Brandspeak: Change Management Practices for a Brand-Led Organization

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Joe Pantigoso SAP brandspeak

The following guest post is by SAP senior director Joe Pantigoso.

Change management practices can help build a brand-led organization. Change management focuses on the people side of change—specifically, how to inform, inspire and enable employees to adopt a change in an organization.

To transform into a brand-led organization, you also need employees. Employees are the ones that bring the brand to life. They are the ones who will align their activities to what the brand stands for. It’s the business decisions they make, the stories they tell and the experiences that they create that will build the brand experience and, ultimately, the perception customers have in their minds about a brand.

Here are some change management practices from Prosci, a global leader in change management, which could help your colleagues transform and adopt brand-led thinking and behaving to drive your business goals.

1. Leverage leaders

According to Prosci, for change success, “active and visible” executive sponsorship is essential. Projects with effective sponsorship, Prosci found, were almost three times more likely to meet or exceed objectives than projects with ineffective sponsorship.

Correspondingly, active and visible sponsorship is critical to becoming a brand-led company. The highest levels of an organization have to champion this goal. And in some cases, with large global companies with several lines of business, you’ll need a primary executive sponsor as well as a coalition of supporting executive sponsors. This was our case at SAP where, for example, we had the support of our entire executive board for our first companywide, all-employee brand training.  This included our chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operations officer, chief innovation officer, presidents of various divisions as well as our chief marketing officer. All were actually featured in the training, visibly showing their support of our brand-building goal.

2. Leverage managers

Regarding day-to-day jobs, managers are closer to employees than an organization’s top executives. So involving managers to guide their teams to the desired behavior is fundamental for successful change management and for becoming a brand-led organization.  Interestingly, Prosci’s research showed that middle managers were often, in fact, the most resistant group to change. By engaging managers early, resistance can be mitigated and managers can be converted from detractors to advocates.

To enlist this manager audience, for instance, we created communications asking managers to champion brand-building behavior with their teams. A video message gave practical suggestions on how to engage their teams as well as provided an inspiring tone and personal thanks for their support. Also an accompanying message board allowed managers to add publicly visible messages of support.

3. Engage with employees

According to Prosci, change begins with the individual. Prosci outlines five stages that are required for an individual to realize change:  awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. Return on investment is realized once an individual gets to ability. Using this approach, you can design your brand building activities in line with each stage.

For us, one-minute videos, published weekly, help build awareness, knowledge and ability. And the use of employees to narrate these videos—peers who colleagues know and can relate to—combined with practical tips on how to apply the brand to daily work helps generate desire.

As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has said, “Every employee can affect your company’s brand, not just the front-line employees that are paid to talk to your customers.”

So consider using change management practices like enlisting executive sponsors and managers as well as designing initiatives that correspond to Prosci’s individual change stages. With this approach, you can help inspire and enable your colleagues across your organization to join together to become a brand-led business.


Joe Pantigoso is a Senior Director in Global Branding at SAP, a leading enterprise software company and top globally-ranked brand. Follow him on Instagram and read more of his columns here

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