Branded behaviour

Regular readers of this column will know that I have my reservations about the corporate practise of writing a Mission, Vision and Values statement. It’s not wrong, and it’s certainly a great place to start articulating where you want the business to go. But it rarely resonates with external audiences who (Heaven save us!)  get to read it on your website. The modern consuming public are alert to false promises and see right through those over-ambitious statements of self-worth.

More importantly, the Mission, Vision and Values statement is rarely couched in words that are easy for staff to action and understand. The committees who write them, and the Boards who approve them, have been brought up to value corporate-speak over more human idiom. Talking like a business robot apparently makes your enterprise seem more serious and important.

We ran a great exercise last month during our Amalgam Leadership Programme  As part of giving our emerging business leaders a usable understanding of how Marketing should work, we asked them to explore the language of branding. Specifically to help them articulate how they would like their business to grow. How their corporate image should be shaped, and what their staff should do in their daily work to deliver it.

‘If your business was a person’ we asked, ‘how would you like it to behave?’  In Marketing we call this defining the Brand Personality.

Given the right prompts and a lively discussion, we generated some breakthrough ideas.

A leading regional microfinance business was re-characterised as helpful, respectful and inventive. Each of those words are easy to understand and act upon.

A luxury destination management business that produces safari packages for overseas travel agents to sell to tourists wanted to be seen as creative, responsive and reliable.

And the boss of a Kenyan floriculture company, that produces wonderful flowers to brighten dull lives in grey Europe, wanted his business to be fresh, beautiful and happy.

Across the twelve enterprises under consideration, we managed to avoid choosing corporate non words like transparent and innovative. Our imaginations went far further. And so they should, because the power of words to inspire action and define differentiation cannot be underestimated. But only if they are the right words.

There was rueful laughter in the room when we challenged our leaders: ‘Is this how your business is today, or how you would like it to be?’ A clear acknowledgement that the task of turning inspiring words into actions takes time, effort and persistence. In fact, it’s a journey that never ends. So, it’s best to get started as soon as you can.

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