When was the last time you undertook a brand audit?
Having a strong brand is essential for your business. If your branding is not generating value, you are compromising opportunity.
A brand audit becomes a brand investment:
Any investment into your business will be rigorously considered against a set of parameters and ROI. A brand refresh or undertaking a rebranding initiative is very often considered when a business reaches a milestone. For example, when reaching 10, 15, 20 years in business, or when a new CMO/COO joins the company, presenting reason to rethink the status quo or to make improvements to the brand image.
Whilst these can make for sound courses of action, there is a more analytical approach required to well-rounded brand management.
Brand performance should be assessed and evaluated on a timely basis to ensure that your branding is in line with your vision and values, relevant to stakeholder groups – both external customers and internal – and consistently experienced across all touch points.
The significance of strong, relevant branding:
A powerful brand will inspire and engage your audience and ultimately increase conversions and sales. A strong, consistent brand retains customers and requires less spend to attract new ones. A powerful brand also cultivates referrals and commands a premium.
However, an inconsistent, irrelevant and or disconnected brand will not achieve desired results such as these.
What is a brand audit?
A calculated approach to brand management should involve regular brand audits. A brand audit, often termed a brand health check, is a thorough examination of a brand’s current position in the market, against the competition, providing a review of effectiveness. A comprehensive brand audit will reveal new growth opportunities for your business, and new ways to make your brand resonate with both existing and a new generation of target customers who will represent your brand’s long-term future. Even seemingly successful brands need a regular brand audit or health check to keep them on track to reach their goals.
In short, a brand audit will assess and evaluate the performance of your brand against a series of criteria including:
- Relevance to achieving your business vision and reflecting your established business values
- Your relevance in the marketplace to stakeholder groups – especially your primary target audience
- The integration of your brand’s visuals, services and products in relation to customer experience
- The consistency of your branding across all customer touch points.
A brand audit can be scaled to any business size, sector and customer base, and can be as thorough as required. Most importantly, undertaking a brand audit will deliver solutions that can be transformed into actionable results. Gaps in your branding will be identified (or not!) and investment into your rebrand, brand refresh or customer experience application efforts can be efficiently focused and tailored.
Keeping branding relevant and on track is important in driving brand value and relevance. Similarly to any other asset, your brand requires managing diligently through application, monitoring, evaluation and maintenance.
At IM London, we love branding and pride ourselves in being experts in maximising our clients’ brand value with strategic execution and considered creative solutions. If you need to assess your brand performance, need support with a brand audit or are looking to undertake a brand refresh, we’d love to speak to you about your branding goals.
Drop us a line at email@example.com!
‘Return on Experience’ (ROX) is being recognised as one of the best ways to realise more value from your business; for hotels and restaurants where experience is everything, it is a useful approach to business planning.
The return on investment to be gained from delivering a great guest experience is dependent for the most part on employees. Their knowledge, motivation, energy and know-how are as important, if not more important, than many aspects of the physical product, including technology.
Therefore investing in and measuring ROX, which takes into account employee engagement as well as financial results, guest satisfaction and efficiencies puts the spotlight on ensuring your employees’ experience within the organisation is as it should be.
According to Accenture, employers offering a great employee experience outperform the S&P Index by 122%
To retain fully engaged employees and offer them a great brand experience, taking the time to understand things from their perspective is the place to start.
This includes everything they see, feel, observe and experience throughout their journey within the organisation – not just their career development path. It includes the everyday, the here and now. The company culture and team spirit, the willingness of leaders and supervisors to take time to support their teams as well as providing the tools, technology and resources to excel at serving the guest at every touch point. This kind of support is expected by all your employees especially the most talented – the ones who can move on at any time to new and better opportunities.
Getting the right balance is hard; whilst younger employees may prioritise their development and growth opportunities, others may look for maximum flexibility to help them meet commitments to family, children and parents.
Good hotel leaders are well ahead in retaining great talent through cultures that enable people to be their best, which in itself builds social capital within the organisation and status externally as an employer. This is ROX at its best.
How can the ROX approach help ensure your brand’s ‘employee experience’ stacks up to the expectations of today’s workforce?
The answer is a virtuous circle that aims to embed high employee satisfaction which in turn drives guest satisfaction that results in guest loyalty and higher spend.
For a virtuous circle that embraces the employee brand experience as well as the guest’s brand experience, here are some key goals to frame an action plan
- Self-esteem – make internal brand ownership aspirational
- Influencers – encourage internal influencers to engage others
- Behaviours – recognise the right behaviour in performance management
- Value – identify & reward the creation of value in the guest’s eyes
- Financial – share and celebrate financial success
For help with employee experience, employee engagement, brand engagement, internal communications and Return on Experience: firstname.lastname@example.org
An inspirational vision or higher purpose is a must for organisations in all sectors, especially for generations Y and Z (currently 38% of the workforce and increasing to 58% in the next decade)
However, the very nature of inspirational words and statements of higher purpose can widen the gap between what is agreed in the board room and the everyday reality for employees who have to deliver.
Well crafted, high flying words do not in themselves drive the productivity or the improved customer experience and competitive edge they were designed for in the first place.
Brand vision from the inside out
If this rings a bell, it may be time to revisit your brand vision and brand purpose from an internal perspective.
Everyone wants to be inspired and most people come to work wanting to do a good job, but that brings an expectation that the leadership, systems and support will be in place to enable them to do that.
From this perspective, the time and resource put into supporting the delivery of the vision are as important as the vision itself.
If you ‘unpack’ the vision from an internal standpoint it becomes easier to create a way of embedding that vision throughout the organisation.
Behaviour and levels of engagement include individual feelings mixed with tangible needs, peer pressure and perceived problems.
Listen to your employees
Remove the corporate-speak about productivity and increased output and listen instead to teams and individuals talk about ‘how easy or difficult it is to get things done around here.’
This can unlock solutions for engagement – and improved customer experiences with higher productivity will invariably emerge from these kinds of conversations.
If you listen and capture this internal take on the best way forward, you can bring your vision and values alive with an execution plan that uses the language, structure, tools and support that gain trust and buy-in at all levels.
Effective employee engagement plans
For a more effective employee engagement plan, start the conversations around:
- The meaning of inspiration and vision from all angles
- How brand values help in every day at work
- What’s in it for employees when it comes to the brand promise
- How does the brand promise affect customers’ expectations?
- How can we build a brand vision journey from the ground up
The 80/20 rule holds true. It’s just turned on its head in this case.
YOUR WORKFORCE – ADVOCATES OR DETRACTORS?
For hotels, restaurants and event companies, 9 times out of 10 the value of your brand depends on your people.
Location and product quality are key but to gain a continuous price advantage, an engaged and motivated workforce delivering at every customer touch point is critical.
Employees and customers
Since employees have a much closer relationship with customers than senior executives, they are the ones who can make or break a brand’s reputation and market value.
However, to take the UK as an example, only 23% of the workforce is fully ‘engaged’ and it is reasonable to assume that service industries do not differ significantly from the rest.
If you took a straw poll of your workforce would you find advocates or indifference towards you as an Employer?
Either way, statistics show there is a big opportunity to gain market edge right (up to 147%) now by recognising the contribution employees make to the value of our brand on the balance sheet.
At the same time, the workforce is changing fast.
Millennials and Generation Z, who demand a reason to stay with their employers rather than the other way round, will soon make up the majority of employees.
In fact, by next year, Millennials will constitute 50% of the workforce.
So there is no option but to prepare an employee engagement strategy that is fit for purpose and inspires employee loyalty across generations.
Employees and their Employers
To initiate a strategic engagement plan, mapping the ‘employee journey’ through the company will help to scope out a realistic strategy.
Simply mapping a career path from start to finish is not enough; the journey for engagement requires careful consideration at every touchpoint in daily interactions between employee and employer.
Similar in fact to mapping a customer journey but from a fresh perspective.
There are many success stories out there.
At a recent meeting with Cycas Hospitality, winner of best hotel employer 2018, I discovered from founder John Wagner and Culture Coach Janet Roberts that the Cycas vision of “making its hotels the best places to work as well as to stay” has given a simple, singular direction to the complex task of delivering an effective employee communications and engagement programme.
The outcome speaks for itself from both employee satisfaction and a bottom-line point of view.
There is no escape from the reality that successful employee engagement and the competitive edge it brings demand as much care and consideration as customer engagement.
Also, like customer engagement, you have to be ’on it’ all the time.
87% OF EMPLOYEES ARE NOT ENGAGED AT WORK
For service businesses like hotels and airlines where employees ‘are the brand’ this is a great opportunity to gain market edge.
According to Gallup 2018, ‘companies with highly engaged employees outperform the market by 147%’.
However 1 in 5 employees are saying they are not being managed in a motivating way.
At best they may be indifferent to your organisation and at worst may be damaging your reputation by sharing their views internally and externally.
As a result company value can go up or down at lightning speed and business size appears to be irrelevant
Employee engagement and competitive edge
On the up side CEOs and owners, whatever their business goals, are waking up to the importance of optimising their human capital.
They see a large untapped opportunity for improvement in performance which will deliver higher employee motivation, improved customer satisfaction along with growth in shareholder value.
However, there is quite a gap between understanding the opportunity and the appetite for action, mainly because there is no quick fix.
Employee engagement delivers long term sustainable returns rather solving immediate issues around profitability.
Attracting, motivating, engaging and retaining great talent will be the difference between winning and losing over the next 2-5 years, so future proofing the business now is worth very careful consideration.
Where to start?
Whilst innovative technology is everywhere and is a fantastic enabler, it is not the solution.
From experience, successful internal engagement hangs on how well you translate your brand purpose or vision into an inspirational and deliverable set of internal actions; this calls for an approach to employee engagement that is as considered as your approach to customer engagement.
To get started, see IM London’s simple pointers below for framing an effective internal engagement plan.
Internal engagement framework:
- Revisit your brand purpose from an internal perspective
- Set employee engagement goals & measures
- Align goals & outcomes to your business plan
- Map the employee ‘journey’ with all touch points
- Communicate and action!
With the right framework in place and experienced individuals engaged in driving it forward, the process is straightforward but to make it successful and sustainable the devil is in the detail all the way.
That’s OK though, because the return on investment is worth it!
Are your business strategy, growth objectives and brand strategy aligned?
Ideally a firm’s business strategy is debated, developed, executed, measured and justified on an ongoing basis by an ambitious and diligent senior team. If the firm’s business strategy is a working piece and translated into a set of agile plans, then the firm’s brand strategy should provide powerful energy to move this forward. If this is not happening, then the brand management process should, when systematically carried out, be the catalyst to clarifying the aspirations and success objectives.
In either scenario, it may be time to check that the business vision, values and plans are being translated into all branding touch points whilst staying relevant.
If the firm is growing into new markets, sectors and demographics of any difference, you must reach out with tailored relevance. Again, be considered at all levels including branding.
Whatever the size of the firm, vision and values need to be up to date and communicated for onboarding new people. How else will they know how to contribute to the brand in providing a service without any degree of guideline?
It’s all about the people – to deliver on the brand promise, values and services with consistency and enthusiasm requires an understanding and engagement of brand development. Understanding the strategy behind the brand enables partners, managers and teams to bring the brand to life authentically through tangible means, from pitching for a new business to answering phone calls. The end to end consideration of all touchpoints has been part of the brand development process for many sectors for some time, particularly airlines and hospitality. For the professional sectors, we would argue there is much opportunity to stride ahead and create this differentiation.
Is the firm not only communicating what they stand for but also claiming this space as their own? If not, there is probably a need to refresh the look and feel of key brand assets to meet new times and claim their space in the current market.
Seemingly obvious but a brand’s website should engage with their target audience with the best of who, what, how and why. Whether this is to attract visitors or to reinforce a sense of confidence and legitimacy, the site needs to be on-brand and relevant to your clients today and tomorrow…not for yesterday.
There’s no short cut – brand strategy is a part of business strategy you should not ignore if you are aiming to grow a business. Its focus will put pressure on the discipline within our overall business strategy.
Branding during mergers and acquisitions should be well considered. Financial and strategic analysis and planning is applied in the process, but seemingly the line for brand value is less rigorously managed. Many mergers do not achieve the greater sum of their parts so the question is – is the brand being managed to optimise value as other assets are during this process?
Of the largest global companies, for most, more than 15% of their market capitalisation is in fact brand value (Brand Finance 2018). Taking the opportunity to maximise this asset requires consistent attention.
Some cornerstones to the process are mentioned here:
The investment strategy and rationale should guide brand architecture – that is, how the brands in question are integrated and the future links that may develop in time. Whilst branding provides stability to a vision and a collection of values there must also be scope for adaptability in the modern marketplace.
With clients, customers and guests at the centre of our businesses, minimising friction through change may need to be handled sensitively. It is important to understand a customer’s level of involvement with the brand, alignment with services and values and loyalty towards the brand and services. Very often this presents an opportunity to refresh the current brand(s) as a whole by reviewing the brand foundations.
As with most decision making, it is easier to take the team on the journey in order to get to the destination. It’s important to recognise the rational and emotional involvement for all stakeholder groups – management team, employee divisions, new and existing clients and investors. The brand journey will be widely interpreted and contribute to the brand and thus its market value.
Whether it’s an initial branding exercise, evolvement of your brand or a website refresh choosing the perfect branding agency can provide you with that advantageous leap forward. However, it can be challenging when deciding which agency might be most compatible with you and your organisation. So to prioritise your considerations…
Do your research and look at the types of work produced by different agencies. Does the agency have an approach that will incorporate all the practical, theoretical and emotional backdrop to your brand? Do you see your brand designed with the same approach?
Identify agencies with similar values.
Select the agencies that will respect your aspirations (vision) and values. Are their values similar to yours? Will the agency you select understand your business in the way you want it to be perceived?
A team you want to work with.
Seems quite obvious but results are achieved through skilled people working well together. Who would be managing and doing your work? Are they easy to work with? Do they respect your work in the way they should? Are they the right people for the job as opposed to the guys the agencies wanted to allocate?
It is a good idea to think forward. There are huge benefits in building a good relationship with your agency over time. Your needs will fluctuate but the consistency through your brand should not. Your agency can take a pivotal role in your brand guardianship and with a good relationship will be far more able to add value rather than simply order take.
As all disciplines become broken up into micro-units of specialisation having those agency or partnership relationships becomes increasingly important.