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September 26, 2018

Brands must face inwards

A business premises in Kakamega town. Photo by Samuel Simiti.
A business premises in Kakamega town. Photo by Samuel Simiti.

I’m surprised at how many companies still see branding as a side note – an activity to be conducted on the margins of the business, by people who aren’t rated very highly, and who seem to want to spend the company’s money without demonstrating a return.

But if I’m surprised at the peripheral circumstances of marketing, I’m frankly alarmed that management boards don’t understand the internal value of branding. By this I do not mean logos or signage, or the dreadful mission, vision and values posters that litter every corporate corridor. I mean using the power of your brand to inspire the way you would like things done in your company.

This is a big cognitive step for companies who think their brand is on their letterhead. It isn’t; that logo simply signals the brand is present. But what actually is the brand?

Brand is the best possible summary that an intelligent group of people can create about why they are in business, and what they are in business to do. If you see a market opportunity to attack cartel behaviour (Virgin), target an audience that has not been addressed before (Equity Bank), or change the way money moves (M-Pesa), then you already have your ‘why’. As you develop your product or service, you arrive at your ‘what’. Then, if you properly consider the relationship you hope to develop with your customer, you have your ‘how’.

You may then be able to dramatise that summary in a couple of emotive sentences, that is: 'At Cheche Power, we want commerce and industry to get the most out of electricity. So our job is to energise business, and our ambition is to produce flashes of brilliance.'

When you write a couple of sentences like that, you are both creating customer expectation and also setting the agenda for your staff. You give them a lead to follow. You may even have the good sense for them to come up with their own ideas – inspired by that brand promise.

Let’s consider the benefits accruing to our notional Cheche Power:

Cheche is less likely to hire the wrong people because its recruitment process looks for flashes of brilliance.

Performance reviews and their consequences become easier to manage, because Cheche judges every employee against his ability to energise business.

Cheche’s business development team stays focused on business-to-business solutions.

In time, Cheche won’t need a customer service department, because it has become everybody’s business to serve the customer… and they know how to do it.

I don’t know about you, but I think using your brand to shape your staff culture makes good business sense.

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