The following is a guest post by Douglas Spencer, President and Chief Brand Strategist, Spencer Brenneman, LLC
You have a new brand strategy. It has inspired new fonts, bold and innovated uses of color, and powerful, edgy messaging. The media buy is in the works and your senior executives have signed off. Your content marketers have their fingers poised above their keyboards ready to tap out brilliant specimens of thought leadership. Everything is a go.
But will it work? That’s the question in the back of your mind, despite all the planning, all the researching and all the strategic aligning to your business plan. Will it work? In order to answer that question, here’s another to consider: Do they care?
Why do we have brand strategies in the first place? Brand strategies help build the businesses they support by connecting them in meaningful, memorable ways with everyone who contributes to their success. Make no mistake, visual identities and the messaging strategies all play an important role towards inspiring and cementing those connections. But those connections require one other element that is the secret ingredient all strong brands enjoy: people who care.
Who are “they”?
“They” stands for everyone. “They” are your management team, your employees—the insiders. “They” are your customers, your vendors, even your competitors—the outsiders. Most importantly, “they” is yourself.
If you want to create and grow a strong brand you have to think very carefully about what’s in it for the stakeholders. Why should your employees care? Why should your customers? Why should the media, regulators and the general public care? And yes, why should you?
You cannot have happy, caring customers without happy, caring employees—at least not for the long haul. When employees care, they look forward to coming to work. They become perfectionists, they see the good in others, they stay late without prompting. They constantly talk about their work, their coworkers, their clients. Their identities are not limited to what their personal lives dictate. Being an “x” with brand “z” becomes a part of who they are and they love it.
The concept of branding has always been a powerful force for keeping customers connected with companies and their products. As human beings, we all have both analytical and emotional components within our consciousness. Both are equally important, and both have historically been instrumental in the survival and evolution of our species. All of the objective elements of your brand’s message—costs of ownership, return on investment, etc.—speak to your customers’ need for analytical data. But it’s the brand’s connection with its customers that speaks to the emotional side of the decision-making process, which in turn, fosters a true sense of caring.
A lot of other people who are not employers, employees or customers care about brands for a variety of reasons. The folks on Wall Street, for example, closely watch the strength of brands with an eye on long-term profitability. That’s no surprise, nor is there anything wrong with that.
To earn the love and care of the general public, you must earn the care of the media, industry experts, bloggers and governments. How much the world cares for a brand—or how much it doesn’t—helps bring us order and structure. This caring gives us a context through which to understand modern life, pop culture and personal identities.
Then There’s You
Caring is an emotional activity that is difficult, if not impossible, to fake. Doing so takes a lot of energy. As we think about our businesses, our employees and our customers, it’s important that we not forget ourselves. Do we really care? If not, is what we do worth it? That’s a big, important question to consider as well.
When creating and implementing brand strategies, we must think about engendering a sense of caring on the part of insiders and outsiders alike. Otherwise, we might just be left with new fonts, bold and innovated uses of color, and powerful, edgy messaging.
This post has been adapted from Spencer’s book, “Do They Care? The one question all brands should ask themselves, continually,” available on amazon.com. He is founder and president of Spencer Brenneman, LLC, a Boston-based brand strategy consulting firm.