16 January 2010

Brands Should Go Back to School

Earlier this week, I sat at the back of my daughter's school hall while her principal extolled the performance of the 2009 cohort of the Singapore Chinese Girls' School's secondary 4 students in the GCE 'O' level examinations.

It was a remarkable performance by the girls (the best 'O' level results in the school's storied history) ... and a memorable experience for the proud parents in attendance.

But what struck me -- apart from the collective standout achievement of this batch of confident young ladies -- was the palpable support and team spirit demonstrated by the entire school. They cheered when slides flashed the names of the girls who'd scored six A1s or more. They screamed even louder when 20 students who had faced significant challenges through the school year were named and commended. And they brought the house down when the top two girls who scored nine A1s were named. Teachers were beaming as they were mobbed and hugged by appreciative students for their year-long gifts of insight and inspiration. The whole school celebrated as one.

It got me thinking: What is it about girls that makes them work and play together better than boys? Why didn't I feel that same sense of camaraderie, that esprit de corps, when I collected my 'O' level results? (Well, besides the fact that my results were decidedly mediocre.) And -- more to the point of this blog post -- how can companies nurture this same kind of culture?

Now, why is that important? Because organizations don't act; individuals do. What organizations do, is create cultures. Culture is the organizational equivalent of a person's character. Ingrain a character, and you'll establish a pattern of action. The behaviour that is modelled becomes the behaviour that is followed.

If we accept that the primary vehicle for delivering brand identity -- especially for a service brand -- is a company's employee workforce, then the company's culture provides the framework and the propulsion for its brand image to be kept consistent and visible in the jungle out there.

Imagine the benefits: No more 'off-the-reservation' forays into dodgy sponsorships. No misinterpretation of core brand values by employees at various customer touchpoints. No more 'silo thinking'; no more secret budgets siphoning funds away from global brand initiatives. Just a single, integrated go-to-market strategy executed by teams across the region or around the world with the Power of One.

Brands go further when brand champions work together.

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