Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reconciling the Brand Between Owner and Employees (2/3)

The title of this chapter section may surprise you. If you are the owner of a small business, you might assume that your employees will accept the brand just as you have presented it to them. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Unfortunately, you probably don't present the brand consistently any day of the week and you are not unlike any small business. In fact, it is darn hard to present any brand consistently. And if you think it is hard to be consistent in how your brand is presented, imagine the impossible problem that major corporations have. Every employee they have (and every customer contact each of those employees have) offers a huge opportunity to present the brand in sharp contrast to how the company would like it presented. But that is life in business. Advertising can influence perceptions about the brand, but an unpleasant experience with one of your employees will undermine all that advertising quickly.

Let's say you have a small service business with 25 employees. If you asked each one of them to pick three words that best describe your company, how many different words would you get? 75? I hope not but I also bet you would get more than 50. And if they could submit those words anonymously, would all of the attribute words be positive? Would any be positive? Now, remember, these are the people who represent your brand each and every day. Scary, huh?

If you are not sure how your brand would be described, I hope you realize that you need to have this discussion soon with your employees. Very soon. No telling how many customers and prospective customers they may each speak with tomorrow and miss an opportunity to represent your brand more consistently.
After all, your brand is not just what YOU say it is.
If you want to have this dialog with your employees, they must be able to respond without fear of reprisal. That means that their responses must be completely anonymous. At some point, employees may feel that they can be candid without fear of hurting their career prospects but, at first, you need to take care not to make them feel threatened in any way. Because you need their honesty! The whole process is futile if they are fearful of losing their jobs. You need them thinking, not worrying.

Understand, this is not an evaluation. Instead, you are beginning the process of rebuilding your brand. More than anything else, it is a reconciliation. After all, your brand is not just what YOU say it is. Rather, it is what everyone who represents your brand says it is. And who represents your brand? A whole lot of folks. And that can be very good news if that group grows at a nice pace.

Think about this dialog. It needs to happen and happen regularly -- not just once. I will tell you more about the reconciliation process in the next post.

Thanks for checking in. More to come!


  1. Agreed! We are in the promotion agency business and each account team would describe the brand (in a word or two) differently. It is based on the specific relationship each maintains with the clients they manage. Some of our work is legal and administrative. These employees probably see "trust" as brand equity. Others here do strategic planning and come up with creative promotion concepts. My guess is that these employees would say innovation is what we stand for. And so on. I am looking forward to your thoughts on reconciling different opinions

  2. Paul,
    Great to hear from you. Next week's post will address the issue of different perspectives on the brand. Thanks for raising the issue. bpm