Product and Corporate Brands can have very Different Personalities
Last week I caught up with a client who has corporate brand role within a successful large publicly listed company in Australia. We had previously worked together on a project for her company that eventually did not see the light of day, and I was catching up to explore if she would be interested in giving her views for an article on brand planning frameworks. However what transpired was an amazingly emotional and rich experience that served to heighten my sensitivity to the notion of the corporate brand (and beast).
Minutes into our conversation my companion started quietly sobbing, the by-product of another emotionally draining day at the office. Fighting the good fight in any large organisation can be an exhausting one, but one that lacks a coherency around what it stands for can be brutal when you are pursuing a change agenda. It was a meeting that was raw, but confirming of the human spirit available to organisations who can unlock it in positive ways. My meeting companion is talented, ambitious, strong and destined to make a difference.
However it did remind me of an article by brand guru Kevin Keller and a colleague Keith Richey that I had read a few years ago on corporate brand personality. They make the point that a product brand is often defined by what it does and represents, whereas a corporate brand is defined as much by who it is as what it does. Unlike a product brand personality that typically relates to consumers and user imagery for a specific product brand, a corporate brand personality can be defined in terms of the human characteristics or traits of the employees of a corporation as a whole. A corporate brand personality will therefore reflect the values, words and actions of employees, individually and collectively. What I experienced last week was one individual’s reaction to experiencing the words and actions of fellow employees, her corporate family. On this occasion they were zapping rather than energising.
In the article by Keller and Richey they put forward three dimensions that may make up the corporate personality.
The ‘heart’ of the company is comprised of two traits: passionate and compassionate. The company must be passionate about serving its customers and competing in the market and must have compassion for employees, stakeholders, and members of the communities in which it operates.
The ‘mind’ of the company contains two traits: creative and disciplined. A successful company must be creative in its approach to serving its customers and winning in the market, while also adopting a disciplined approach that ensures appropriate and consistent actions across the organisation.
The ‘body’ of the company is made up of two traits: agile and collaborative. The successful company must possess the agility to profitably react to changes in the market and also employ a collaborative approach that ensures it works well together inside and outside the company toward common goals.
Reflecting on the emotion charged meeting I had last week it reminded me of the human richness available to organisations if they choose to spend some time defining how they will operate within these domains. They represent six very powerful dimensions when one asks how each will be brought to life within the culture of an organisation. Underlying all of them is the need for the utmost respect for each of the individuals charged with the responsibility of making them a reality.