Synchronizing Brand Image with Deliverables
December 21, 2006
Case categories include: Marketing Strategy & Planning
By Robert Sher
Branding strategies generally focus on how to portray the company to the audience. But given enough time, the real brand image will be based on what the company really delivers. You can fool them for a while, but not forever.
The Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence (Manex) always has been about helping California manufacturers compete more effectively in a global environment. Yet in practice, over the years, they had really been connecting manufacturers and consultants with state and federal grants, and as such, were a funding mechanism.
Manex’s brand image had become what they had been: an ATM. Then the grant money nearly dried up, and in May of 2005 the board brought in Brent Meyers as CEO to turn the organization around based on his consulting leadership at Andersen and Grant Thornton. After a brief assessment, it was clear to Meyers that Manex had to fundamentally change how it produced value, and then re-brand itself to correct the audience’s mindset about Manex.
As a CEO myself, I always dislike stories about how the CEO had to be replaced to fix the problem. The underlying issue is how one can know if the branding message or the value proposition is off the mark. The answer lies in the customer. If new customers are unhappy after signing on, then it is often because they did not get what they were promised. If longer-term customers aren’t excited about your product or service, that’s a big clue that your value proposition is not right. In the end, it all turns into a top line that is declining, or not what it should be.
Mr. Meyers worked quickly to define the new vision and value proposition, and subsequently invested nearly $100K in a brand identity, new logo, messaging, marketing collateral and website to communicate that value proposition. By August, 2005 he was ready for the debut. The look of the message matched the planned service offerings – high value consulting solutions focused exclusively on manufacturing excellence.
Look in from the outside
Marketing people would be happy to hear that Meyers spent $100K on “looks.” But as a CEO, I know every dollar has multiple uses, including leaving them in the bank. If you’ve decided the company needs a face lift, how much surgery is needed?
The best method is to look at how your company appears to a fresh set of eyes. You might be able to make your eyes fresh, or better still, a CEO peer. Tell them what your vision and value proposition is supposed to be, then walk him or her through the same procedures that a new client would go through, and listen to their critique. Also, dive into your competition’s marketing collateral and presentation and see how you measure up. After all, your prospects will be looking at them also, and making decisions based on what they see. Keep what is good about your branding and change the rest. “But we’ve always done it that way.” is not acceptable for leaving anything alone.
Before 2005 had come to a close, Manex had their first “new” reference accounts, were doing seminars and keynote speeches, and were actively engaged with senior executives in the manufacturing sector. Their close rate increased from approximately 10% to greater than 90%. They were doing what they were saying – premier services delivered to follow premier promises and marketing collateral.
As 2006 began, the strategy was taking hold. They were getting asked to deliver keynote speeches at more prestigious venues, and new clients were hearing about them from just completed assignments with other manufacturers. With the workload rising, they had to pay more attention to staffing up and new internal systems.
In May, 2006 they received an award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the quality and economic impact of their solutions on U.S. manufacturers. Korea’s Institute of Technology called, seeking assistance with U.S.-Korea technology development and joint ventures. MANEX was achieving its strategy of becoming a premier professional services firm and thought leader in its field. The momentum of both the branding strategy and the billings continue to grow throughout 2006, with the company completing its first year with Meyers at the helm – and a new brand promise with the ability to deliver on it – with 400% revenue growth.
Change is OK
There is no justification for letting your brand presence get stale. By stale I mean that it does not represent an image that is very relevant to your best prospects today. Brands don’t go stale all of the sudden. The customers slowly change, and your business slowly changes and the environment slowly changes. What happens is that the brand image, perfect a few years ago, gets neglected and stays static, while everything else moves forward. Instead, you’ll want to make a yearly review to adjust the brand appearance and all it encompasses to mirror the shift you see in your marketplace.
The sum of those incremental changes may not be consciously noticed by your customers, and that’s good. If they don’t notice it, you won’t have to spend big bucks to “re-launch” and “reeducate” your customers and prospects. They’ll just keep thinking your company is “on top of it” and the “best choice” year after year.
I’m not advocating constant tinkering and playing with logos and other aspects of the brand. The power of a brand ID grows with time, and usually the creative department is long bored with the “old” logo and look just as it is about to begin paying dividends. Making big changes then is a waste and a disaster. I encourage small shifts regularly so big shifts are rarely needed.
Brand it right, deliver it well, and keep adjusting both for ideal results.
• Good branding is about accurately defining your value proposition – and delivering.
• Examine the competition’s marketing materials and see how you measure up.
• Don’t be afraid to make brand adjustments as markets and customers change.
Robert Sher is principal of CEO to CEO, specializing in assisting CEOs and business leaders as they navigate critical passages. He is the author of The Feel of the Deal; How I Built a Business through Acquisitions. He may be reached at Robert@ceotoceo.biz.
Company and Case Facts:
Company: The Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence (MANEX)
Person: Brent Meyers, CEO
Alliance Member since: 2005
Business Founded: 1995
Annual Sales Volume: $6 million projected, FY2007
Head Count: 20
Service: Provides high-value consulting and business advisory services that help manufacturers, distributors and their supply chains significantly increase growth, productivity, quality and profitability.
Typical Customer: Manufacturers, distributors, and their supply chains
Written: December, 2006
Address: MANEX, 1479 Salmon Way, Hayward, CA 94544