Brands ultimately reflect those who bring them to life every day. Companies like Nike and Starbucks represent some of the first “superhuman brands” that consistently expand and nurture the human potential within their organizations. Many successful companies fail not because of outside forces but from weaknesses and threats within – by unchecked risk aversion, employee disengagement, or the hubris that inevitably comes with success. The first step in any brand challenge is to begin from within.
2. Finding Pivotal Insights
Scott Bedbury pioneered the design of “big digs,” exploratory conversations with key constituents inside and outside organizations, while at Nike in 1987. The Starbucks Big Dig in 1996 revealed a full spectrum of experiential connections Starbucks could deliver through a “third place” between home and work for both customers and employees, helping it redefine one of the oldest commodities on earth. The Kaiser Permanente Big Dig in 2003 helped transform the oldest and largest healthcare provider in the U.S.
Brand strength must be measured beyond revenue, awareness, market share or margin. Scott Bedbury helped Nike develop what may well be the marketing industry’s first Brand Strength Monitor (BSM) in 1988 with Jerome Conlon, Nike’s head of Insights. As then and now, every brand should have a carefully constructed BSM that plumbs the depths of its relevancy, resonance and weaknesses in key markets against competitors. Sacred brand truths, values and non-negotiable strengths must be consistently checked and shared across the company.
Today, brand monitors are also being tasked to look inwardly to measure employee recognition and respect for core brand values, issues of brand integrity and their engagement with the vision and values of the organization.
4. Strategic Brand Initiatives
A key part of the Brandstream process are Strategic Brand Initiatives, single sentence statements that apply positioning and insights to what matters most for the brand, not just a business unit or channel, at a given point, and by definition what can weaken it. Great leaders know that everything matters in building a brand. Initiatives serve as a “shared conscience” across businesses, departments, regions and teams.
A brand initiative may take years to complete. It took Nike three years to make significant strides in developing a women’s business and take share from Reebok, a process that began in the late '80s.
Brand Initiatives are not marketing objectives or business strategies – they help inform the process by which those are conceived and implemented. They provide context. They also transcend financial targets and measures that seldom tell us how to do what’s needed to achieve them. They help fill in the gap between present state and future state in ways that strengthen and protect the brand, inform its stewards, and serve as a strong influence on organizational culture.