by: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner
Having worked with CEOs across all industries for the past 15 years, we’ve observed two chronic worries that preoccupy them all.
NUMBER 1: Generating sustainable business growth
In a hyper-competitive, slow-growth world, how do organizations generate sustainable, long-term growth – be it growth in revenue, ridership, donations, margins, profit, customers or funding? For many it would be a significant accomplishment to see growth for two consecutive quarters, let alone two consecutive years.
NUMBER 2: Remaining relevant to customers
How do leaders align and integrate their organizations to effectively focus on the core activities that really matter to customers?
Few CEOs realize that the solution to both of these concerns is right in front of their eyes. All they need to do is look to their brand – through the correct lens, of course.
Unfortunately, most CEOs fail to see the distinction between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy. As a result, they end up divesting their brand. What they should be doing, however, is investing in their brand with a view to driving growth and improving organizational alignment. That’s how you manage your brand as an asset.
To effectively invest in a brand and brand strategy, you need to understand what a brand actually is.
At LEVEL5 Strategy Group, we define a brand as the value of a promise consistently kept™. Let’s break that down.
Value: LEVEL5 quantifies and tracks the most powerful drivers of value – both the rational drivers of value, like quality, price and convenience, and the critically important emotional drivers of choice, such as trust, love, passion and excitement. We’ve discovered that the negative drivers of value (e.g. unreliability or lack of appreciation) associated with your brand can be three times as impactful as positive ones. Have you quantified what drives your brand value? Have you addressed your negative attributes?
Quite simply, a valuable brand spurs demand and creates pricing power. Forbes values the Apple brand as $170 billion, representing 21% of the company’s recent market value of $806 billion. Why do consumers line up to pay over $1500 for the new Apple X iPhone when their current cellphone is working just fine? Because Apple has figured out what really motivates their customers.
Strongly branded organizations tend to outgrow competitors, weather downturns better, deliver superior margins, and attract more loyal customers willing to pay a premium for that relationship.
Promise: Based on what the marketplace really values, what inspired promise is your organization making to customers to drive growth and competitive advantage?
When Starbucks promises indulgence to its customers across the globe, it materializes not just a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte for $4.69, but comfortable retail environments, customized products and services, valuable loyalty programs, and employees trained to do whatever it takes to please customers. Compelling promises are simple, differentiating and inspiring, and they deliver against what customers really value.
Consistently kept: One of the greatest dangers of making a promise to customers lies in not consistently keeping that promise. Breaking a promise erodes trust. And eroding trust compromises price premiums, loyalty, and any competitive advantage you might have realized.
What branded organizations do effectively is not only quantify what drives value and turn that into a compelling brand promise; they also leverage that insight to align their organization to deliver against it – consistently.
Delivering consistently is no small task, especially in today’s digitalized world where the customer’s journey is evolving at the pace of technological innovation. However, understanding your brand value drivers, and more importantly, having your people in tune to how you consistently deliver your brand promise is how the best of the best continue to grow and outperform their peers in every sector.
Think about Starbucks. They rarely drop the ball and disappoint because they have aligned their entire organization to operationalize their promise.
Ultimately, if you want to realize meaningful growth in a low-growth world and align your organization on what really matters to your customers, you need to be a brand-driven leader. Start with quantifying the most powerful driver of value. Build an inspired brand strategy and promise, and keep that promise consistently by operationalizing it throughout your entire organization. Therein lies your path to achieving inspired growth and an ownable competitive advantage.
Brands may be the CEO’s most underappreciated asset at their disposal. If you’re interested in getting more out of your business, put more of your brand into it. Let us know if you’d like us to show you how.