Executives can, and do, come from a variety of backgrounds, but there are some organizational culture patterns that tend to repeat themselves. For example, organizations focused on innovation often choose leaders with deep backgrounds in engineering or other technical fields. Businesses built on a foundation of operational excellence lean toward leaders with finance and operations backgrounds. Many of our healthcare clients place doctors and administrators in senior positions while sales people unsurprisingly rise to the top of many B2B, sales-driven organizations.
The outlier in these patterns is a stark one: only about one in 20 senior executives with whom we work come from marketing backgrounds. Taking this fact into consideration, marketing leaders must be careful to avoid using language that is too marketing-oriented. Instead the focus should be on communicating the broader business outcomes. Choosing the educational approach that best matches the career orientation area of your key executive enhances the chances of getting support for your branding efforts and getting approval for your branding program.
Educational Approaches for Executives:
Audience: Chief Strategy Officer (CSO)
Leadership Style: Strategic-Plan Driven
Brand Education Approach: Metrics + Measures
Summary: Recommend including widely accepted metrics such as customer satisfaction and brand awareness in the organization’s balanced scorecard. The key is to connect the metrics through a financial model to business outcomes and demonstrate how brand efforts can move the needle on those numbers.
Audience: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Leadership Style: Financially Driven
Brand Education Approach: Brand Valuation + Simulation
Summary: Brand valuation allows your CFO to view the brand as a financial asset that sits on the balance sheet and compare it with any other tangible asset. Valuations can also be used as leverage in partnership negotiations such as co-brand and licensing.The growing field of marketing simulation applies financial concepts such as Monte Carlo that allow marketers to build risk profiles for forward-looking investment scenarios.
Audience: Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Leadership Style: Operational-Performance Driven
Brand Education Approach: Customer Journey Mapping + Key Brand Touch Points
Summary: Create a broader mandate by building cross-functional relationships with leaders that are critical to the operationalization of delivering the customer experience through your brand promise. HR, which dictates training needs; Facilities, which controls the physical environment; and Sales, which acts as the first line of contact with customers, are three of the most common areas that can help to create buy-in.
Audience: Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Leadership Style: Winning Market Share and Maintaining a Leadership Position
Brand Education Approach: Brand Insights + Simulation
Summary: Brand insights can inform existing strengths and weaknesses relative to competitors and act as a filter for identifying innovation areas where the brand has permission to stretch.Simulation takes insights and makes them actionable by allowing you to test strategies in a virtual market to better understand how you beat competitors and the likely payback associated with your choices.
Leaders agreeing to learn more about brand
Once the analytic foundation that speaks the business language of your executive has been set, leaders will often agree to learn more. If the senior team thinks that a brand is just about the logo and the tagline, then presenting a ‘brand 101′ session helps create a common knowledge threshold that is understood by all key leaders. Slowly but surely, the word “brand”, which until today was the sole purview of the marketing team, will begin to infiltrate other business conversations creating a positive feedback loop that disseminates across the organization and gradually elevates the importance of brand among all employees.
Unless you work for Apple or a select few other brand-centric, consumer-facing companies, gaining support for brand investments among senior leaders is by no means an easy task. Busy executives are influenced by their own biases and by other functional leaders also competing to define the organizational priorities.
Moving a brand program to the top of the executive agenda requires you to convince leaders of your program’s potential to drive results in a language that they will understand. Choosing the approach that best translates is an important step.
Tom Douglis is the Brand Strategy Director and Gabriel Cohen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Monigle Associates. When they say “wide-spectrum” they really, really do mean it.