Molly Moon’s should recruit ice cream servers for this quality and should make it a priority to keep employees happy. They should not short-staff the store to save money, as that puts stress on the servers and makes it difficult for them to serve with good cheer. They keep the store clean. An ice cream-eating experience is not a happy one if the tables are sticky or the garbage can is overflowing.
To my delight, I recently noticed Molly Moon’s infuse their hiring with brand language. A job posting in the shop window read, in Molly Moon’s color and font (not in black-and-white or in generic font): “Now Hiring Optimists.” Not “Now Hiring Ice Cream Aficionados.” Not “Now Hiring, Great Benefits.” By recruiting optimists, Molly Moon’s heightens its ability to deliver on the promise of ice cream happiness. Molly Moon’s has operationalized brand.
An Environmental Strike-Out
We can learn as much from the flawed stories as we can from the successes. Waka Waka Power is a portable device for powering cell phones with solar energy. I bought one for myself, and I perceived the Waka Waka promise to be “sustainable recharging.” The headline on the website is “safe, sustainable solar for all,” and the tagline is “Share the Sun.” Waka Waka appears to be targeting people who care deeply about the earth and use mobile devices extensively.
Considering inception to delivery to post-purchase care, Waka Waka has a list of activities that includes product design, marketing communications, selection of a manufacturer, packaging design, shipping, fulfillment, and customer care.
Waka Waka does a lot right. The product works. It holds a long charge from solar power. The messaging is single-mindedly about sustainability. The imagery matches the message. However, one activity that failed this brand promise of sustainability is the packaging: the device arrived in heavy and nonrecyclable (let alone biodegradable) plastic. With a brand promise around sustainability, everything, including the packaging, must deliver on that. Waka Waka had not yet fully operationalized the brand throughout the value chain. With sustainable packaging, the company could more fully deliver on the promise of sustainability.
Brand for the Long Haul
Operationalizing is a journey. You won’t just check it off your to-do list and be done. But like all good journeys, this one has a clear beginning: identify the big points where you must truly shine. Then take the next step – begin systematically building in excellence.