brand impact in 2010

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday and you are as excited as I am about kicking off 2010!2010_new_year_card

After the long hard haul of 2009, I’m eager to see business get off to a fresh start this year. It’s impossible to know exactly what the New Year will bring, but I’m confident more attention will be paid to brands and brand-building.  That’s because there are at least three key areas that I see brands having an immediate and significant impact in:

1.     M&As – In Q4 of 2009, the mergers-and-acquisitions market started to heat up.   According to Bloomberg as reported in BusinessWeek, deals in North America in November were valued at $115.6 billion, the most since September 2008.  And it’s looking like the uptick will continue in 2010.  The current market is ideal for cash-rich companies interested in bargain-hunting.

All of this M&A activity will demand strategic management of the brands involved in the transactions.  First, there’s the question of brand names.  Selecting the right name for a newly-combined entity is a critical decision that many fail to get right.  Equally important is the naming convention and visual identity strategy to apply to all of the brands in the portfolio.

Beyond these more visible elements, the strategic brand platform of a new corporation plays a critical role in sustaining relationships with existing customers and attracting new ones, capturing the promised operational synergies, and integrating and aligning the diverse workforce.   The importance of developing a sound and robust brand strategy during the integration process has been proven throughout business history.

As such, brand decision-making and brand development will become influential business topics in 2010.

2.    Workforce engagement – The recession has left companies with workforces that can pose serious challenges to the stability and productivity they need to fuel the recovery.

In 2009 many business leaders implemented drastic lay-offs but didn’t invest in efforts to reward, focus, and inspire remaining employees. Others instituted command-and-control management practices which may have reigned in costs but also alienated their people.  These companies now face overworked and bitter workforces.

Also the increased usage of contract workers and outsourced functions leaves companies vulnerable to workers who are less knowledgeable about the vision and values of the company — and who may be less committed to them.

Engaging workers with the brand is an effective way to combat these challenges.  Workers are inspired and aligned when they’ve been informed and instructed on what the brand stands for and how they interpret and reinforce it in their work.  Allen Adamson reported that Stephen Quinn, CMO of Wal-Mart, recently explained that his company’s brand engagement effort not only clarifies employees’ roles but signifies their intrinsic value to the organization and its reputation as a brand – and this in turn has created a stronger, more motivated workforce.

With success stories like these, we’ll see more companies pursuing brand engagement as a path to workforce engagement.

3.    Social media and networking – It’s clear the social Web has become a vital channel for communications between companies and their external audiences, but maximizing its full potential involves equipping all employees with brand understanding.

Most companies now realize how important social media guidelines are for setting the ground rules for employees’ usage of social networking and social media platforms.  But even the most robust guidelines are written and used with the intent of protecting the company and its brand name.  The social Web provides ideal ways to promote the company and the brand, and so proactive companies will encourage and equip their employees to use it to do so.

Brand Guidelines will become an important tool in helping employees generate excitement and interest appropriately in social networking and media.  Descriptions of the brand platform, ideas for bringing the brand to life, sample messaging and themes, leading-edge examples of brand expression and delivery, etc. – this is the kind of guidelines that will fuel the next level of companies’ usage of the social Web.

I’ll be sharing more thoughts on each of these topics in the coming weeks — so for now let me close with saying that 2010 brings a host of new opportunities and, with them, the potential for brands to have more impact than ever.

I’m looking forward to participating in and promoting this movement and I hope you’ll join me!  Follow me on Twitter and subscribe to brand-as-business briefs ™, periodic emailed briefings.

image above from card created by affreeisenlohr

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