Tag Archives: brand alignment

Delivering on the promise.

The basic idea behind “brand alignment” is pretty simple – When it comes to delivering on your marketing promises, make sure everyone in your organization knows what’s going on and they’re able to walk the talk.  Living up to that ideal, though, isn’t simple at all.  It takes a concerted effort to get everyone tuned in and turned on to the principles and practices that align the “do” with the “say.”

Promise Broken
One revealing way to test if an organization is living the brand is to observe how they deal with customer complaints.  I recently had an experience with a new service I subscribed to online that told me a lot in a hurry about what they believe and how they operate.

Within an hour after subscribing, I got a notice that the first program would be broadcast that same evening.  They described the event and what the participants would learn during the one-hour session.  I didn’t want to miss it, but I already had another meeting scheduled.  Reluctantly, I contacted that person and asked if we could reschedule for the following evening.  She agreed, so I was set to take part in the new program.

Does your company deliver on its brand promise?
Does your company deliver on its brand promise?

Customer Disappointed

I decided to share one of my Inside Out lessons with them in the form of a “strongly worded” e-letter to what I thought was some nebulous person in the ether-world.  To my amazement, I got a reply the next morning from a sales manager named James, expressing regret for my problem and promising to look into it.  Later that day I had my next pleasant surprise.  I got a real live phone call from James explaining how I had been connected to the wrong program.  He also thanked me for informing them because they were able to contact other people who experienced the same problem.  Then he said I would be set up in the near future to participate in the program that had been advertised.

Relationship Renewed

That would’ve been good enough, but then I got a call from David, their head of marketing.  He had received my e-letter, too, and he also wanted to apologize for what happened.  Then he really floored me – he said he wanted to give me a FREE lifetime subscription to their service.  The only thing he asked in return was for me to give him occasional feedback on how I felt the service was meeting their customers’ needs.

I told him I thought his offer was very generous but I probably over-reacted a bit in my note, and his compensation was way more than I expected.  To his credit, he would have nothing of my attempt to downplay my initial disappointment, and he apologized again for “wasting my time” and failing to give me what I was promised.

Execs in some companies might say he was crazy to give away so much.  But I’m betting they don’t get many complaints like mine, and when they do, few people raise a fuss because the service is probably impeccable most of the time.  Since it’s an online program, it’s not really “costing” them anything to give it to me free, but it still speaks volumes about their commitment to delivering on their promises – and living their brand.

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Getting aligned on alignment.

One day about 15 years ago, I was talking with a guy from a large agency about the need to build marketing strategies on a strong foundation of employee engagement.  Then as now, I believed the two have to go hand-in-hand if a company wants to match its marketing promises with what they actually deliver.  “Oh yeah,” he replied. “We’re calling that brand alignment.”

Up to then, I had only heard the word alignment used routinely in reference to straightening the front end of a car.  The way he said it, though, I suspected it would become a prominent buzzword on the business communication landscape. And so it has.

A different kind of “shop talk”
No problem with that – alignment is a good word.  Trouble is, people have fairly diverse interpretations of it.  So I’m going take a crack at building some unified meaning around it – but not by trying to define it.  Instead, I’m going to show what alignment looks like in a hypothetical conversation among three people who are the heads of different departments, working together in ways you rarely see in organizations.  There’s Mary in marketing, Tom in human resources and Jane in internal communication.  Let’s hear what they say.

“I think we’re all on the same page about our goal,” said Mary.  “We want to get everyone on board with next year’s marketing plan.  If we’re going to make the most of it, all employees need to see how they fit into the picture.  So how are we going to do it?”

“Whatever we do, it’s important to go beyond doing presentations,” said Jane.  “Just previewing our new ads and going over the media schedule isn’t enough.  We need to get people involved in substantive conversation about their individual roles if we want them to get really tuned in and engaged in what we’re doing.”

“You’re right,” Mary replied.  “We should start by getting employees together to make sure they understand the rationale for our promotional plans and what we’re trying to accomplish.  Then we need to get their input on how to make it happen.”

“We also have to determine what they need in terms of learning and development so they’re equipped to do what’s going to be asked of them,” said Tom. “Without the right tools and knowledge, we can’t expect them to deliver on the promises we’re going to be making out there in the market.”

Start the conversation
That’s just a glimpse of how the discussion might sound, and it could go in lots of different directions.  But you get the idea.  Now here’s my question.  When was the last time you heard a conversation like that – if ever?  If it’s common in your organization, count yourself among the fortunate few.  If not, I invite you to take the first step.  Get your marketing, internal communication and HR people together for a planning session.  Then start by asking yourselves this basic question: When it comes to delivering on your marketing promises, how do you make sure your organization is walking the talk?  You might be surprised at the results – inside and out.

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Learn more about the Landes & Associates approach to Aligning for Results.