The Four Cornerstones of Brand-Driven Leadership

01.09.18 / David Lemley

Boxing legend and heavyweight champion Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” We couldn’t agree more. Leading through the lens of brand requires consistency and transparency, and a delicate balance of listening and coaching. But humans are messy and complex, even for those in leadership roles. And for that reason, you need a plan. That’s where brand strategy comes into play.

While the details and process of brand strategy are finely detailed, you can use some foundational blocks to start the process, or at least anchor your brand until you have a formalized plan in place.

We’ve created a set of foundation cornerstones to help you lead through the lens of brand.

Know Thy Brand’s Purpose

Purpose is why you exist beyond making a profit.

Most of you reading this article probably understand your brand’s purpose. After all, you are likely working in the better-for-you space and have a strong opinion about wellness, diet, and exercise. It’s also probably why you started the company or joined the organization.

Sometimes, purpose-driven brands find themselves behaving like ordinary brands because they make their purpose complicated. They forget that a brand can be boiled down to this: the promises you make and the way in which you keep them.

But simple is hard. So, here is an exercise to challenge you: write your purpose down and then simplify it by cutting it in half. Keep going until a fifth grader can explain what you wrote and your organization can still deliver it.

Know Thy Brand’s Values

Knowing what you stand for as an organization seems like a no-brainer. But many leaders struggle to articulate their values in language that is specific, believable, and contagious (one of the hallmarks of a great brand), especially when faced with unfavorable performance or sea-change. It is good to have an oral history that employees and customers experience over time through branded lore and storytelling. It’s better to have your values written down.

Know Thy Brand’s People

In purpose-driven brands we often have an advantage because we have hired our most loyal customers as employees. These avid users are built-in evangelists, who know the ins and outs of how our brand fits into their lives. The best employees are often the most outspoken of your stark-raving fans – which shows up as evangelism for the lifestyle that your brand supports.

Know Thy Brand’s Customer

Those of you that are lucky enough to have a team dedicated to customer research and data or have already purchased and analyzed customer data know that there is a little bit of magic and gut checking necessary to truly understand the numbers. However, at a basic level, all brands have a pretty solid idea of who you are talking to. Start there, and keep it simple.

This is where things can get tricky. All the data in the world will only tell you so much. And hiring raving fans as your employees comes with a bit of a double-edged sword – especially in purpose-driven brands. There is something called the awareness gap or the presumed self-identification as your best customer. In short, if all of your best customers are employed by your company then real growth is not possible. Sometimes, in an effort to see customers as not-us it’s important to bring in an outsider.

It may seem strange to hear a strategy firm focus on simplicity. But at the end of the day, as a leader, you should not need crib sheets or require a transcription service to remember what your brand stands for. Simplicity is what will help you and your entire organization make decisions.

No one likes to be “hit in the face.” But those that are prepared, can rebound quickly. The cornerstones help set the foundation on which your brand can be built solidly. Start with the basics and you can’t go wrong. And remember – we’re in your corner.

 

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