Brand Delusion

How do your customers perceive you?

Business leaders tend to assume that their names and brands are enough equity

In Summary

•Organisations in Africa are increasingly populated by questionnaires

•Any business of scale should research and track its organisational brand perceptions


Customers queue inside a KCB branch in Nairobi. /FILE
Customers queue inside a KCB branch in Nairobi. /FILE

As I move around our Continent, helping to improve enterprise culture and customer experience, I am becoming increasingly aware of an important trend.

It relates to organisational brands, particularly in well-established businesses. I’m discovering that business leaders and senior management often have a distorted view of their brand’s equity. By which I mean if I went out into the street and asked people if they knew about company x, a surprising majority majority would be completely ignorant.

If I pressed those who claimed to know the company name about what they thought the company did, I would also garner little response. Any understanding would also be out of date.

More worrying, if I asked the company’s customers the same two questions I don’t believe the answers would give more comfort.

This isn’t the fault of the public, or indeed of the customer. There’s no obligation on them to be aware of your wonderful company name and logo, and the ever-increasing range of services it offers or products it makes.

The situation arises because of a common blind spot among business leaders. They tend to believe that, since everyone in their social or business network knows who they are and the name of the company they run, they are sitting on a big fat chunk of brand equity. And because leaders think this, and reaffirm it in internal meetings, their senior management become apostles of this falsehood.

Then the erroneous idea (that we are a big brand and everyone knows what we do) cascades down through the organisation to be embraced by anyone who sits on their laurels, but questioned by those who don’t. Organisations in Africa are increasingly populated by questionnaires, and that is a good thing. But only if leaders listen to the questions they are asking.

One of the many places that this delusion has an impact is on recruitment. Companies trying to recruit from a starting point of hubris tend not to attract the candidates they need. Leaders become frustrated with HR teams and recruiters: ‘Why is our amazing company not attracting better people?”

Next, it impacts staff retention. And never more so than today, when the questioning generation (Millennials) is demanding something more that a monthly wage and some slightly outdated KPI’s.

There’s an easy way to address this common blind spot, and recalibrate internal perceptions of enterprise value. Any business of scale should research and track its organisational brand perceptions. Unprompted awareness; understanding of organisational brand promise; knowledge of products and services; how easy or hard it is to do business (customer effort) and willingness to recommend (net promoter score).

Only then can you decide which perceptions you want to strengthen or correct.

Chris Harrison leads the Brand Inside