Jeff Bezos put it well: “Your brand is what others say about you when you are not in the room.”
So, how do we affect what others say about us?
As marketing evolves and brands become more human, we have learned that the stories brands tell—directly or indirectly through their actions—matter more than ever. Brand-to-customer conversations are also key. How else can we influence what our brands think and say about us? One way to have an effect on what others say about your brand is to be a part of the conversation.
To put ourselves “in the room”—to use Bezos’s phrase—more often.
When you look at your brand from the inside-out perspective, not only will you start to consider what you’d like others to say about you, but you’ll start giving them more reasons to say it. For example, do all angles of your company align with your brand’s core values and purpose?
Building brand awareness through strong company culture
A way to ensure your brand is being properly communicated from all levels of the organization is to build a team and company culture that authentically supports the brand’s values and purpose. From minute company processes to larger company actions, you want to ensure the core of the company is being carried through. By continuing to motivate and nurture the brand in this way, you will allow for consistent stories to be shared about your brand externally.
When looking at your brand from an outside-in perspective, it is helpful to learn the narratives about your brand that currently exist. When there are stories about your brand being told, do not let them be told quietly in a room you are not in. Invite your customers/users to share their insights with you. Highlight these customer stories for the rest of your team to learn from. Engage with those customers to understand them better, especially from the angle of what successes they are having with your product or service.
But who in the company gets assigned this broad challenge of aligning brand-building strategies, and championing customer successes? Often, it’s marketing professionals.
Breaking Through the Noise 2018 – American Marketing Association
I recently participated in a panel discussion at the American Marketing Association 2018 Breaking Through the Noise conference in San Diego. The panel was moderated by Guusje Bendeler, CEO of thinkPARALLAX, a brand consultancy that helps their clients rise on purpose.
To help marketing professionals think differently about their role, we discussed what internal strategies marketing professionals can use to get external results. It’s a broad topic, but an important one to consider for marketing professionals in the subscription economy, who have to look outside of their traditional role of generating new business leads.
Fellow panelist Ari Hoffman, Customer Success Fanatic for MindTouch, brought us the idea that your customers have success stories to tell and that championing those stories is not only an external strategy but an internal one as well. It’s a true outside-in philosophy that puts the customer at the center of marketing and business strategy. He expressed how bringing in those customers to share their stories with the employees drives a new level of passion and drive toward a shared purpose.
I fully agree that stories matter and I support the idea of customer success driving increased motivation internally. During the panel, I did challenge us all to consider one question first: what is that shared purpose? We explored the idea of how outside-in, customer-centric strategy meets the inside-out, brand-centric approach.
At Four Fin, we help companies uncover their unique brand by defining their values, purpose and vision. When this core work is complete, and all are aligned on what success looks like for the brand, choosing stories to champion becomes more strategic and clear. Guusji, using an example from her client, International Paper, highlighted how this inside-out strategy of re-aligning on purpose can help to shift negative narratives to positive narratives based on discovering a brand’s values. This brings more clarity to a company brand, as well as more internal pride.
Joining in on the discussion was Kyle Mastin, CEO of Pulse Marketing, who shared how he helps customers shift their perceptions of why they are in business by finding their true benefit and purpose. He has seen this mindset shift as a pivotal moment for his clients, which allowed them to build internal culture and ultimately have a positive effect on growth.
How do internal strategies on shaping brand narratives impact company growth?
The stories others tell when we aren’t in the room don’t only apply to our customers, but our employees. Building a cohesive brand narrative internally, aligned around a clear purpose, will enhance the pride and motivation in all employees.
Whether an employee is processing accounts payable, reaching out to business partner networks, servicing a customer, or simply at a dinner party answering the question “what do you do?” that employee’s motivation and pride will shine through their interactions.
Motivation and understanding of their values will give employees and consistent story to tell through those interactions, and hearing consistent feedback from customers that support the story will only make their pride stronger. It’s validating to hear “you are all so efficient!” or “it really feels like all employees put the environment first when making decisions. That’s important to me.” Like any good relationship, we all want to feel like our values align.
The responsibilities of championing customer success stories, growing internal brand loyalty, and aligning teams around a shared purpose might not have been ascribed to marketing professionals in the past. However, if they chose to take a lead role in these tasks, marketing professionals can positively enhance brand narratives and secure growth for their company.