Book: Building the Brand-Driven Business

In 14 years of running my former marketing and public relations firm, I read my share of branding books that focused on identity, design, and psychology. Most of those books are written for marketing people. Building the Brand-Driven Business is not one of those books.

Written by Scott M. Davis and Michael Dunn of Prophet, the global brand consultancy, this book focuses on brand as a business strategy that is managed and delivered by the entire organization, not just the marketing department. The authors demonstrate the business value of a strong brand, describe how to develop brand-building programs, and share the importance of creating a corporate culture where supporting the brand is everyone’s job.

The book was originally published in 2002, so you won’t see it on the “new releases” shelf at your local bookstore (they may not even have it). But the insights are just as true today – perhaps even more so as global competition, rapid innovation, and digital technologies have made brand building even more important and challenging.

The main reason I still recommend this book to peers and clients is that it elevates the conversation about brand to the C-suite where it belongs. In the process, it also helps the marketing team establish the link between brand, corporate value and the bottom line. This creates common ground where the CEO and VP of Marketing can work together on initiatives that make a real difference for the business.

Since Prophet is a global firm, a lot of information in Building the Brand-Driven Business is based on their experiences with some of the largest companies in the world. Those environments are obviously far more complex than most, but the concepts and frameworks shared by the authors can be modified and applied in any company to build a strong brand.

Here are just three ways this book can help your company change the way it thinks about its brand:

It defines the brand in business terms

Building the Brand-Driven Business is written for executives who want to understand how to leverage their brand to grow the business. The authors establish up front that brand is an asset that can be managed and measured like any other item on the balance sheet. Leveraging that asset can help a company meet important business objectives such as increasing customer loyalty, differentiating from the competition, and establishing market leadership.

The book offers a number of proof points and case studies to back up its claims, but perhaps the most compelling is a study by EquiTrend that explored the relationship between brand equity and the companies’ return-on-investment. The study showed that companies “experiencing the largest gains in brand equity saw their ROI average 30 percent, while those with the largest losses in brand equity saw their ROI average a negative 10 percent.”

Those are attention-getting numbers that demonstrate the value of connecting the brand and business strategies. Any company that embraces this concept is sure to experience similar benefits.

It outlines an operational approach to building the brand

Most executives understand conceptually that brand is important to the business, but few know how to engage the entire organization to make it happen. Building the Brand-Driven Business helps by providing a framework for “operationalizing the brand” that involves all parts of the organization where the customer comes into contact with the brand.

This focus on company-wide operations is critical because, as the authors point out, “Every time an employee gets to touch a customer or a customer get to touch the brand, that company gets the opportunity to either reinforce its brand promise or totally denigrate it.” That mindset clearly places the responsibility for the brand on every single person that represents it, from employees to channel partners, not just the marketing team.

Operationalizing the brand starts with identifying all the areas the customer comes into contact with it. The authors break down those “touchpoints” into three main categories: Pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. From there, companies can assess their performance on each touchpoint, prioritize them, create strategies for improving effectiveness, and measure their progress.

A large company can literally have thousands of touchpoints and even small companies might be surprised how many places their customer touch the brand. Getting your arms around the variety of touchpoints you have is the key to delivering the brand externally in a consistent, effective way. This book help make that process tangible. You’ll just need to scale it to the size and complexity of your business.

It emphasizes the importance of the people and culture

No discussion of brand strategy is complete without acknowledging that none of it can be successful without a supportive culture and organizational structure. Building the Brand-Driven Business concludes with proven concepts and examples for making brand the central focus of the organization.

It starts with the people. A brand-driven organization must win the hearts and minds of its employees if there is any hope of delivering the brand promise to the customer. The book outlines the journey employees take, from hearing about the brand at a superficial level, to truly understanding and believing the concept, and finally developing an emotional and personal connection in such a way that they live it every day instinctively.

The other challenge, according to the authors, is to make sure the organizational structure is designed to support the brand promise that all of those employees are trying to deliver. The book discusses the role of C-level executives, cross-functional brand councils, and other mechanisms that can be used to manage the brand across the organization and ensure decisions at all levels are driven by the brand promise.

Obviously, the larger the organization the larger the challenge. But even small organizations must invest in making sure employees know how their jobs are connected to the brand, how they are expected to behave, and how it should guide their decisions. The earlier these habits are built, the easier they will be to maintain as the company grows.

To wrap it up, you should know that reading this book is a bit like drinking from a fire hose. It is packed with information. You’ll find yourself pausing frequently to think about how it applies to your organization or others you have seen. You’ll backtrack to read sections over again. And, you’ll make a lot of notations in the margins highlighting ideas you may want to use (so buy the hardcopy book, not the e-reader version). But, in the end, you’ll view brand in a whole new way and will see big opportunities for your company.