October 17, 2016

Helping Brands Deliver on Their Brand Promise

brand promise

It is true to say that all marketing people know that businesses should have a benevolent intent, and that the message they should help the business put into the market has to be fundamentally benign and customer centric. This benevolent intent informs a companies brand promise. Any marketing company that puts a message into the market on behalf of a client that deliberately tells the customer that the business is there to maximize shareholder interest and is really there to get as much as they can from the customer for giving as little as possible will be doing their client irrevocable damage and would, and should, be fired.

This is despite the fact that what they would be saying would in all likelihood be the truth!

It therefore suggests that the marketing industry plays a critical role in exacerbating the sense of alienation and cynicism in our time, a sense that, proverbially, white man speaks with forked tongue. At the deepest level there is chasm between the promise that most brands make and the customer’s experience of the brand.

At the deepest level there is a chasm between the promise that most brands make and the customer’s experience of the brand.

“The brand promises to be there for me”, thinks the customer, “but when I deal with the people who actually represent the brand  (which more often than not are comparatively junior people on the organisation), I experience exactly the opposite”.

For most organisations the work that needs to be done on brand has to be less focused on putting out a questionable image into the market and more about cultivating the conditions under which the organisation as a whole truly lives up to its brand and its brand promise. Organisations need to “walk the talk”. To do this they need to cultivate the conditions under which the average employee of the business is passionate about the brand and is willing to contribute significant discretionary effort toward delivering the brand promise.

We at Schuitema understand what it means to achieve that because we understand what it means to mobilise an entire organisation to direct its focus and sincerely care about delivering on its brand promise. To achieve this is to establish the intent to give or serve in groups and individuals. It is to mobilise individuals within the organisation to concern themselves with making their contribution towards the brand promise.

A useful way of understanding what the intent to give means for an organization is to visualize the organization as an inverted cone. If one took a horizontal section through that cone you would have a set of peer relationships, or a team. One needs to understand what the intent to give means for the team.

Secondly, if you took a vertical section through the cone you would have a hierarchy, which implies one needs to understand what the intent to give means in a reporting relationship between a boss and a subordinate.

Finally, these two variables, the horizontal and the vertical, intersect at the level of the individual. Each individual in the business occupies a place both in a peer group and in the hierarchy. One needs to understand what the intent to serve means for the individual.

The Horizontal Variable: Teams or Peer Groups

If the measure of the success of an enterprise is the size of the surplus it produces, then one has to acknowledge that a surplus happened because a group produced something which was bigger than what each individual took out. It means that collectively they gave more than what they took. This capacity of the individual to give more than what they take is manifest in how team members treat each other.

If one visualized an organization to be similar to a large ball game, then what becomes apparent is that the organization is a moving pattern of engagements between individuals in the business, where the task that is being done can metaphorically be seen as the ball that is being passed between the players. Each of the points of contact between two people can basically have one of two characters: They could be fundamentally competitive or fundamentally co-operative.

An engagement would be competitive if both of the individuals in the engagement are in the engagement to get something out of the other person or to win or to come first. The engagement will only be collaborative if at least one person in the engagement is deliberate about setting the person up to succeed. It is this magnanimity of spirit, where the individual is quite content to set someone else up to succeed, that produces effective teams. By contrast, competitiveness in a team reduces the team to a herd of cats.

The Vertical Variable: Hierarchy

To understand the conditions under which a subordinate in a reporting relationship will be in the relationship with their boss to make a contribution to the boss, rather than just to get a salary, one needs to consider what the conditions are that people would work for a boss because the want to rather than because they have to. Having asked this question of many thousands of people throughout the world we have discovered that there are two core reasons for people working for a boss because they want to:

Firstly, the boss cares for the subordinate, and this is a soft and a kind theme. The boss listens, is supportive, approachable and so on. Fundamentally, the boss has a genuine interest in the subordinate and is not only in the relationship to get something out of the subordinate.

Secondly, the boss grows the subordinate, which is a harder theme. An example of the theme is a quality like honesty. If you worked for someone who was always honest that person would not always be nice, but you would always know where you stood. This would enable you to grow. Further to his people may say things like a boss who is fair, empowering, knowledgeable, visionary and so on, all things that would imply growth for the subordinate.

So there is an absolutely consistent answer that all people give to the question ‘who is the boss that you would work for because you want to?’; and that answer is the boss who cares for me and grows me. In order to account for this universality consider the following: When you work for someone because you want to you give that person the right to ask you to do something or to exercise power over you. This suggest that the answer to this question will give us an insight into what people think makes a relationship of power legitimate, worthy of soliciting commitment, loyalty and a discretionary contribution.

The first relationship of power that a person has is with their parents, and in so far it is the first relationship it is a principle relationship. The role of parent for the child is very specific, first the parent cares for the child and then the parent enables the child to grow. Care and Growth. This suggests that any relationship of power is legitimate if the aim of that the relationship is the care and growth of the subordinate. The giving that a leader in a reporting relationship has to do is to care for and grow the subordinate. When this condition is satisfied the subordinate engages the relationship with the intent to give.

The Individual

Having asked people from around the world what they aspire to we have discovered that whatever people say, their responses can be reduced to four themes: security, fulfillment, power and harmony. What frequently does not occur to people is that those four variables are the product of how their intent operates. Fundamentally one can either construct one’s intent on what you are getting from the world or on what you can contribute to the world. Of these two variables I only have power over what I give, because by definition the other always has power of what I get.

If I base my security or my fulfillment on what I am getting from the world, because the world rarely gives me what I wanted at that particular point in time I will be insecure and discontented. If I base my security or my fulfillment on what I am giving I base it on what I have power over, which means I will always be secure and fulfilled.

It stands to reason, furthermore, that if I give attention to what the other has power over I am weak and the other is strong. This creates the condition where the other can manipulate me and is therefore dangerous to me. At the same time, because I want to get something out of the other I am dangerous to the other, and when the self and the other are dangerous to the other you have conflict. When the intent of the self is to give to the other there is nothing the other can withhold, which means the self is safe from the other. Simultaneously, because the self is there to give to the other the other is safe from the self, and when the self and the other are safe with regard to each other you have harmony.

This suggests that contrary to how it may appear, when the individual engages peers with the intent to set them up to succeed (to give to the peer) and subordinates with the intent to care for them and grow them (to give to the subordinate) the individual is not hurting his or herself, they are manufacturing security, fulfillment, power and harmony, the four things all human beings aspire to.