5 Ways for Companies to Have Market Integrity
Customers are expecting the brands they support to not only walk their own talk, but also be aligned with their values. Here are five ways to build brand integrity.
1. Stating and living your company purpose (internally and externally).
The best brands are built on a foundation that holds a clear purpose, or reason for being, at its center. This purpose goes beyond just making money. It is the defined and stated reason the business exists and the positive impact it aims to make on the world. Clearly defined and expressed throughout your entire culture and infused into your public messaging and marketing; it is the “true north” for a company and for consumers who look to purchase goods or services from that company.
Attributes of a great purpose:
- It’s a simple statement that will guide your biggest decisions. Aim for a statement that works to make the world a better place, even if “the world” is defined as the world of your customers.
- It should be emotional. People make decisions with their mind and act with their heart. Your culture, your customers, your community will respond more to something that has heart and soul.
- Consider what my company calls the “Seven Layers of Benefit.” These are the layers that will benefit from your company living up to its stated purpose. The seven layers are: your ownership and leadership of the company, your investors, your employees, your customers, your partners, your community and your world.
2. Build and infuse Actionable Brand Values into your culture.
Brand values are the operating system of your culture. They are the chosen beliefs that, when defined and put into high gear, guide the employees’ behavior, actions and the manner in which you communicate internally throughout your organization and externally to the public.
A company’s culture and core values are the bedrock of innovation, communication and effective teams. Today the most successful companies are the ones that don’t just have great products, but are also deeply focused on culture.
In order to win in the market, you need to win in the workplace first. Zappos is well known for its culture and what drives their famous culture is their 10 Core Values. These values define how people are hired, who is hired, how they are compensated and how they infuse masterful customer service. It’s this customer service that sets them apart from comparative online brands.
3. State a brand promise and live up to it.
Your brand promise is the stated value you consistently deliver to your customers. It’s a clear and overt statement that must be valuable, measurable and meaningful in the hearts and minds of your customers.
Three things a brand promise must do:
- It must convey a compelling benefit to your customer.
- It must be authentic, believable and credible.
- It must be kept, every time.
However, stating a promise and living up to it are two completely different things. A good promise delivered gives value to your customers through the benefits of your product or service. It’s been my experience that most companies fall short of their brand promise for one reason: their people.
A brand promise lives or dies primarily by the people who are entrusted to deliver on it. An employee can be a driving force behind a brand, but only if they understand and are aligned with the beliefs of the organization, including the brand promise. Think about how Zappos hires, trains and rewards it employees. If an employee is properly trained as a brand ambassador, the likelihood that promises are consistently delivered upon significantly increases.
4. Leadership with heart and action.
Everyone in your organization is a brand ambassador. Your salespeople represent your products or services and the value they offer. Your employees describe what they do and whom they do it for to friends and families. Your leadership should be steering the ship.
The leaders at the helm of your company tend to be the loudest spokespeople and because they’re at the helm; they are in the spotlight. What the leader does casts a long shadow on the reputation of the organization. These leaders embody the brand purpose, values and promise. Like it or not, they will be viewed by the public harshly if they stray, through their actions or words, from the heart of what the organization believes. Therefore, their hearts and actions must be aligned in order for the company to foster long-term trust.
- Ensure that your leaders have good media training, so they know how to communicate your beliefs and message to the media. Have them practice before they speak.
- If you have new leaders, ensure they understand the language, voice, tone and spirit of your brand purpose, values and promise.
5. Be consistent in your actions and words (internally and externally).
By stating a clear purpose and living your core values, you have some of the basics covered. Once your brand is in the market with your message, you need to ensure consistency.
For instance, if you do content marketing in your business, the voice, tone and content needs to align with the beliefs; and the content needs to deliver on the brand promise.
Brand and market integrity should not be taken for granted. It must be nurtured and earned over time. It may be that brand consistency is the most overlooked marketing principle. Consistency begins by knowing and living your beliefs. From your purpose to your promise, from your CEO to your custodian’s words and actions, your message needs to be aligned with your most deeply held beliefs in order to be understood and trusted in the marketplace.
Companies with brand integrity will experience an increase in brand value, customer retention and profit. I have yet to meet a company that doesn’t want this.
Steve can help you create an integrated belief-driven business that can reach and align with more of the right people —employees, customers, donors and investors—in a sustainable and meaningful way.