Sneak Peek: How We Help Brands Adopt “Purpose” As A Strategy

In Culture, Change, Brand Strategy

Our typical initial engagement with a client lasts three to six months, depending on the complexity of the business. The first half of our work is research and discovery. We immerse ourselves deeply into all areas of the business to get to the honesty of the business as quickly as possible. A recent brand strategy project involved 57 client, partner and employee interviews and 320 hours of research, informing us of the true purpose and opportunity for the brand, resulting in a position building on their successful heritage and setting them up for future success. But developing the brand strategy document and a new higher purpose for the brand is only the first step. After all, any brand can make a promise, but the truly great brands live up to their purpose.
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Living up to this purpose requires successful activation of the purpose across product, people and process even before the client’s customer becomes part of the strategy. Below are the strategies we use to share a new brand position with the internal stakeholders as the first steps of activating a brand.

Create a timeline for internal adoption – A brand strategy rollout can take 6 months or more to reach the customer. During this time, we will facilitate a series of meetings and workshops with all stakeholders. For the executive team and many of the middle managers and staff, the brand position won’t be a shock to them as they participated in its development. For those that haven’t yet had a chance to see the new direction, these workshops are critical to solicit feedback on opportunities and challenges presented by the new position. This timeline is shared with all participants who get a sense of the work ahead and commitment needed to roll out the new brand.

Executive Leadership Workshop #1 – Most of the executive leadership team will have participated in the development of the brand and the final brand strategy document will have been vetted and iterated upon prior to the workshop. This workshop is necessary to ensure alignment between marketing, finance, HR, IT and any other departments in the company. It is the time to filter the direction of the departments through the new brand position. How realistic are the recommendations? What should be prioritized? How will we establish measurement criteria? In purpose-driven brands, profits are not always the primary metric of success. Instead, we might look at reduced staff turnover, increases in productivity, higher marketing conversions. This is the meeting where all of these points are discussed.

Director/Middle Management Workshops – Once the criteria have been established for prioritization and measurement at the executive level, we will next host a series of workshops by business unit, bringing the directors and their key middle managers to the table to discuss how the often lofty goals of the brand can be turned into operational realities. These workshops are honest and often challenging discussions where directors, used to an established process and set of rules, are being asked to embrace a mindset shift and think like a purpose-driven brand rather than a profit-driven brand. Many of these directors will also be used to a compensation model based solely on profits, so questions around how purpose, happiness and goals will be now measured are commonplace. The goal of these workshops is to plant a seed of change that can be considered as they think about staffing, operations and targets.

All-Employee Meeting – Shortly after the directors and middle managers have had a chance to learn about the new position and direction, we typically host a series of all-employee meetings by location. This is where the CEO shares the evolution of the business since its founding until today, elements of our brand discovery exercise and the future position of the company. This position will be substantiated by examples of how the company has (in many cases) been behaving like a purpose-driven company for years, but just hasn’t articulated it or made it the mission. This meeting is a chance to get employees excited about being part of something bigger than anyone in the room and part of something where they can truly make a difference in their company and community. We facilitate a Q&A between the leadership team and employees if anyone has any questions at this stage.

Content Strategy – While the all-employee meeting will excite and inspire, it normally yields many questions and not everyone has the courage to ask in front of the rest of the company! Different employees will digest information in different ways so we want to make sure we provide ways for the information to be disseminated after the all-employee meeting. We’ve found the best way to do this is to create an omni-channel content strategy where more information on this new direction can be found on-demand. This could involve video content, articles, FAQs, a forum for discussion and more. Additionally, over the course of the internal rollout of the brand position, we will host lunchtime meetings, share updates via email and social media and continuously update the content with the latest developments.

Departmental Brand Reviews – Once all employees are aware of the new direction and purpose, it’s time for the department heads to sit down with their teams and strategize their operations, looking at them through a new filter, that of a meaningful purpose. The departments will use these sessions to help inform a revised set of projections for their areas. At this time, the HR team, leadership team and departmental heads will start to get a sense of who is on board with this new direction and who is struggling to get their head around it or just downright opposes it.

Executive Leadership Workshop #2 – As the department heads bubble up their feedback, responses, and thoughts on their brand as well as their revenue projections and other targets they will aim for, we will bring the executive team back together to review and iterate. At this stage, the company should be close to adopting a set of strategies as the activation plan for the brand and can start to consider what the next phase will look like – rolling the new brand position out to customers.

What’s important to note is that this process isn’t always as linear as we have laid out here. Different brands need different approaches. No matter the size of your business, it helps to evaluate your approach by asking the following questions as you develop your own brand adoption plan:

  1. What is the new brand position and why is it the new brand position?
  2. As an employee, what does that mean for me? What changes will I experience?
  3. How do you ensure that employees know how they can contribute to this new direction?
  4. Where can I find more information about this change?
  5. What does this mean for customers?

This is a very small peek into the process we use to roll out a new brand position in an organization. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any other methods you have seen work well. You can reach out to us here.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright, link to article and author bio are included. ©2015 Storyforge, LLC.  Please contact us for inquiries.

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Barry-028 2Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.