Branding: 7 Lessons from Change Management
You have an idea for a brand that you want to get off the ground or you already have a business but you want to grow or you have a new strategy for your business and need to get your staff around your vision. How do you do any of this effectively?
All of this is change management and the way you manage it will have a huge impact on your brand! It goes back to what Seth Godin believes about changing a culture, ultimately as a brand – you are wanting to impact people at some level to adopt what you have to sell, and this requires a shift in culture.
setting the stage
Definition and success of change management
Management of change in support of a future desired state. Effective change management increases the probability of successful internal adoption of change, by preparing and equipping personnel to thrive in a new environment.
Definition and success of branding
The management of positioning and perception in an attempt towards making a promise which adds value or creates a positive change for people. Effective branding establishes a new culture where people are eager and willing to adopt what you are promising to deliver.
During my years of supporting Global Organizations and leaders by managing transformations to enable their visions and strategies, I learned a lot about influencing people and the psychology of change. From creating new departments, to restructuring organizations, to translating executive goals all the way through to individuals or even to changing an entire function and what is expected of them; I have had several wins and some failures along the way. As I transitioned into the world of entrepreneurship and supporting start ups with their branding strategy, I have learned that managing change is not so different from creating and sustaining a brand. Here are the top 7 lessons from change management which apply to branding.
1.The burning platform
Why change or adopt what someone is selling and what is the promise if you do? In branding, this is often referred to as the “brand promise.” It usually consists of “what you do for whom and why it is better than anything else on the market.”
Because people are emotionally connected to purchasing decisions, brands which identify the emotional benefits for choosing their product often win customer loyalty.
The burning platform sparks the attention and desire of your potential customers. It opens their eyes and has them believing that you understand their deepest needs.
I work with many new brands, a few of which are offering something new on the market which has never been done before. For these brands, I often hear “but what is my burning platform if people don’t even realize they need what I have to offer?” My answer is that even established brands or brands entering a very competitive market will have this challenge. It all boils down to knowing your customer’s needs so intimately that you are able to communicate what you have which can satisfy their known or unknown desires. Before I could attempt to change a culture in an organization I would need to get to know the culture extremely deeply first. If I didn’t take the time to do this, I would not be effective with the change.
Questions you may want to answer to get clearer on your burning platform or brand promise:
What do I want to promise which will help improve the lives of others but will require change?
Why would this change benefit my target customer?
What is required of them to adopt what I am promising?
What type of support will I offer to support the change and deliver on the promise?
How can I help potential resistance or confusion?
What can I do better than my competition or anyone else that would enter the market?
example: lady boss mamas brand promise
To inspire and empower Lady Boss Mamas with the skills and confidence necessary to build a thriving business and life they love.
Great leaders creates the vision, role model effective behaviors and demonstrate what is possible by changing (or adopting what their brand has to offer). As entrepreneurs, you are the CEO of your brand. How are you sharing your vision? Is it done in a way which excites, ignites and empowers?
People consume a lot of information today, how you engage your customers will make a big difference to your brand. Effective leaders of change always do these 4 things:
Communicate the what and why, especially how it connects to individual values. Great leaders will be skilled at communicating in a variety of ways to accommodate different styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and auditory digital).
Bring people together in the early stages to build and take ownership of a plan
Ensure the changes aligned with their own beliefs and behaviors; they remain positive, resilient and patient even through difficulties or set backs
Offer support and lead with humility (open to feedback and not believing they have all the answers)
When I was first asked to be a trainer of leadership programs at the age of 24, I thought that my boss was crazy. What did I know about being a good leader and as a result, how would I be able to teach others to enhance this skill?
I quickly learned a lot from facilitating these sessions, but it wasn’t until I was actually put in charge of managing a team that I realized it is a lot easier said than done. Between the different styles of how people take in information and their unique values and belief systems, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how you can motivate and influence people.
At the heart of it all is the most important and challenging skills in life: communication. I define communication as having both effective speaking and listening skills. Think about it, you spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?
As mentioned earlier, you are the CEO of your brand so being good at communication is not just about telling people what you have to offer, first and foremost it is about understanding what they need. You will then be better and communicating what you have to offer them and how it can help.
Brands that do a great job at communication understand the power of effective story telling, using analogies, metaphors, or visualizations. Stories are a powerful tool in human connection. To read or listen to a story is to feel an experience and to synchronize our minds with the speaker or subject of the story. Scientists call it neural coupling and when done effectively it is proven to produce greater comprehension, understanding and receptivity. But your brand story should not be confused with a marketing or advertising gimmick. In order to build a great brand story, it is recommended to have these 5 elements:
Be lively and have a personality
Shape the brand’s reason for existence
Connect with the target customer in a way which they even buy into all or part of the story
example: lady boss mamas brand story
Being a busy Lady Boss Mama ain’t easy - it requires grit and soul. I know this, because I am one and I used to be lonely, lost and afraid. Which is why I make it my mission to empower other Lady Boss Mamas to feel more magic by equipping them with the skills and confidence necessary to build a thriving business and life they love. I offer a variety of free Lady Boss Mama tools and guides as well as sell online mastermind courses, branding consulting services and mentoring programs. If you are looking for this kind of support, join the Lady Boss Mamas community!
4. Involvement & buy in
One of the first change management assignments I was asked to lead was to create and implement a leadership development program for a major department within a well known retail organization based in NYC. I began the research phase by spending the first three months talking to employees within the organization and analyzing the information I received. I quickly came to the conclusion that for the culture to truly change, certain leaders would need to change their style. I proudly presented my findings and proposal to the senior executive team and considered it a success when I gained their approval to move forward. However, somewhere along the path of implementation I was thrown for a loop when my boss called me in to inform me that I was being let go. Long story short, I realized much too late that although I involved the employees in the change process, I did not involve or gain buy in from the key senior leaders whom the most changes would be required of. A hard but very valuable lesson to learn at a young age.
Building a brand requires the same 360 degree involvement. It is very important to remain in constant touch with all levels and types of of customers to get their feedback, buy-in and hopefully loyalty. This can be done through customer research, analytics, customer surveys, etc. Yet, to build the relationship, it is not enough to ask for input but also to communicate what you are going to do about what you hear. It also means to not only involve the early adopters but also the naysayers early on, to get honest feedback on what is wrong and not only right with what you are offering.
When you understand the negative feedback or potential downsides of what you’re offering, be proactive in addressing the issues that could prevent your brand from growing.
In any type of change process, people will exhibit all kinds of behavior: fear, anxiety, resistance, uncertainty, etc. Support these behaviors via training, coaching, getting more people involved, strong leadership, and excellent communication.
Above all, don’t be afraid to try new things and fail. My husband always says “fail fast and move forward.” Failure is bound to happen, but it is how we react to it that is key.
6.Sustain through consistency
Building an iconic brand is a marathon not a sprint. Demonstrating consistency is key. It is doing what you promise you are going to do.
Consistency goes beyond the product itself. The brand promise must be clear with every interaction each stakeholder experiences. That means every part of the organization has a role to play in branding from research and development to finance to talent development.
How authentic is your brand? Are you delivering what you promise across the board? If not, you may want to re-look at your brand identity and look for ways to improve how you show up. This can make a huge difference in customer trust and loyalty.
7. Debrief, assess and shift
Many giant organizations rest on their laurels after ongoing success and realize too late that they have been taken over. For example, the taxi industry was disrupted by Uber and Hotels by Airbnb. Whether you had a great year with your brand or a terrible one, it is imperative to look back, assess what went well, what could have gone better, what external conditions may impact the industry and how is the consumer changing. This reflection gives ammunition for shifting gears and trying new things in the coming year so you continuously evolve and adapt to new environments. It is also important to note that what worked well one year is not guaranteed to repeat success in a new year. Stay on your toes and watch and listen to what is going on internally as well as externally to keep your brand fresh and alive.
In summary, change management leadership lessons are very applicable to managing a brand. It requires a strong reason why (the burning platform), excellent communication (both speaking and listening skills), involving others, being proactive, trying new things, consistency and ongoing assessment of where you are, how you are doing and what needs to shift. If any or all of these things are challenging for you and you are looking for more support, reach out to me - I would love to learn more about you, your brand and how I can help!