Brand building used to be all about creating beautiful images. This is over, argues David Mattin in this short essay. Brands build themselves – by the things companies actually do. Their inside is creating the new brand images – because everyone can see inside
—– Back in the day, a business was a black box. For outsiders, it was pretty hard to see what was going on inside. The brand was painted on the outside of the box. People came and looked at it. They either liked it or they didn’t.
The glass box
Today, a business is a glass box. Outsiders can easily see inside. They can see the people and the processes. They can see the values. They can even see what the people inside the box feel about what they’re doing.
That’s thanks to the transparency that is part of a connected world. Transparency makes stories like the 2015 New York Times take down of Amazon’s culture much more likely (see Kantor and Streitfeld 2015). But the revolution is that no one working at Amazon today needs the New York Times to let the world know that they hate working at Amazon. They write it online: https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/Employee-Review-Amazon-RVW13723131.htm
Or take Volkswagen. They hyped the “Transparent Factory”, where customers could watch their VW Phaeton being built before their eyes. But it turns out they forgot their whole brand is one massive Transparent Factory. And that brand took a crunching hit when people got to see what was going on inside.
All this has one big consequence for the meaning of the word brand. Back when a business was a black box, the brand was only (okay, let us say “mainly”) whatever was painted on the outside. Now that a business is a glass box, the brand is everything. Every person. Every process. Every value. Everything that happens, ever. Whatever happens inside your business: the world can see that. If they can’t right now, they will soon. If it’s of any possible interest to anyone outside the box, it will be seen. It will be part of your brand.
Will people hang out with you?
And if you’re brand is unethical, or callous, or slipshod, or just kind of meh, no one is going to want to hang out with you.
So if you want to build a brand that people will love, there’s now only one way. Start with what is deep inside your business and work your way out. Create a business you’re happy for the world to see all the way through. One with great internal processes, driven by great values, put into practice by happy people. That takes real meticulousness.
It also helps if you’re starting from scratch. But in 2017, a powerful play for established brands is this: show consumers you’re moving in the right direction. That’s why our network at TrendWatching continues to see examples of a trend we first spotted back in 2015: “Insider Trading”, which is all about making positive changes to your brand’s internal culture and processes, and telling the world about them.
In December last year, we saw the South Korean Lotte Group make one month’s paid paternity leave compulsory for all employees who become fathers (see Park Jae-hyuk 2016). Before that, we saw UK bank HSBC offer staff gender reassignment surgery through existing private healthcare plans.
Inside is the new outside
Earlier, Starbucks had made the announcement to open a store in Kuala Lumpur dedicated to hiring deaf staff. These businesses are already starting to understand that their insides are now their outsides. Their internal processes, culture and values are just as much their brand as their biggest campaigns. Indeed, in 2017, telling the world about internal stuff can BE your biggest campaign – check the love and great posters Spotify generated around its parental leave policy (see Rupert Jones and Patrick Collinson 2015).
So, we see: Big business can learn the new inside-out branding mechanisms. But some startups are able to encode glass box thinking in their DNA from the start. Juno is a new Uber competitor in NYC. And the point of difference that Juno claims against Uber? It has nothing to do with cost, speed, or service quality. It’s that Juno pays its drivers more – and that it gives them equity in the company. Think about that. A brand that doesn’t even try to differentiate itself against its rival on the basis of anything that you, the customer, experience. Instead, all Juno wants you to know is, ‘we treat our people better’. That is its brand. And it works. Because people feel better at using Juno. The company creates what could be called a moral brand surplus.
Will Juno sweep Uber away? Almost certainly not. Uber has spent an insane amount of dollars building an indestructible advantage. But the set of consumer expectations that Juno is tapping into are powerful – and they’re not simply going away.
So don’t get hung up whether this David will or won’t beat the Goliath. Ask yourself: what do these expectations mean for our brand? And how can we act to meet them? Taking inspiration from the Insider Trading examples above is a great place to start.
Where does all this ultimately lead? You can’t build a great brand any more. You just have to be a great business, all the way through. That’s your brand. Maybe we’re not there yet, but we’re on the way. —–
Jae-hyuk, P. 2016: Lotte Group to mandate paternity leave. In: Korea Times online, Link: www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2016/12/123_220165.html
Jones, R. and Collinson, P. 2015: Spotify to offer staff six months’ parental leave on full pay. In: The Guardian online, November 19, Link: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/19/spotify-offer-staff-six-months-parental-leave-full-pay
Juno website 2017. https://gojuno.com
Kantor, J. and Streitfeid, D. 2015: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace. In: New York Times online, August 15. Link: www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?_r=0
Lloyds Banking Group website 2017: LGBT. Link: http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/our-group/responsible-business/inclusion-and-diversity/lgbt/
Starbucks website 2016: Deaf Partners Build Careers at Starbucks Story in Malaysia. Link: https://news.starbucks.com/news/deaf-partners-build-careers-at-starbucks
David Mattin eröffnet den MMK17 mit einer Übersicht zu den
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