Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Company Brand’s Message

At the moment I’m reading a book on business branding (which I’ll be reviewing in the next instalment of my “Coffee House Book Review” series) which has lead to some thoughts about the connection between leadership and branding. More specifically, to reassessing how leadership should view the role of the ‘corporate brand’, which in the context of this piece I’ll be referring to as an organization’s brand.

In most cases, when we talk about an organization’s brand, it’s often looked at through some marketing lens. Namely, that the sole function of an organization’s brand is to define the content of outward-directing interactions with the target audience for their products and/or services.

However, in today’s hyper-connected environment and the subsequent push for greater transparency, an organization’s brand is being defined more through their internal culture and how they conduct their business interactions. In other words, brands have moved beyond simply selling consumers your products/services to answering the question – what is the purpose of your organization, your raison d’être?

Indeed, one only needs to look at successful organizations like Nike, Zappos, and Apple to appreciate that brands are no longer used simply to build market shares, but instead are used to distill and define the key aspects of their organizational culture.

So why should leaders start viewing this as an important issue to reflect on and consider? With many discussions underway over the issue of how to retain key talent as the economy improves, it’s vital that leaders evaluate what’s being presented through their organization’s brand – and reinforced through their internal culture – if they are to curb employee attrition, as well as attracting new talent to join their teams to help fuel future growth and development.

Of course, for some leaders, answering the question “what is your organization’s purpose” might seem easy – it’s to be profitable, to make our shareholders happy, and so forth. But the reality is that these are simply outcomes of your organization’s collective efforts, and hardly the reason why your team shows up every day ready and motivated to give their all.

An organization’s purpose – and subsequently the purpose behind the work your employees are assigned to perform – needs to go beyond the narrow lens of simply fuelling the money-making machine, to reinforcing and defining the values and focus of your organization. In other words, it has to deliver the message of how your employees’ efforts contribute to fulfilling your organization’s purpose.

To do this, leaders will need to shift the priority of their focus away from answering how their team can accomplish something, to why the accomplishment will be relevant both to those in their organization and to those who’d benefit from their efforts. As I discussed in a previous piece, research has shown that employees are engaged not as a result of increasing their sense of self-efficacy, but because their efforts are recognized as being of value or of benefit to others.

At the same time, allowing your brand to be defined by your organization’s culture and purpose will ensure that you attract people who are the right fit for your team, instead of simply casting a wide net to obtain the ‘best talent’.  Zappos is probably the best known example of an organization focusing on this approach, with their tactic of offering to pay $2 000 to new employees to quit after they complete the company’s training program as a means of filtering out those who don’t get or fit in with their organization’s culture.

In transforming an organization’s brand to identify their core purpose, organizations will also be able to demonstrate how their efforts benefit the community they serve and exist within. Consider for example this brand statement by the UK fruit and vegetable drink company “Innocent Drinks” which Coca-Cola recently purchased a minority share in –

We sure aren’t perfect, but we’re trying to do the right thing.
It might make us sound a bit like a Miss World contestant, but we want to leave things a little bit better than we find them. We strive to do business in a more enlightened way, where we take responsibility for the impact of our business on society and the environment, and move these impacts from negative to neutral, or better still, positive.

It’s part of our quest to become a truly sustainable business, where we have a net positive effect on the wonderful world around us. Below you will find our strategy for, and our performance to date, in doing so.

By putting this statement out in the public record, this company has intentionally placed themselves under the microscope to make sure they live up to this claim. For some leaders, this might seem like a dubious move. For this organization’s leadership, though, it’s a commitment they can openly make because their employees live it every day, both through their culture and how they conduct their business.

Given how brands are becoming inextricably linked to an organization’s culture, it’s important that leaders understand and promote this shift in brand perception; that they encourage their brand’s message being transformed from ‘this is how we make money’ to ‘these are the values that make work here meaningful and give a sense of purpose to what we do’.

After all, people don’t wear their company’s logo simply because of what their organization does or how high a dividend they offer to their shareholders. Instead, it’s because they personally identify with an organization’s purpose, and the values and goals found therein.

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8 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , | February 28, 2011 by |

  1. On March 1st, 2011 at 7:24 AM Jim Matorin said:

    I find it interesting that thanks to the advent of social media, how branding has taken on a new dimension. As a result, I think it is important for a company to find its voice and establish governance for its people so they are all marching to the same drum. Another leadership challenge. Solid post Tanveer.

  2. On March 1st, 2011 at 6:10 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Jim and I agree that finding your organization’s voice and establishing some form of guideline for how it should be shared will be extremely important factors for leaders to develop and manage as global economies continue to shift from recovery to growth.

  3. On March 2nd, 2011 at 3:56 PM @TheHollandGroup said:

    Bingo Tanveer. Purpose is what gets people up in the morning, propels their effort at work, and keeps them up at night. When I was on the Executive Team of a growing enterprise an accounting staff member said to me, "I could be working anywhere. I want to feel like there's a bigger reason I'm working here." His colleagues responded, "Amen!."

    Purpose also drives team efforts and the really savvy CEO's and Executives ask of the leaders of key initiatives, "What's the purpose of your initiative? along with "when can we expect results?" Without a good answer to this question that resonates with the team, the leader, and the CEO alike, one should question the value of the initiative. When the answer is in sync with all concerned, there is no company time clock; participants are on a mission.

    Nice article.

  4. On March 2nd, 2011 at 5:52 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Chris; glad you enjoyed it.

    It's amazing to see how many leaders still don't understand how critical defining the purpose behind your efforts is to effectively leading your team. I remember one manager who told me that the reason he expected people to show up to work was because they paid them to. Unfortunately, there are many others out there in management positions who still abide by this misguided notion of why their employees need to rally around their cause.

    Thanks again, Chris for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  5. On March 4th, 2011 at 5:50 PM Allison DeFord said:

    I really enjoy your blog posts. I look forward to the opportunity to meet you some day. Ever in the Southern California area?

  6. On March 5th, 2011 at 2:17 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Allison; I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying my writings here on my blog. As for visiting Southern California, I might be attending a conference in Las Vegas later this year; certainly, there are many people I'll be eager to meet up with if I'm in the area.

    Thanks again, Allison for the kind words.

  7. On September 8th, 2015 at 1:39 AM Maryann Farrugia said:

    Branding is very important to your business because it will carry your business of course and your market as well. I find it good to read this post because it is very detailed and well explained cheers mate for this one. Hope you post more in order to enlighten us. Thanks again.

  8. On September 8th, 2015 at 10:33 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Maryann; I'm glad you enjoyed my piece and found it informative on how organizations should view the purpose of their brand's message.

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