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Years ago, during a conference, the company president asked everyone to go around the room, introduce themselves, and state their titles. When everyone had their turn, he told the group that they were all mistaken. Each and every conference attendee had the same title: brand manager. This pointed lesson highlights just how unified a brand team must be. It’s more than just a partnership—a great term mitigated by overuse—rather, it’s a living, breathing ecosystem that helps patient care because all forces are aimed in the same direction: how the brand delivers on its promises. Easily said, but rarely executed in the hectic pace of today’s environment. Here are some best practices to achieve critical mass.
Give each team member the power to act as an ambassador of the brand
In our risk-averse culture, marketers can feel afraid to act alone. After all, a lot is at stake. Consensus is vital to success, but too many layers at the wrong time can cause missed opportunities. When every team member is a brand manager at heart, they should have some degree of freedom to fully bring the brand experience to life, knowing that they have support of the brand team around them. Westin hotels at one time gave every employee a $50 discretionary budget per month to please customers on the spot. One housekeeper, aware of a patron’s displeasure with the bottled water, went out and purchased the customer’s brand of choice. A simple act with great appeal can be worth the price of a sales aid sometimes.
Assume good intentions
Unity of purpose can help mitigate those difficult conversations where the team dynamics may feel unstable. Pushing back and forth on an idea, or contemplating programs in addition to those already planned should come from a place of mutual integrity. Presuming good intentions lets the ideas flow, and strengthens relationships, while simultaneously expanding the brand’s opportunities. As the iconic MasterCard campaign says: priceless is more than the sum of each small effort. Trust that everyone profits from healthy debate and proactive thinking. Grounding brand relationships with this unity of purpose fosters brand success.
No vending machines allowed
During the course of business communications, the words “partnership” and “relationship” are sometimes eclipsed by the term “vendor.” Sure, agencies are in the business of vending ideas, but let’s not call them vendors. When a group of external partners from different disciplines—promotion, education, digital, public relations, etc—come together to coordinate a successful marketing initiative, fostering their brand ambassador role is critical. At our agency, we work behind the scenes with other firms to consolidate a single point of view so that our mutual client feels confident that anyone who touches the brand is working for the good of the brand. Vending machines don’t interact with one another. Marketing partners do.
Give each other permission to speak freely
Just as parents must be frank and honest when discussing their child, so too must agency and client partners respect the sanctity of raising, so to speak, their brand. Any exchanges, especially those that involve potential conflicts of opinion, are best managed using detached professionalism—a genuine respect for keeping the brand’s welfare paramount in importance. For example, agencies must advise based on the brand’s welfare; and clients must not hesitate to provide healthy critique of work done on behalf of the brand. It’s a matter of an error of omission, rather than an error of commission. Not speaking freely is a greater risk to the brand than expressing views that may offer a different perspective than that of your partner.
House of cards or home of confidence?
Common wisdom says that it can take only one failed experience to bring down a brand’s delicate infrastructure. That’s why the bonds between all of us brand managers must be steadfast. We’re not done when we establish trust. We’re never done. Relationships with the brand need continual nurturing. So, when we go to work each morning, we shouldn’t just assess our daily tasks in a vacuum. We should ask ourselves: what have I done for the brand lately?