Last week I was at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, on a panel with the country CEOs of Ford and Rolls Royce, as well as partners from the consulting firms of Oliver Wyman and Arthur D. Little. The common challenges that all four of these organization felt were key challenges for their organizations was working globally and across business verticals as a unified entity and how to invest more, and more strategically behind CSR.
It strikes me that articulating and building a strong brand internally is one way of addressing both these challenges. Consider the challenge for Rolls Royce globally. It is a heritage organization in the UK and has grown in to a global player through a myriad of acquisitions, resulting in a patchwork of cultures and values across the organization verticals and geographies. It is precisely under this kind of situation that going through a branding exercise that in the first place engages the entire organization and then communicates the new brand identity and the resulting behavioral changes that are required from each and every employee throughout the organization, can help bring the organization together under a common umbrella. Such an exercise takes time, requires top management support, involves a cross functional implementation team, and a thoughtful implementation of the new identity within the organization, engaging everyone through training sessions to begin with and then regular reminder activities and celebrations of living the brand to keep the brand at the forefront of all employees’ minds, thus impacting decision making in a consistent way across the organization. A great example of how branding (or rebranding in this instance) can work is presented in the case study “BBVA: From Selling Services to Being a Brand” which is available at http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/research/details_cases.cfm?id=16897.
The CSR issue is also about understanding what ones’ brand stands for. It is about investing in activities that will strengthen the core values of the brand. Thus, quite rightly, Rolls Royce, in the UK, invests heavily behind science and technology education and research to support its mission to be “a world-leading provider of power systems and services for use on land, at sea and in the air” (see http://www.rolls-royce.com/about/index.jsp) .
Thus articulating the brand and communicating it throughout the organization is a strategic top management imperative. It helps the organization to act in unison across geographies, verticals, and functions. It helps the top management make calls on which investments and directions it needs to pursue and finance to support it, it helps HR decide on the kinds of employees it needs to recruit to make it possible to deliver on the promised values, operations to understand the key deliverables, and of course marketing to ultimately communicate these to the consumer and reinforce their beliefs about the brand, so that they continue to patronize it. No organization, in fact, can afford to not articulate and communicate its brand throughout the organization.