Brand of the people, by the people

Great brands are built by people. But not just any people. They have to be the right people. Right for who? Right for your organisation. And that will be a different mix depending on what you care about and what you do (pretty much in that order).

The connection between building a brand and the people of an organisation is an area that gets scant coverage when compared to the column yards dedicated to the marketing approach to brand ‘creation’.

People are the backbone of any brand. It is the people who deliver the services, develop the products, deal with the customers, collaborate with partners and generally make the myriad of actions and decisions that are the real brand building blocks.

So how do you know who are your ‘right’ people?

In the end it comes down to shared values. Caring about the same thing. The right people for Macquarie Bank are very different from the right people for Zappos and not merely because one is a finance institution and the other sells shoes online.

Too many organisations are focused on hiring skills, not people. And the problem with that approach is too often those skills end up leaving (or being fired) because the people who have them don’t fit in. Or as I often say, people too often get hired for what they can do and fired because of who they are.

So how do you know who are your “right” people?

It starts with knowing what your core values are. The real ones. The ones that drive how you do things around your place. If you’re not sure, try thinking of them as non-negotiables. What wouldn’t you trade? What are your absolutes – those things that are probably a competitive disadvantage sometimes.

In his bestselling book Good to Great, Jim Collins says:

“The main point … is not just about assembling the right team – that’s nothing new. The main point is to FIRST get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) before you figure out where to drive it. The second key point is the degree of sheer rigor needed in people decisions in order to take a company from good to great.”

This illustrates exactly where the ‘outside in, create it’ approach to brand is doomed to fail. You can’t say ‘now we are going to be this’ and expect that the people of the organisation will accept that or even be able to support it. Unless it is aligned with what people care about and believe is important, the most likely reaction will be ‘I don’t think so…’.

So, who are your ‘right’ people?

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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