Surprisingly, many people disagree with this statement.
Those who disagree argue that it’s the marketing department’s job to build the brand through advertising, public relations, digital marketing and other communications tools.
Their thinking stems from a conviction that brand building is synonymous with marketing communications–It’s solely about creating awareness and positive perceptions in the minds of customers–and the marketing department is responsible for these activities.
People that agree with the statement see it differently. They believe that brand building requires more than marketing communications, and that it is the responsibility of every department and employee within the organization. They argue vehemently that it serves little purpose to create awareness and a positive perception about your brand’s promise of value unless your brand is de facto capable of creating and delivering on this promise of value.
It takes an entire organization to create and deliver compelling value
Believing that brand building is solely the responsibility of the marketing department is wrong-headed because it hurts a brand’s chances to win in the marketplace. This belief doesn’t account for the organizational competencies and business practices that contribute to delivering on the brand promise that are executed by other departments. For example, training of customer service personnel so they understand the brand’s promise of value and have the requisite skills, knowledge and reward systems to interact with customers in a way that supports it is an operations or human resources responsibility.
The concept of the Brand Iceberg[i] is useful for making this premise explicit. Science tells us that only one-ninth of the volume of an iceberg is above water. In the Brand Iceberg the “tip of the iceberg” represents the parts of the brand that are visible to customers. For a retailer this might include its logo, its retail locations, its merchandise, the actions of its front-line employees, its online store, its marketing communications, etc. For one of the retailer’s vendors, the tip of its own iceberg might include the brand’s logo, products, packaging and marketing communications.
These visible parts of the brand don’t appear by chance. For strong brands and businesses they are the result of an entire organization that creates, delivers and communicates the compelling value that customers are seeking—much of the organization residing below the water’s surface and therefore invisible to customers.
The CEO is in charge of the organization behind the brand
The CEO is responsible for fostering the cross-functional cohesion that is crucial for cultivating the company-wide business practices integral to the brand’s success in the marketplace. The CEO’s effort should result in a tailored business model and system capable of creating, delivering and communicating the compelling value that is at the heart of every strong brand and business. This is how the entire organization, and not just the marketing department, is tasked with playing a role in winning customers in a manner that ensures sustained value for stakeholders.
For some examples of outstanding CEO’s in charge of the organizations behind some of the most successful brands and businesses, read my previous post, What makes a bona fide marketing genius?
They believe that it takes the entire organization, inspired and motivated by the leadership of the CEO, to do this.
[i] Davidson H. (1997). Even More Offensive Marketing. London: Penguin.