The power of brand – values, meaning and purpose in our everyday practices

Brand is important.

We all know this.

But brand is more than just an exercise in organizational communication for consumers and clients. Brand is about communicating the very essence of an organization – what an organization is, and what it stands for – to all stakeholders.

In a market place where meaning and values are becoming ever more important in purchasing decisions, brand is becoming both more and more important and increasingly multi-dimensional.

It is becoming more important as, in an ever more complex and crowded market place, brand is one of the key markers of how people will engage with an organization due to an alignment, or not, between the values of the organization and the values of the stakeholder. And, it is becoming increasingly multi-dimensional as people realize that the values of an organization – ideally encapsulated by a brand – are of importance to not only consumers but so too, to an increasingly wider range of stakeholders from suppliers through to employees.

The multi-dimensional nature of brand therefore means that it is a powerful tool for communicating values and meaning to not only external stakeholders but also to prospective and current employees. In this very important respect then brand acts as a point of articulation between internal organizational culture and external brand communities.

As a result of these shifts, brands can increasingly play an important role in organizational work by helping create alignment between broader organizational aims and goals and the behaviors of employees. This realization provides immense value for organizations – as the alignment of brand values with individual employees’ values has a massive potential payoff in terms of such important issues as employee retention and employee productivity.

And so, beyond just impacting on consumers’ perceptions and their creation of meaning around a product or a company, going beyond even the brand advocacy role of employees, brand is becoming increasingly important in understanding the creation and management of meaning at work for employees themselves.

In this respect:

  • brands are both internal and external facing, and they work to provide meaning for both consumers and employees; and
  • consumers and employees actively participate in the consumption and creation of brand through the actions and their engagements with others.

At base, and at it’s most simple, this implies that an organization needs to live up to the values that it professes to follow. If an organization says that it values transparency then it needs to be transparent in its practices. If an organization says that it values environmental sustainability then it needs to show that it values environmental sustainability in its practices. And so on.

Not doing this leads to ‘brand dissonance’ – that is, it can lead to a disconnection between what an organization says that it does and values and what people perceive an organization actually values. And, in a increasingly connected digital world, brand dissonance and the discontent and ill-will that it can provoke can spread quickly due to the viral nature of information dispersion on digital platforms like social media. This discontent and associated negative sentiment can quickly undermine broader aspects of brand and reputation that may have taken decades to build up.

So much more than just the creation of a range of visual collateral to communicate with external stakeholders such as consumers, brand is something that needs to be brought to life through the actions and practices of an organization. At it’s most basic this means that the organization, and those who constitute it (ie it’s staff and employees), must bring to life the values that underpin the brand through their actions and everyday practices. And, importantly they must do this not just for external facing stakeholders such as consumers but with one another. For, it’s through their day-to-day interactions with one another that these values become concrete and real. It’s at this point that an organization’s culture and their brand come together.

Beyond a more traditional focus on things like visual collateral (such as logos etc) on the power of brand we need to realize that, in an increasingly crowded market place, one of the most powerful builders of brand are our everyday practices. It’s through the combination of these approaches that the values of our organizations are best and most ably communicated to the world. At it’s most basic, the key takeaway from this piece is that brand is something that is built through our everyday actions and practices and we need to be accountable to that.

Images courtesy of: Pixabay