My friend Mike is a passionate cyclist. Upon retiring he wondered what he might do to keep busy and make extra income in his retirement. Then, one day, he came across a bicycle store for sale. “Aha!” he thought, owning a bicycle store could be fun.
Drawing on his years of experience as a senior marketing executive for a large consumer goods company, Mike did the due diligence I would have expected of him. He did his homework and developed a deep understanding and insights about:
- The store’s market environment:
- The nature of the market and trends influencing growth
- The store’s competitors and their strategies
- Customer segments and their motivations
- The store’s market position and the extent to which its capabilities were helping it to win
Pleased with what he discovered, he bought the store.
Mike’s store is now 20 months into an enviable run of substantial month-on-month growth—a significant achievement given the current state of the economy. Was he just lucky? No.
What was the secret of Mike’s success?
Mike told me that his challenge was the same challenge faced by many organizations in building strong brands and businesses—getting everyone on his team to see the same green apple the same way.
Mike’s due diligence had validated the opportunity in the bicycle market and the store’s chance of succeeding given its market position and capabilities. Only one thing was missing—the previous owner’s strategy for the brand and business was somewhat loosely defined and resided largely in his mind.
Mike knew from experience that he had discovered a leverage point for taking the store to the next level of success. If he could clarify the brand strategy and formalize it in a written document that he and all his employees could see, understand and buy into—if he could get everyone on his team to see the same green apple the same way—then he would have a good chance of succeeding. This was Mike’s initial focus. He would have to create a Brand Platform for his store.
But what does he mean by “Brand Platform”?
A brand platform is a succinct and carefully crafted articulation of a brand strategy that makes three elements explicit to all stakeholders (the owner, the employees, suppliers etc.):
- The target customers that a business is choosing to serve
- The compelling value that they are seeking
- The justification for why the business can win these customers
Or, as Mike said, it gets all stakeholders to see the same green apple the same way.
Mike knew that a brand platform would focus and align his organization’s ability to consistently create and deliver the right product, pricing, place, people and communication strategies. Through the complementary nature and fit of these strategies his customers would distinguish his brand from his competitors’ and begin to associate his brand and business with its compelling promise of value.
Mike’s experience told him this was critical for success. He was right!
Explicitly defining his store’s brand strategy in a brand platform resulted in several benefits for his team and business:
- His team now has a shared understanding of the customers that they are choosing to serve and the compelling value these customers are seeking.
- The team is engaged and motivated making it a valuable source of excellent ideas that improve value for customers and the cost structure of the business.
- Every employee feels like a trusted and valued business partner. This has increased employee morale and retention to a new high.
- The team excels at executing the store’s brand strategy:
- Improvements have been made to every element of the marketing mix
- The product line has been refocused and extended into new profitable categories
- Pricing has become more congruent with customer expectations
- The store environment has been revamped to be more customer friendly
- Team members have received compliments almost daily for the quality of their customer service
- The store’s promotional activities have been doing a fantastic job in communicating the brand’s promise of value to customers and in distinguishing the store from other local competitors.
These benefits and the resulting business performance underline the importance of ensuring a shared understanding of the brand’s strategy by your team. Through this understanding they will know the role they play in creating, delivering and communicating the desired value to customers and achieve higher levels of engagement and customer-centricity.
It turned out that Mike was bang on about the leverage point for taking his store to the next level of success.The challenge for building a strong brand and business really was to get everyone to see the same green apple the same way. Mike’s Brand Platform served as his primary tool for this purpose.