Virtually every company has established their brand standards at some level. But truly effective branding is more than writing down what your brand is in theory and applying it to your marketing communications. Effective branding seeps beyond the confines of your sales and marketing department and is put into practice from production to quality management, customer service and everywhere in between. Simply put, operationalizing your brand enables you to actually deliver on your brand promise. But what does eating, sleeping and breathing the brand actually look like?
Getting Leadership Buy-in
It’s essential to have leadership buy-in if you’re to be successful operationalizing your brand. In her book “What Great Brands Do,” branding consultant Denise Yohn lays out a number of brand-building guidelines. One of those is “great brands start inside,” and what it means is that great brands develop a strong internal culture from the top down, which eventually permeates every aspect of a business. If there isn’t involvement from upper leadership, getting the rest of the company to buy in will be difficult – and without buy-in at every level, truly operationalizing the brand becomes impossible.
A wonderful example of leadership buy-in can be seen at CVS, when a little over a year ago CVS made the landmark (and monetarily difficult) decision to stop selling cigarettes. CVS’ CEO Larry Merlo and leadership team took the charge on this issue, which brought in stakeholders at all levels. You can read more about this move to better embody the brand in this Forbes article.
Establish and Execute
For many marketing professionals, say “operationalize the brand,” and Chick-fil-A will be one of the first companies that comes to mind. From employees replying “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome,” to fresh flowers on all dining tables, personal touches are at the heart of everything the beloved company does, and these elements personify the brand itself.
Now, Chick-fil-A’s strategy really isn’t anything new – they methodically thought through customer experience as a whole and identified second-mile touches that drive loyalty by exceeding expectations. However, they developed a clear strategy for how to personify their brand – including decisions made and actions implemented at every level, from sourcing to service – then, most importantly, they executed on this strategy with determined commitment that few can rival.
CVS and Chick-fil-A are just a couple examples of what effective brand operationalization looks like, and they illustrate what kind of success you can experience when you make your brand not just what you say, but what you do.