Many of today’s marketing leaders are struggling to help their organizations understand that brand is more than just a marketing or advertising investment. It remains a challenge to make the case to invest in brand to deliver organizational results.
So how do marketers wrap brand around culture and vice versa?
I spoke with John Levasseur, a seasoned marketing executive who has provided strategic leadership to both marketing and front-line staff in a number of organizations, including Canadian Tire Financial Services, Bank of Montreal, Sears, Scotiabank/Montreal Trust and Investors Group about how best to use the unique insights of sales and service teams to drive culture and brand, with the objective to deliver a better customer experience.
Culture as a Driver of Brand
For Levasseur, the brand should be informed by the culture. In his experience, employees are the culture, and this is often most evident with staff in front-line roles such as sales or customer service. Front-line staff members also have an organic understanding of the essence of the brand because of their direct interaction with the customer. Levasseur recommends that one of the opportunities for the marketing executive is to leverage the brand insights that front-line staff represent every day. In his experience, the connection with sales or contact centre staff can often be a missed opportunity given that it is not seen as part of the “classical” brand methodology that is often followed by a brand manager. Successful brands and their leaders grab onto the positive aspects of the culture and brand insights from font-line staff and incorporate it into their brand position.
Brand – organic or orchestrated?
In Levasseur’s experience, the brand is both organic and orchestrated. He stresses the opportunity for the marketing executive and team is to take time to listen to the conversations being had by front-line staff and customers. These organic conversations will always reveal new and valuable insights about what the customer is thinking, and will ultimately equip the marketing executive with critical ideas as to how to better leverage the brand.
There is often debate over who owns the brand within an organization, the front-line teams or the marketers. For Levasseur, it can be both. When marketers spend time listening to customers or are out on the floor with sales staff, they always walk away with “aha” moments that connect the brand research and data with their experience with customers. In other words, these experiences would connect the orchestrated brand, often developed by the marketer, with the organic brand, being embodied by the front-line teams..
Sharing the Brand with the Front-line
Focus, clarity and then continuity are essential to helping front line teams to get a consistent and complete message about any changes to key brand messages or positioning. When you have large groups who are so spread out (like front-line teams), it is easy to develop different interpretations of the brand and this leads to a confusing experience for the customer.
Listen to your Customers!
Listening to the customer and front-line teams is a big opportunity for all marketers. When marketers listen to actual customers they walk away with essential learnings for their role in helping to manage the business.