Earlier this month, I had the honor of serving as a judge for the IHAF Awards, the creative awards portion of the In-House Agency Forum’s (IHAF) Annual Conference, coming up in November. If you’re not familiar with the organization, IHAF is the foremost authority on internal agencies—delivering content and cultivating community to enhance the influence and impact of corporate advertising and creative organizations.
The other judges and I spent a day poring over submissions in a host of categories, from advertising to internal communications. The work was impressive and our challenge real!
Despite the high caliber of all the submissions, there were a few situations for which it was clear that the line of business manager won out over the marketing professional. This phenomenon is neither new nor is it unique to in-house agencies.
This challenge exists almost everywhere and it is costing businesses millions:
- Brand value decreases when the strategy is not consistently executed
- Sales and shareholder value, as a result, plummet
- Marketing dollars are, at best, under-leveraged, and at worst, wasted
- Talent walks out the door if they are not valued
This scenario is unfortunate because it’s entirely unnecessary. Despite a career on the side of marketers, I will admit that both parties have culpability. One antidote exists, however, for the poisons that each takes: a brand education program.
Brand education can create an environment in which everyone is working toward a common goal, not pulling their hair out in frustration.
A good brand education program has a few variations, each tweaked to provide role-specific guidance on understanding, supporting, and leveraging the brand strategy. Let’s start with the marketers or members of the in-house agency.
What do marketers and designers need to know about the brand, besides the all-important mechanics around hex values and font hierarchy? They need to understand:
- Why does the brand exist in the first place?
- What about it is relevant and competitively differentiated from the other options customers have?
- What is the relationship customers have with the offerings?
- What are the fundamental problems the brand solves for the customer?
- What barriers prevent prospects from converting or existing customers from returning?
Let’s flip it around now. What do line-of-business managers need to understand before they can make the best-informed and most strategic decisions about marketing their products and building the business? They need to understand:
- Why a brand strategy is important in the first place. How a well-executed brand strategy is proven to drive sales, maintain loyalty, increase shareholder value, and attract and retain the best talent, to name just a few.
- How the principles behind the brand strategy set it and the company up for success.
- How the decisions around each of those principles were made.
- What they can do to help build the brand and why doing so is important to their specific roles.
- The entire branding ecosystem and how a decision in one area impacts decisions elsewhere.
The other benefit of a brand education program? It takes the emphasis off of brand policing and puts it on brand building.
These programs do not have to be expensive. They can be simple, but orchestrated and consistently delivered conversations with all the people integral to a brand’s success—which is to say, everyone. But perhaps we just start with the line-of-business managers and the marketing professionals.
Need help? We love putting together brand education programs. Let’s start a conversation.
Spencer Brenneman, LLC