Yesterday, I had the invaluable opportunity of attending an insightful presentation on organizing a global brand strategy by Lani Lorenz Fry, Global Brand Strategy Manager at John Deere. Lani was a guest presenter at Craig Shoemaker’s strategic marketing class at St. Ambrose University where I had also presented recently.
Lani explained the mechanics of a how a globally diversified company such as John Deere recognizing the importance of its brand, researched its status, marshaled resources, and then implemented a systematic process of developing a cohesive identity for a diverse range of customers across differing sectors.
I do not think there is any need for me to go into the importance of branding and its components. As there are plenty of resources on the web for that. I really appreciated how Lani explained the mechanics of organizing internal resources in building a brand – great insight into the subtle, practical details in brand implementation for a global presence.
#1: Branding Touchpoints
All marketing professionals recognize that a company’s brand is ultimately a comprehensive distillation of of its activities beyond promotion materials and visual identity.
However, quite often it is difficult to connect with colleagues across the organization on how their roles influence the overall development of the brand (Note that one does not have to be a part of a large multinational to encounter this challenge!). While there is no way of getting around the long, slow, educational process to help bring everyone on board, I find exposing the various branding touchpoints and expanding on how each influence the brand experience is extremely effective. An advantage of using a branding touchpoints schematic in the process of education is that helps establish the team effort behind the strategy and each constituent has a well-defined role within this complex institution-wide effort.
#2: The “Invisibles”
While it is common to see graphical examples of a company’s brand portfolio. There other more subtle details that can also help shape the overall impact of a company’s brand. Some of these are tone (the “voice” used in communications ), mood (delivered through imagery such as photography) and even naming conventions, and, what is particularly relevant in the production sector: naming convention. Must confess, at first this came as a bit of surprise but Lani’s explanation revealed the value. For a company delivering a complex array of products with a variety of OEM accessories, an organized naming system can help customers determine where the product fits within the catalog and therefore helps create a more clear, distinct identity of offerings.
#3: (Internal) Brand Ambassadors
Internal support and participation is critical in helping shape an institutional brand. If constituents across the touchpoint wheel do not follow through, the branding effort will be isolated as a shallow marketing effort that does not match the depth and potential of a true brand. One of the ways John Deere ensure that the message of roles and responsibilities connected through the organization was by recruiting brand ambassadors within various units. Brand ambassadors were identified as those colleagues that influenced the social network within that unit. Important to note that these ambassadors were not necessarily unit managers which could potentially color the effort as a top-down directive, but those that had influence within the team because of their presence, and could therefore help introduce operational changes.
I do not think the role of brand ambassadors need to be specific to a global organization. Any company has more than one team as a part of its operations should look into recruiting ambassadors across the various teams to help bring implement the strategy-driven initiatives.
Bonus Takeaway: Efficiency
One factor that seemed that really resonated with me was efficiency. It important that the group the is delivering the brand strategy for an organization as a whole, create a system that makes it easy for their colleagues to adapt these initiatives. Creating samples, style guides, assembling a help desk style resource to answer questions in a prompt courteous manner, all help bring the various branches into alignment.
While the customer and general audience see the most glamorous or creative aspects of branding, the reality is the backend – like any other foundational exercise, entails a lot of preparation, careful planning and execution!