Selling brand into the c-suite is a daunting and sometimes demoralising task.
Frequent challenges range from brand being equate with a logo, that it’s considered a nice to have – rather than a must have – and scepticism of the commercial value brands deliver.
But the challenge is not insurmountable. Below are five practical steps to buy into brand:
- Step 1 – simplify brand language
Brand marketers are guilty as chare for brand bingo. Brand essence, brand personality, brand positioning, brand purpose, brand image, brand reputation brand equity, brand identity, brand……on and on.
A of love of brand jargon won’t help your business case cause. It adds another layer of confusion to core ideas many in the c-suite may not be familiar with.
Instead of referring to brand essence, for instance, why not simply say “our brand is all about (insert essence here)”. For example, your brand essence may be ‘clever compact design’ because you design apartments and for other situations where space is at a premium. “That decision fits with our brand essence.” or “That decision fits with our brand which is all about clever compact design”.
- Step 2: measure brand performance
Your brand building business case effort should be underpinned by measurement. This will show the c-suite you are serious about demonstrating the value brands deliver.
When measuring brand performance take a suite of employee, brand and financial metrics. Employee and brand measures are leading/lagging indicators which deliver pre-emptive financial insights. Money talks so financial measures are a must but don’t forget financial measures tend to be historical and shorter-term – a mentality that is diametrically opposed to the longer-term horizons associated with brand building.
When measuring brand performance for the first time around try to obtain qualitative, quantitative then qualitative data. The first cut of qualitative will be exploratory so you can understand the key issues that emerge. The quantitative data should validate the exploratory qualitative insights with a larger sample. The final qualitative insight is the icing on the cake. It will help you understand the nuances associated with the quantitative trends you have obtained.
- Step 3: Prepare to share brand evidence
During this step collate three forms of evidence
1. Baseline brand performance metrics (obtained in step 2). Have an executive summary focused on the “So what?” of your insight to share with the c-suite. This can be supported by more extensive insights which you can offer as an appendix to the c-suite and other stakeholders. You may be surprised at their uptake if the summary insights hit the spot.
2. Case studies which demonstrate brands drive performance. If these are from your market and close competitors all the better. There’s nothing like a tinge of envy to focus the c-suite’s mind.
3. Solid empirical research. Ideally, this should be produced by independent think tanks, research institutes or Universities that don’t have an agenda to cross or up sell consulting services.
- Step 4 – stakeholder engagement
To build your business case for brand you must identify and then sequence stakeholder engagement.
Take some time to understand who, in the c-suite -and beyond – you need tp engage with. Identify what their priorities and goals are then try to align brand with those. The CEO maybe under pressure to increase the company’s market valuation. If that’s the case outline how brands add to the balance sheet – as an intangible asset.
Other stakeholders will exist between you and the c-suite. This can be a help and a hindrance. Carefully identify those people then sequence the stakeholders you need to engage with. This will make sure you don’t burn any bridges and ruin any empires people are trying to build.
Don’t be shy to keep engaging relevant stakeholders with your measurement approach and share the metrics you have obtained. You’d also be wise to keep sharing selectively, case studies and evidence-based insights with them – using straightforward English that won’t win you any prizes at brand.
- Step 5 – measure brand performance
Last obtain the same employee, brand and finance metrics (as in step 3) to show, in no uncertain terms, the value brand delivers.
Brand performance measurement should be an ongoing endeavour. The duration of the cycle depends on budgets and resources to name a few. Quarterly or bi-annual is about right but any more than an annual cycle is problematic as apathy and inertia tend to set in.
The insights you obtain should be shared – shamelessly with key stakeholders. Use your data as an opportunity to show that brand delivers value. This may entail internal emails or even a debriefing session (no one can turn down a free lunch).
At this stage you may not need to sandwich the quantitative insights qualitatively so be guided by your experience and intuition if the quantitative data doesn’t provide the depth of insight you.
Brand is usually in the firing line for budget cuts, so you need to be well-prepared and proactive when it comes to building the business case for brand. This post has shared five practical pointers that should help you on your way.
The goal is to develop a c-suite mentality where brand is regarded as intangible business asset, considered a must have (not nice to have) and considered and advocated as a way to deliver commercial value.
Good luck and stick at it – persistence, resilience and a healthy dose of sheer bloody-mindedness will be key to making it work.
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