Branding is more than a logo. Ultimately, branding is the sense-making part of your product or project. It connects people to something they have in common. This is why trust, community and psychological safety are key to reaching a tipping point.
In an earlier post I stated that the survival of the majority of organizations depends on their marketers’ ability to respond to the “more-better-faster-now” changes in customer environment. Changing is what marketeers are good at, and that is why their insights are valuable when making change happen inside a company.
In this post I would like to treat a second example that underscores this fact: project branding.
What is Branding?
A brand is the image of the project you want to create in the mind of the stakeholders. It is your promise to deliver the outcomes and benefits to the stakeholders. The best brands imply a warranty of quality. A brand can deliver up to four levels of meaning (*). These are examined below:
- Attributes A brand first brings to mind certain product attributes. For example, your project’s name may suggest such attributes as standardized processes, common data, better customer service, and so on. The project may use one or more of these attributes in its name and catchphrase.
- Individual Benefits Stakeholders are not interested in individual attributes. They want benefits. Therefore attributes must be translated into functional and emotional benefits. The attribute “standardized” could represent the functional benefit: “It will reduce the complexity, and consequently lead times will be reduced.”
- Values A brand also says something about the stakeholders’ values. This is the translation into the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
- Personality A brand should project a personality. Motivation researchers sometime ask: “If this brand were a person, what kind of person would it be?” A brand attracts people whose actual or desired self-images match the brand’s image.
How Branding Works
All of the above factors are necessary, but not sufficient. For example, in the context of change programs, your purpose is to create a new culture, and this requires trust and community building.
- Trust Through branding, the implementation team opens an “emotional bank account” (**) for each stakeholder. The account status displays the value of the relationship between the team and the stakeholder. Trust is the currency of this bank account.
As with a financial bank account, deposits and withdrawals are made that affect the value of the relationship. If you stick to your promises, people will make deposits of trust, and the value of your brand will grow. When you make mistakes, the “emotional reserves” will compensate for it, but the value of the brand will decrease.
- Community Building If the value of the brand is high, more people will want to open an emotional bank account, because depositing trust on your brand gives high returns. That is how you create community: First you provide an image, and then you walk your talk for each individual stakeholder.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: pushing an advertising campaign on stakeholders who have a negative balance in their emotional bank accounts will only create cynicism.
Why Branding is Important
There are two reasons why it is important to create an attractive brand that creates trust and community.
- Psychological Safety Good brands reduce anxiety and doubt. Branding creates the emotional link that is necessary for people to experience psychological safety. People need a sense of psychological safety – a sign that tells them it is OK to try something new and to give up something old and familiar. However, this building of trust takes time.
- Reaching the Tipping Point Stakeholders base their ultimate trust about a brand (to support it or not) on its clarity of purpose. To truly commit, continuously assess the authenticity with which the project team acts across its entire relationship network.
Because that network is largely invisible to them, stakeholders use close relationships (friends, colleagues, opinion leaders, etc.) and symbols (logo, language used, leadership declarations, physical presence, etc) to assess the project (***).
(*) Kotler, P., Armstrong; G., Wong, V.: Principles of Marketing, Prentice Hall, 2005
(**) Covey, S.: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Free Press, 1990
(***) Ind, N.: Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands, Kogan Page, 2003