Managing your brands through times of organizational change
Organizational change happens. Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad. In both cases, most often change occurs gradually and in somewhat indistinguishable phases. People are placed into situations where unknowns outnumber certainties, and pathways forward are temporarily unclear. Emotions can range from genuine excitement to paralyzing fear. People with different personalities and positions are brought together by circumstance, and a process of discovery ensues. Eventually focus again becomes sharp, responsibilities defined, and expectations known. But how can you best manage your corporate, product and service brands as the organization shifts and evolves?
Know Your Brand’s Equity
Organizational change often disrupts organizational memory. This is one reason assessing brand equity on a regular basis is so important. An unvarnished review of the brand should reveal where it is succeeding and where more work is necessary. Capturing the perspective of key constituents (internally and externally) will help the organization understand, in an unbiased manner, where intervention is most needed. Personal perspectives, likes and dislikes, should be parked, and actual qualitative and quantitative brand assessment findings heeded.
Don’t Forget Your Customer
Although markets are now accustomed to companies acquiring others and change being a norm, that acceptance wears thin quickly when they experience perceived or actual disruptions with the brands they have come to know and rely upon. It’s important to keep key constituents in the loop. If the brand is going to evolve in any way, make sure people know what to expect. If the brand is going to remain intact, provide that assurance. As always, use your customers and the market as guideposts. Don’t let organizational change affect outreach and engagement in any negative manner.
Know Your Goal: Evolution vs. Revolution
Evolving a brand to accommodate market demands and customer preferences is essential. Understanding the brand’s overall equity will inform whether the brand can be evolved effectively or whether revolution (or reinventing) the brand is necessary. Equity, not ego, should drive this critical business decision. Evolution is generally more easily adopted by customers, unless there is a compelling reason to recreate the brand. If revolution is required, it must be done within the context of credibility. The reasons motivating the redirection of the brand need to be addressed transparently, internally and externally.
Use Corporate Culture to Reinforce and Drive Brand Direction
Never forget that an organization is only as good as its people. Leadership holds the responsibility of managing the company to maximize shareholder or investor value. A critical factor in achieving success is leadership’s prowess in motivating their team, recognizing and rewarding excellence and creating a team environment united by a common purpose.
Pick Your Moments
If the brand is going to evolve as a result of organizational change, be deliberate as to how differences will be introduced to internal and external constituents. Internally, informed inclusiveness goes a long way in facilitating adoption of change. Externally, customers want to know how the change will benefit them or their experience with the brand. Always introduce brand evolution internally first and cultivate familiarity, knowledge and acceptance. This will enable employees to serve as effective brand champions when communicating outwardly. Also assess whether existing venues and meetings are the best way to introduce brand evolution or whether harnessing a novel approach could be more effective.
Know Who You Can Count On
Brands don’t take root overnight. Success is the result of research, careful strategy and reliable execution. Even when brand evolution is necessary, know your resources. Which employees and vendors have the historical knowledge to help inform decisions? Who can provide the backbone of intelligence necessary in order to know how to best step forward with confidence? Don’t let the past be an obstacle to the future. Harness what has been learned to power decisions and empower people.
All good brand stewards need to be open-minded – especially in times of organizational change. This can be difficult because familiarity breeds content. Objectivity in assessing new perspectives can serve the brand well. It’s completely appropriate to view ideas through the lens of experience, but don’t be afraid to embrace change when it makes sense and is properly motivated.
Organizational change can be viewed as threatening and a time of tremendous vulnerability for employees and even customers. It represents, however, an equally tremendous opportunity – a chance to unite, reinvigorate and solidify success. Be protective of your brands throughout the change process. Know what has delivered results to date. Know what needs improvement. Don’t let egos derail vision. And be sure to convey an absolutely clear pathway forward for employees and customers alike.
by Jonathan D. Katz