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How to insure your business transformation is more than the emperor’s new clothes.

Business transformation and building competitive advantage is a critical imperative for early stage companies. Often times the whole process will begin and end with a shiny new logo and website– the emperor’s new clothes.

It’s understandable that CEOs and their marketing teams place a good deal of importance on the visual components of business transformation. As important as these elements are in defining and expressing brand identity, they’re not the foundation of what defines a successful business transformation initiative. If you’re at the beginning stages of thinking about how to take your business to the next level in a sophisticated manner, and you’d like your efforts to be perceived as more than the emperor’s new clothes, allow me to offer several ideas on how you can insure your business transformation initiatives will set the enduring tone for your bigger, better future.

Brand strategy is a top down process.

Executive “buy-in” to a business transformation program is nowhere near enough–executive management must lead the entire initiative. This is not only true for startup businesses, but established global enterprises as well. Brand building is about the quality of your presence in the marketplace. Without the whole effort being led by the top executives, the process will be stillborn in the organization and in the marketplace. Rarely are such endeavors delegated to lower level managers who would have full authority to make critical business driven decisions. It’s also not a democratic process. If you have a steering committee structure with lots of opinions to cater to, chances are the whole effort will get watered down, take twice as long to complete, and be half as effective.

Transforming your business begins with a clear definition of purpose.

Every company is in business to make a profit. Brand building is about defining the purpose for why the brand exists beyond moneymaking. An enduring brand stands for something more important and transcends product development and the transactional nature of sales and marketing. Why your brand matters to people is reflected in why the brand exists in the first place.

Appreciate the art of sacrifice.

The value your brand represents must be positioned in the minds of a target audience with exact precision. This requires intense focus. Marketers are afraid to miss any opportunity to sell something.  Brands live in the mind, and the mind has limited capacity to remember a long list of anything. Leading brands represent a singular, simple idea that is motivating and unquestionably relevant to the target customer. If your business does not stand for one thing, it will not mean anything to anyone.

Business transformation is about organizational behavior not copy writing.

Saying its so won’t make it so. The whole organization must be informed and aligned to the guiding principles of why the business matters.  How organizations deliver on their promise to customers is more than making snappy taglines, flashy brochures and ad campaigns.  Employees must embrace the mission and values as if it were there own and behave inside and outside the organization accordingly. Business transformation is about integrating the “true north” ideal of the business purpose into its every day behavior in the marketplace.

Business transformation is not logo making.

So many early-stage CEOs get caught up in the excitement of logo making. If your brand development initiative starts and stops with a new logo, you have missed the whole point. Logos are important, but they are not the whole of the brand. Behind the symbols that represent the brand’s value must be mission, values and brand voice. Logo making is way down stream in the brand strategy value chain.

Transforming brands should never be completed in-house.

I know this may sound self-serving coming from a business transformation consultant, but doctors don’t operate on themselves and you should never elect to conduct a brand development initiative in house for the same reason. Many early stage companies believe they are saving money, but it’s a penny-wise and pound-foolish decision to tackle a brand development initiative in house.  Brand strategy is a highly specialized discipline–far different from advertising or other forms of marketing communication. If saving money is the reason you think you can tackle this alone, think of it this way–what price would you pay to ensure a successful outcome for growing future business value?

Business transformation initiatives must be measured for success.

It’s not enough to create and implement a brand development program and then hope for the best. Business transformation is an on-going process not an event. How your business delivers against the success criteria you’ve established at the beginning of the process is critical to long-term success. This requires you gain insights from the marketplace all along the way. Is your business delivering on the five key equity measures and drivers of customer insistence– awareness, value, accessibility, relevant differentiation and emotional connection?


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