Are there elements of your own personality within your company’s brand?
If you’re like most owners, your company’s brand evolves naturally from who you are as a person. Phil Knight ran a 4:10 mile before he started Blue Ribbon Sports, the company that would go on to become NIKE. It is therefore no surprise that the NIKE brand celebrates competitiveness as one of its core attributes.
Herb Kelleher is himself a colorful personality so it is no surprise that Southwest Airlines includes “fun” as one of its brand attributes and allows flight attendants to sing the in-flight announcements to the tune of Call Me, Maybe.
My friend Ted Matthews, the author of Brand: It ain’t the logo calls this “instinctive leadership.” You don’t need to tell an employee of an entrepreneurial company how to act; they can see what the company stands for whenever you’re in the building.
You don’t need to bore employees with posters displaying the words Trust, Integrity, and Team Work. Those values are nothing more than words emblazoned on half the boardrooms of America. They mean nothing to a group of jaded employees. Instead, your people will know how to act based on how you react to specific situations.
They’ll know to treat subordinates with respect when you acknowledge and thank the waiter at lunch.
They’ll know your company values vulnerability when you offer a personal story of your own shortcomings.
They’ll know teamwork is important when you personally roll up your sleeves and help out when the team is in a pinch.
Most of the founders I know get this, and they do a great job of being “instinctive” leaders. The challenge comes when you have grown your company beyond just a handful of employees. When they no longer see you day –to-day, you have to make the shift to what Ted calls a Chief Brand Officer (CBO).
The role of the CBO
The role of the CBO is to codify your brand into a document – Ted calls it a Brand Foundation – that allows people to understand what you stand for. The Brand Foundation worksheet in the back of Ted’s book encourages you to answer the following questions:
• Why do you exist as a company?
• Where are you going and how will you know when you are there?
• What do you believe in?
• How do you act?
• What is your voice?
• How do you make a difference?
Once this is written down and shared with employees, the CBO’s job is to constantly remind employees of the foundations of the brand. Ted has found that one of the most powerful ways to make brand attributes stick and spread is through storytelling.
It is one thing to say “we believe in having fun.” It is another for Herb Kelleher to stand up at a companywide meeting and acknowledge the flight attendant who gave the funniest safety announcement of the year.
It is one thing for Phil Knight to say “NIKE’s brand stands for competitiveness.” It is quite another for Knight to send an email to all staff congratulating a junior employee on qualifying for The Boston Marathon.
Once you have the brand foundation, it is the storytelling that makes it stick.
If you haven’t read Ted’s book, do it now. I’m onto my third reading and I learn something new with each pass. I’ve also asked Ted to join us in Las Vegas at Built to Sell: The Workshop so you can build your own brand foundation with the help and guidance of the branding guru himself. Ted just agreed yesterday to come to the Vegas workshop, so I’ve decided to extend the registration deadline for a few days to allow those of you who haven’t yet met Ted Matthews and heard him speak, to make the decision to come. Sign up here.