Winning hearts and minds

There are so many things to think about when you embark on a branding project. From understanding the need for change, to making sure you have the right team around you – both within your organisation, and the external partners supporting you.

But above all, you need to be able to take everyone on the journey with you, get that all important understanding about the ‘why’, the ‘what’, the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ – how this will impact on them and their roles, what ­it will mean for them etc.

This often gets referred to as the ‘buy-in’, but honestly, you want much more than that. You want active champions and supporters to help you implement the change, overcome the blocks (or ‘blockers’) and the natural resistance to change that comes with being human.

You could have the best branding ever, but if people aren’t on board, isn’t implemented well, or if it isn’t properly rolled out and communicated, then it won’t make the impact you want and need. 

Whatever’s driving the need to look at your brand, we know that getting people on board can help to make everything run much more smoothly. So, how should you go about bringing people along with you on the branding journey?  

1. Alert

From the off, alert people to the fact that something’s going to be happening. Do this as early as possible so people can get used to the idea of change, prepare their thoughts and contributions and feel a part of the change.

It’s important to get people involved early – and keep them involved at every stage because you have to take them on the journey with you. And that includes everybody from the C-suite to the receptionist at your main office, who may – in fact – be the most important person in the business, in terms of other people’s experience of you and your brand.

Val Ockwell, Relationship Manager

2. Explain

Those of us who live and breathe branding get it, but for some within an organisation, a brand can still just mean a brand mark or logo.

It can be helpful to put the project into context, show why it’s needed, and explain which areas of the business will come under scrutiny – from brand purpose and values, to your messaging and tone of voice. Revealing the bigger picture will give people a chance to start reflecting on their ideas of your brand.

3. Know your landscape

Take the time to find out who needs to be involved in the project from the start, from the ‘shopfloor’ to the ‘C-suite’. Know your stakeholders and know who needs to be kept informed of progress. Understanding whose opinions need to be heard will smooth your way and make sure your work gets the go-ahead from any potential blockers within the business.

We know that many branding projects need to be steered and navigated through the politics of a business – part of our role is to give our clients the ammunition and support they need to do this.

Keith Noble, Director.

4. Ask

Think about your organisation as a whole and ask questions to identify your supporters, and as importantly, your detractors – and establish if there are any potential sticking points with people or with what’s gone before that you need to be aware of.

5. Be Brave

What do people really think? Holding workshops to get peoples’ insights and opinions can be an invaluable source of information about what you think your brand stands for and what the internal perception of your brand actually is – not simply what you assume it is.

To get to the heart of what your people actually think, it can be helpful to engage a third-party partner. This allows your employees to speak with confidence, in confidence. I’ve seen this work in the most sensitive situations to deliver astonishing and valuable insights.

Steve Gill, Director.

6. Apply

Apply what you’ve learnt about the different points of view from inside your business to the work you’re doing. Reflecting your internal findings in your brand development will create an authentic brand that people can buy into because it will resonate with employees and customers alike.

The truth about how you’re perceived internally can be fascinating as the insights aren’t always what’s expected. But that feedback, though difficult to hear at times, can be a great driver for a change and support your case for repositioning and changing your direction.

Steve Gill, Director.

7. Be curious

It can be helpful to test any new ideas not only with your internal audience, but also with external audiences before you develop your new brand. Gathering insight and opinion from existing or potential customers can help further your internal case for the need for change and help to highlight and inform where any problems lie and where change is needed.

8. Be surprising

Great creative work emerges from great collaboration. As the person who’s leading the brand project, be prepared to be challenged as well as challenge, to answer questions, to advise, to share your expertise, and to engage in new ways of thinking and seeing your business through the eyes of the creative team you choose to work with. Creativity creates difference.

The knowledge and expertise of the people within the business we’re working with is absolutely critical in terms of creating great work that’s fit for purpose. We don’t, can’t – and shouldn’t – do any of this alone. We need and value your input at every stage.

Keith Noble, Director.

9. Open doors

The most successful brand projects are inclusive, not exclusive or elitist, and they’re not developed in isolation. Great branding is achieved by clients and their external expert partners working closely together.

You’ll need truly collaborative working relationships. This isn’t about developing creative approaches behind closed doors, with big ‘reveal’ presentations. It’s about working with you in-depth to understand the subtle nuances of what your brand is about, what’s important to you, what’s going to work for your organisation and people – with the pressure points, internal politics, foibles, and eccentricities that every organisation has.

It’s about working with you so you can take ownership of the creative process, be fully engaged and involved in your brand development and how brand change is introduced into your business.

When we go through any branding process, we know it’s our client’s ‘baby’, not ours and they’re the ones who need to define its characteristics, love it, and nurture it.

Engaging clients in the process of bringing their B2B brand to life creates a ripple effect that can impact how successful their brand is in the future. The brand personality, combined with a sense of ownership from the people who are involved in its development, can define how well that company is reflected to the outside world.

Ali Heggie, Creative Director.

10. Be realistic

Many brands operate across different departments and regions and have multiple stakeholders – know that you may need to work with and around many different points of view that can take a lot of your energy. Allow yourself and your team enough time to make the progress you need.

11. Be firm

When developing or repositioning a brand, it’s important to engage with people internally and externally and ask for their feedback. But it’s even more important to know who has the final say and where and when to draw the line.

Ultimately, there needs to be a decision maker in place, whether that be a single entity or an executive team. And because we understand the pressures they face, we’re here to support them with evidence and clear frameworks and processes at every stage.

Steve Gill, Director.

12. Beware the little wins

When it comes to getting internal buy-in for a brand project, emerging trends and short-term wins carry the risk of masking the bigger requirement. Taking a long-term view of the importance of brand building means not being distracted by internal tactics that seem to be getting results and seeing a mid-range performance. Instead, it’s about taking the time that’s needed to get your brand purpose, values and messages right and then repeating them. This will help you gain the wider reach you need to start building your brand in terms of gaining exposure and audience understanding and it’s when you’ll start to see a significant upturn in growth. The return on investment of great B2B branding takes time. It’s not quick wins – it’s a long haul, but it’s well worth it.

To create a strong and relatable brand means making clear decisions about your purpose, creating clarity around your messaging, and making sure – when it comes to your customers – that you’re fit for purpose.

Steve Gill, Director.

13. Be patient

The sign-off of your creative work is just the start. Introducing your work across your business demands just as much, if not more, of your time, care, and attention. Especially in large and complex organisations. It’s about bringing your brand to life internally as well as externally and help make sure that your people are on board with the changes you’ve made.

Effective brand implementation is so much more than an email that lands in peoples’ inbox and says, ‘Hey! We’re a new organisation now. We’ve got a new brand. And this is what we’ve got to say about ourselves.’ It’s not about expecting them to get on board with the change overnight. It’s a journey that’s going to take time and has to be planned, communicated, and executed with care.

Val Ockwell, Relationship Manager.

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