In 2021, brand strategy was the third largest spend within marketing budget — above analytics, research, and content creation — according to Gartner’s 2021 survey of marketing spend. Increased globalisation and values-based purchasing are keeping businesses busy on managing perception, but 2021 showed us that brand strategy is no longer just something the marketing department does.
As organisations and HR departments navigate this ‘new normal,’ many are revisiting their current employer value proposition (EVP) and ‘employer branding.’ Projected budgets for employer branding and recruitment marketing have increased on average by more than 10% compared with 2020. And quite rightly so. Brand is a cumulative consistent set of behaviours and outputs to the point where, when symbolised in a single icon, provides a ‘mental shortcut’ for people to judge the value of your business. And boy! Do we need a ‘mental shortcut’ right now.
But have you spotted the risk yet?
Despite the value placed on brand, we consistently encounter issues with brand strategy, stemming from a misunderstanding of the relationship between culture, service, product and the outward visual, or verbal identity. Very few businesses consider brand holistically, or realise its full potential.
We see an obsession within marketing teams with the look and feel of the brand (colours and logo) without any connection to other areas of the business, or the culture and values of the organisation it represents. We frequently come across brand strategy as an unthinking reaction to solve operational, or product issues. Brand is simply not understood as a long-term investment; Yellow Pages rebrand to Yell and then to Hibu and back to Yell is the best example of this and how not to do it. EVP and “employer brand” monikers are a new nonsense which should just be regarded as brand strategy executed well and comprehensively.
The whole thing needs to be tied together.
It is time to join the dots and approach brand as a chiropractor would the spine. Pain in one area of the business may be caused by some misalignment elsewhere within the business, but the strategic link should be brand.
When asked to find opportunity for growth or efficiency within a business, we typically look to ensure that internal culture, product, service, business strategy align the business’ role and perception within society. This connected approach is a sure-fire way to identify pain points within an organisation and highlight any HR, or operational issues along the way.
Businesses that successfully invest in brand building tend to be efficient. They succeed in efficiently growing market share, typically have access to wider investment options, are appealing to future talent and attract the best suppliers. Brand can also have tangible value and the ability to capitalised on the balance sheet.