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brand value creation — learning & growth

Today my series on brand value creation comes to a close with a look at companies’ Learning and Growthaa041865_20-reducedPrevious posts have examined how brands create value for companies from the Customer, Financial (2 posts) ,  and Internal Business Process perspectives.

The Learning and Growth quadrant of the Balanced Scorecard asks, “To achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and improve?”  The results produced by a strong brand relative to this quadrant may be the most difficult to quantify, but they are perhaps the most significant.   Here are 3 ways a brand creates value by impacting an organization’s Learning and Growth:

1.  When the “brand-as-business” management approach is engaged, the purpose and values of the organization are clarified.   Using the brand as the North Star for the business, your company not only adapts to outside changes appropriately but also create its own changes and use them to its advantage.

  • Patagonia provides an example of a company which uses its brand — their “philosophies” — to be prepared for change. Yvon Chouinard, the company’s founder and owner, says, “What good does having a fixed set of written philosophies accomplish when everything else in the business world is so dynamic?…The answer is that our philosophies aren’t rules; they’re guidelines.  They’re the keystones of our approach to any project, and although they are ‘set in stone,’ their application to a situation isn’t…We have made many mistakes during the past decade, but at no point have we lost our way for very long.  We have the philosophies for a rough map, the only kind that’s useful in a business world whose contours, unlike those of the mountains, change constantly and without much warning.” (emphasis mine)

2.  Your brand can help you actually change the way business is done if you adopt a bold and differentiated brand platform.  Jim Collins, in his book Built to Last, describes how “Bill Hewlett and David Packard envisioned HP as a role-model corporation, known for progressive personnel practices, innovative and entrepreneurial culture, and an unbroken string of products that make a technical contribution.”  So they instituted many practices to manifest this bold vision – for example:

  • HP introduced a profit-sharing plan which paid out the same percentage to the janitor as to the CEO and created a catastrophic medical insurance plan at a time when such actions were virtually unheard of.
  • Beginning in the 1950’s, HP forsook the hiring of engineers from industry and recruited less experienced but more talented graduating seniors from respected engineering schools.
  • Self-imposed rigorous standards led HP to bypass high-volume markets like IBM-compatible personal computers for a period of time because of its commitment to reject me-too or copycat new products in favor of those representing a technological contribution.

Clearly the “HP Way,” as the brand’s tenets became known, drove that organization’s learning and growth.

3.  Your brand can fuel the development of a robust organizational culture, by explaining why you do what you do in a way that gives more meaning to your relationships with customers and stakeholders alike.   After dissecting the factors that have driven the success of some of greatest organizations in recent history, including Apple and the Walt Disney studio, management author Warren Bennis concludes in his book Organizing Genius, “[They] think they are on a mission from God…they believe they are doing something vital, even holy…their clear, collective purpose makes everything they do seem meaningful and valuable.”  Your employee’s work can be transformed into more than churning out products; stakeholders can see themselves are more than functional cogs in the company wheel.  Rather, they can see themselves as contributing to something that has more substantive and lasting impact.

This motivates them embrace and execute change more effectively.  As the consultants who contributed to the late 1990’s turnaround of Best Buy explain, continuous improvement and growth flow naturally out of an emotionally satisfying culture:  “’Why is this important?   What’s in it for me?  Can I be successful?’ To be ready for change, people must develop a compelling conviction that there are positive answers to these questions,” they state.

So a strong brand increases an organization’s ability to change and improve — thus creating long-lasting and far-reaching value.

I hope this series on Brand Value Creation has been a good one for you.  By running it, my intent has been to make the case that brands produce substantial positive results for business.  And, perhaps more importantly, to present a different point of view on what a brand is:  what a company does and how it does it.

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