We are witnessing a resurgence of a focus on Corporate Brands. Why? Customers don’t just want to know what a product or service brand will do for them. They also want to know who is behind the brand. Where does the brand come from? Corporate Brands have a special opportunity and responsibility. In a world of uncertainty, and diminishing institutional, social, political trust, a Corporate Brand signals what it stands for, what its vision and values are, and how it will behave. A strong corporate brand signals that a brand promise can be trusted to do things right and to do the right things the right way.
In this increasingly skeptical, demanding environment, when deciding whether to do business with, or purchase from, or work for, or invest in an organization, knowing and believing in the corporation’s integrity, values, and intentions matters more than ever.
Employee pride is a powerful force helping to drive business success. A strong Corporate Brand connects with employees. In a world of uncertainty with downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, employee-enterprise relationships have become fragile. Employees and potential employees seek connections that can only come from the identity associated with the purpose and character of a respected and responsible corporate brand.
It used to be that a corporation could keep its identity under wraps. But, today in our digital, technology-laden, 24/7 world of easily accessible, ubiquitous, instantaneous information sharing, there is no place to hide. Corporations are part of the public dialogue, and are subject to increased public scrutiny. The social media environment - with bloggers, vloggers, news feeds, and journalists with varying degrees of credibility - is vast, and can sometimes be vicious. The court of public opinion is always open.
Investing in building a strong Corporate Brand builds a reservoir of Trust Capital that can serve as a safeguard if a mishap or crisis arises. Trust Capital is also a valuable asset in those occasions when a brand needs to defend itself in unexpected, unfortunate situations. When things are uncertain, customers want to know who to email, or call. Who is in charge?
Today’s enterprises tend to focus on corporate organizational wealth by investing in Financial Capital, Intellectual Capital, and Human Capital. But, Trust Capital is equally important. Trust Capital is created when organizations consistently deliver promises of value to stakeholders through behaviors that reinforce credibility, integrity, leadership, and responsibility.
A Corporate Brand gains its power by building its brand authority. Brand authority has four critical elements: familiarity, quality, leadership and trust. The goal is to be the most familiar, highest quality, market leading, trustworthy brand in its competitive class.
A strong Corporate Brand acts as a major value advantage for product or service offers within a Corporate Portfolio of brands. For example, our perception of Marriott affects our perception of trust in its branded hotels such as Westin or Courtyard. Knowing that esurance is an Allstate company brings some credibility to this online enterprise. Amana, Kitchen Aid, Maytag are appliance brands that are part of Whirlpool: does this change your perceptions of their performance? Coca-cola Company is investing in advertising to let us know that they are more than just Coca-Cola. Among their many brands, they market Dasani water, Powerade, Simply Orange, Honest Tea, Odwalla,
For decades, P&G did not mention that Tide and Crest, for example, were part of the P&G orbit. Each brand stood alone as a powerful, big, individual brand. But even at P&G, the world changed. P&G has become a more visible and vocal voice around the world. Tide now uses elements of other P&G brands such as Tide with Febreeze or Tide with Gain fragrance. Swiffer components also include Febreeze, and Crest toothpaste includes Scope mouthwash. As an Olympics sponsor, P&G ran immpactful, emotional corporate advertising heralding the important role that Moms play in children’s lives.
In a Wall Street Journal interview (June 19, 2017), Arun Sundararjan, professor at NYU Stern School of Business, discussed industry disruptions and how organizations can manage for success. He emphasized the importance of a corporate branded solution as a critical element of a value proposition. He said, “For a service where a big part of what you’re buying is the brand associated with the provider, those (businesses) are less vulnerable.” He added, “ But on the other hand, if the brand has just been sort of layered on top, and what people really care about is the product or service that is being delivered, the vulnerability is greater.”
A powerful Corporate Brand reduces customer-perceived risk, allowing customers to feel better about buying products and services from its brands. This is one way that a Corporate Brand influences our purchase decisions.
Here are the characteristics of a strong corporate brand:
- A strong Corporate Brand attracts talented people. This means that employees will be proud to work for this enterprise, and this means superior customer service. It also means that creative, innovative, interesting thinkers will be working to provide us with new and improved products and services.
- A confident Corporate Brand will be transparent and open. It will admit its mistakes and work to remedy any mishaps or transgressions. It will provide us with reasons to believe, proof points that put our minds at ease as to its behaviors. We feel better knowing “why” and we can make sound decisions with less risk-aversion.
- A good Corporate Brand will focus on investments by all of its stakeholders not just its shareholder and financial communities. When a Corporate Brand focuses on the welfare of its employees, its franchisees, its suppliers, its customers and all others as well as its shareholders, everyone wins. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s fervently believed in the wellbeing and welfare of customers, employees and suppliers. He called it a “three-legged stool”. We all lose when shareholder payback is the sole focus of a Corporate Brand’s efforts, even the shareholders. At some point the financial engineering designed to put money into shareholder pockets will face a sharp decline: you cannot financially engineer a brand for enduring profitable growth.
- A model citizen Corporate Brand will stand up for what it stands for: we will know and understand its purpose. Unilever takes a strong, public position on its purpose to “make sustainable living commonplace.”
A Corporate Brand provides a common, credible, authoritative connection across all stakeholder relationships. It is an advantage against competitive actions. It is a promise of familiarity, quality, leadership and trust for all those engaged, and invested in the Corporation, and its portfolio of individual product and service brands.
Given the number of Corporate Brand stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, the financial community, neighborhood community leaders, opinion influencers – and the easy access to information, it is more important today than ever before to build a consistent, powerful Corporate Brand..
Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert, is co-author with Joan Kiddon of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization. He also is the Chief Executive Officer of Arcature, a marketing consulting company that has advised a variety of marketers in packaged goods, technology, retail, hospitality, automotive, corporate and business-to-business, as well as not-for-profit organizations.
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