What is a brand and how can you destroy one?
“How and why you make promises is really important. Too many organisations make promises and work out how to keep them later” – Michel Hogan
In the last few months, we’ve been hearing the term ‘brand’ thrown around a lot in Australia’s political scene. Most of it relates to the Federal Liberal Party.
With headlines such as ‘Is the Liberal brand dead?’, ‘Can the Liberal brand recover?’, and ‘The former Prime Minister is toxic to the Liberal brand’, we could be forgiven for thinking that brands are living and breathing creatures.
In many ways, they are. However, many of us are unclear about how brands form and develop.
Some people see brands as being tangible things that we can create to represent our values, promises, and identity to others. If we start with the right brand ‘cells’ and nurture them carefully we can grow our own fully-formed brand ready to present to the world.
Michel Hogan sees it differently.
Hogan is a sought-after advisor and commentator on brand, organisations, and people’s experiences. In her presentation ‘Brand with purpose’, part of Florence Guild’s narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’, she explained how brands are results and not creations.
- A brand is the result of promises that you keep, or those that you don’t. It is the result that is the important part.
- A brand is a result. It’s an achievement, not a creation.
- The fundamental ingredients to any brand are the purpose and values behind it.
- We live in a world where people get hired for what they do, but get fired (or leave) for who they are.
- It is so rare to walk into an organisation and for someone to tell you what they do and how it connects to what they care about.
“The ongoing back and forth of making and keeping promises is actually how organisations make and keep relationships with the people they interact with. The result of that is the brand.” – Michel Hogan
That doesn’t mean that organisations can’t influence the final look and feel of their brand, though. There are things that can be done to ‘genetically modify’ their brand so it ends up with their desired characteristics. They just have to do some careful planning.
A formula for a positive brand image
In her presentation, Hogan outlined the steps she uses to help organisations achieve their desired brand results. These involve the key stakeholders coming together to answer the following questions:
- Who are we as an organisation?
- What do we care about? What is important to us?
- What can we actually promise? What do we intend?
- How do these relate to the experiences we are trying to deliver?
Identity is the foundation of any brand result. It includes having a clear understanding of your organisation’s resources and capabilities and is closely tied to the organisation’s purpose. To help clarify your purpose, Hogan suggests asking questions like, “What do we care about?”, “What is most important to us?”, “What do we believe?”, and “How does that relate to the decisions and actions we make?”
It’s not enough to have identity and purpose statements locked away in a file somewhere, though. To be truly effective, the words used in the statements must be reflected in how things get done. Above all, internal and external stakeholders all need to apply the same meaning to these statements and to understand where their role fits within the brand formula.
Hogan went on to explain how promises have a key effect on brand results.
“Promises are made true by experience. Experience is where you either deliver or break promises. A promise is something you intend. The experience is something you do.” – Michel Hogan
Look at what happens when organisations (including political parties) continually break their promises. They might promise a service but not fund it adequately. They might promise stability but regularly sack the boss or the board. They might say they are honest but allow backroom deals to influence outcomes.
The more this happens, the less people are likely to trust them and the more likely they are to change their allegiance to another party or brand.
On the other hand, organisations that only make promises they know they can deliver and then follow through with them are the ones that will inspire consumer confidence and loyalty.
It all comes down to two things. The organisation’s identity, purpose, values, and integrity must hold true and these factors must be firmly linked at every stakeholder touch point.
The good news is that brands can be revived if the organisations are prepared to learn from their mistakes and to ensure their values and identity inform everything they do from the planning board to the frontline and beyond. There is hope for our political parties yet.
This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.
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