Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Reading Series: The Journey of Brand Delusions

Do you remember “Heaven Can Wait?” In the 1978 movie starring Warren Beatty, a football player meets his death earlier than expected, but he was able to return to Earth in another body to continue to lead the life he wanted. A similar theme formed the basis of Bill Leider’s book, Brand Delusions, the fifth book in the Debbie Laskey Summer Reading Series. This book should be required reading for all CEOs and all members of leadership teams, no matter the size of the company they lead.

Let’s return to this “fictional” story. In Brand Delusions, a CEO was visited by a business expert who wanted to help analyze the CEO’s business, brand strength, and leadership team. While the book’s story may have been “fictional,” the truth is, the journey chronicled in the book could happen to any CEO in America today, whether the CEO leads a small business, a midsize business, a Fortune 500 business, or even a non-profit organization.

So why should this book be required reading when there are so many other books about management, leadership, marketing, branding, finance, operations, human capital, etc.? The answer lies in the secret jewel that appeared on the book’s early pages and reappeared on a regular basis.

Every leader throughout the fictional story’s company was asked to define the company’s brand. While many of the company’s leaders presented an acceptable definition of the brand, none thought their departments had any impact on the brand – except for the sales and marketing Vice President. The HR department was not tuned in; the finance department was not tuned in; the manufacturing department was not tuned in, etc. Each department within a company impacts its brand – and this is the secret that everyone started to understood as the book went on.

In the words of Bill Leider: “Your brand is a widely held set of beliefs and expectations about what you deliver and how you deliver it, validated by customers’ experiences.” This definition allowed each business unit to understand how they contributed to the development of the overall brand. If an advertisement did not tell the proper story about the product, that made an impact. If the product arrived late or damaged, that impacted the brand. If the customer service department did not know how to fix a customer’s issue, that impacted the brand. If HR did not hire employees who embraced the company’s mission and values, that impacted the brand. These are just a few examples.

So, for all you leaders, are your employees clear as to how they ALL make an impact on delivering your brand’s expectations? If not, you have your work cut out for you. Start by reading Brand Delusions.

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