Strategy

It’s the organisation, stupid

Michel Hogan /

The organisation and the brand are related, but they are different. You may think I’m splitting hairs, after all, using ‘brand’ as a de facto when talking about a company has become commonplace. 

To paraphrase the line “the economy, stupid” coined during the 1992 election by Clinton’s campaign strategist: ‘it’s the organisation, stupid’.

A pet peeve of mine is when people talk about things ‘the brand’ does. The brand has a new logo, the brand has a new ad, the brand made the decision to … and one of my personal favourites is when people claim the brand has failed.

Contrary to popular belief, the brand doesn’t do anything, the organisation acts with the brand as a result of these actions. And regarding the failure version: by the time failure is a result, the organisation has been rotting from the inside out, sometimes for many years (looking at you banks).

Behind any of the high-profile so-called ‘brand failures’, you will find failures of business models, operating policies, management decisions and board decisions, to name just a few. Those failures show up as broken promises and signal what moral philosopher Thomas Scanlon calls “making lying promises”. Then as night follows day, employees and customers head for the exits with an inevitable decline on their heels.

When you think about the brand as a singular creation rather than as a result of the all the promises you keep, of everything you do and how you do it, there will be a point when you feel ‘okay, we’re done with that for now’. Box ticked, new shiny objects in place, campaign rolled out, announcements made, time to get back to doing other stuff.

Here’s the problem: all the other stuff you are getting back to, are the things achieving (or eroding) the brand. The day-to-day actions and decisions to move your customer service offshore, manufacture in China instead of Tasmania, get maintenance done in Indonesia, acquire other companies to increase your distribution footprint, ignore online business trends, or ignore bad behaviour in favour of profits. These are the type of decisions that will shape your brand result.

When those everyday things don’t translate your identity (of purpose and values) into promises and an experience where people can see what you care about, then it’s only a matter of time before you’re in negative territory.

See you next week.

NOW READ: Uber’s shiny object: Why a new logo won’t fix a rot beneath the surface

NOW READ: Nike’s latest campaign isn’t inspiring — it’s lazy

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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