Closing the Knowledge Gap Is at the Heart of MBM's Smart Branding™ Process

Over 30 years ago, research conducted by Sidney Yoshida showed that the C-Suite is often woefully out of touch with the real issues affecting their business. Sadly, that’s still the case, decades later. A recent Business Value Study conducted by IBM and reported by ForbesWomen’s senior contributor Kathy Caprino, showed statistics like these …

Despite the upheavals of this unprecedented pandemic, 74% of executives believe they’re helping employees learn new skills. But only 38% of those employees believe the same. That is a scary disconnect, and future success requires it be addressed.

Addressing it isn't really difficult, either. The MBM Smart Branding Process makes sure that every voice is heard and the right questions are being asked. We talk with all levels of an organization—always in the context of the company’s brand. That helps employees feel comfortable opening up and being 100% candid.

Once we’ve gathered data from the entire organization, MBM Marketing distills that input into actionable strategic recommendations for company leadership. Armed with those, a business can realign itself around its brand and begin delivering 100% on its brand promise.


Take a Deep Breath and Consider How the Pandemic Has Affected Your Customer Relationships

As you’re reading this, millions of people are examining what brands they’ll continue to bring into their homes and lives. And they’re reassessing whether they trust those brands. Even customers with secure jobs and disposable income are scared, angry and uncertain about the future.

It’s a great time to take a step back, evaluate how much your company (and your customer) have already changed, and what you want your company and brand to represent as we all move slowly and painfully toward what the “next reality” will look like.

Your brand is the expectations your customers carry, based on the promises you’ve made and they’ve come to expect. So, what are they expecting? Are there promises you can no longer keep? And do your customer-facing employees still honor who you are and reassure customers that they can continue coming to you?

Consider taking these steps …

  • Think about how your delivery methods during the pandemic are aligned with how your customers are accustomed to interacting with your brand.
  • With customers increasingly shopping online, test and measure how their experiences compare with the in-person experience they’re used to.
  • If your customer service people will continue to work from home, make sure they have the tools and support they need to support your brand as expected.
  • Be sure that contractors you’ve outsourced to understand and align with your brand.

By asking those questions and taking those steps, your organization will have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses – and you’ll be poised to act on them effectively. And that can give you solid footing to accelerate your success when the economy recovers.


That Pandemic Feeling You Can’t Quite Figure Out?

Covid-19 has impacted all of us, with symptoms ranging from mere annoyance to depression. Sadly, the practice of psychotherapy is booming as we all try to cope with this sudden, convulsive change in our daily lives that affects us personally and professionally. I’m a collaborator, and one of the things I love about business is working closely with people. Eight months without sitting across the table from my colleagues is unsettling to say the least.

Much of the attached article from “The Harvard Business Review” focuses on personal emotional impact, but his pandemic’s effects insinuate their way into our professional lives as well. The article is certainly worth reading, followed by some reflection on how you’re interacting with other people in your organization.  Give it a read -- https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief


Five Steps for Running a Good Videoconference. Yes, There Is Such a Thing

Almost all of us hate meetings, and they’ve only gotten worse since we’ve all gone remote. Meet.google.com and Zoom have become the new, imperfect norm, and too few of us have bothered to adapt to the medium and make conferences more effective.

We have a very strong position about wasting time at MBM Marketing – our own and our clients’. That takes clear, concise communication, professionalism, and sticking to one of our corporate maxims – everyone who needs to know, does.

So with our current dependence on online meetings, we agreed upon five “Virtual Meeting Musts.” I hope they’ll be of value to you personally. And you may want to send a copy to that person whose meetings always drive you up the wall – just a thought.

Be a gracious host. First think about the people in the “room.” Introduce yourself and briefly state the goal of the meeting. If some are new to the group, introduce them, and ask the other participants by name for their names and responsibilities. If someone will have the floor for much of the meeting, say whom and why.

Then lead, for God’s sake. Be sure to state your objective, of course. And this may sound a little like Parliamentary Procedure, but your meeting will be doomed if people talk over one another. Require that people mute themselves unless recognized, and agree upon some signal like a raised hand or a ‘chat’ note that they have something to say.

Agenda before; results after. Don’t you hate walking into a meeting “cold”? You’re not alone, so send out an agenda a day or two in advance, and a quick summary of decisions and results the day after.

Accommodate late arrivers. Yeah, it’s a pain when people aren’t on time – but it’s gonna happen. So be prepared to start some small talk, and let people know that the meeting doesn’t officially start until everyone’s present.

Surprise everyone – finish early. One way to measure your success with the steps above is to be crisp, purposeful and decisive – and to conclude the meeting early. Or, if nothing else, on time. There’s a special corner in hell for meeting moderators who make people late for the next meeting.

Really good leaders knew most of those tips in the old days when we all sat in one room. If that’s you, congratulations. But remember how different an online meeting is from face-to-face and be prepared to make yours successful.


Your Organization May Be Headed Toward an Iceberg

In 1989, consultant Sidney Yoshida presented a study known as the “Iceberg of Ignorance.” His work revealed that at Japanese automaker Calsonic, frontline workers knew about 100% of the problems facing the company. Above the frontline, supervisors knew about 74% of the issues, middle managers knew about 9%. And senior managers knew about only 4% of the problems in their own organization.

MBM Marketing’s Brand Alignment and Brand Assessment Processes continually confirm the Iceberg thesis: A lot of really important information never makes it to the top. And when tiers and cohorts in an organization aren’t aligned, the effects can be awful. Consider this imaginary example of mis-aligned objectives …

C Suite. We make the best athletic apparel and shoes in the world.

Manufacturing. This new sole material is probably good enough, and will really help our budget.

Sales. Top line goods are great, but we really need a $99 shoe to fit peak demand.

Customer service. Customers don’t understand our brand anymore, and 30% of what we sell is coming back.

That is an organization headed for an iceberg.

If you’re a CEO, don’t take the Iceberg of Ignorance personally. We’re sure you WANT to know everything about your organization and your people, but you have a full plate already. That’s why the information uncovered by an independent consultant can be so valuable. We’ll certainly rely on you during the process, but you and your people don’t have to take it on themselves.

MBM’s process is new, unique and unlike any other in restoring brand and organizational integrity. We’d love to tell you more. Just click on the Get Started link below.


Your Employees. Are They Still Aligned With You and Your Brand?

As hard as you and your leadership may have tried, the pandemic and the stresses of working remotely have put a strain on many companies. You and your senior team can feel confident about the future, but your employees don’t know what you know. At least not until you communicate with them.

To keep everyone aligned and moving in the same direction, there are three key things you need to communicate …

  1. Communicate what’s the Same
  2. Communicate what’s Different
  3. Make your communications Stand Out

Build the confidence of your employees in the future of your organization, and the important role they play. To do this, you must...

  1. Tell them what they will continue to do that delivers on your company’s brand promise. Reminding them about the great things they’ve done (and will continue to do) to help grow the company will help them lean into the changes the future may bring. Make them feel a sense of ownership. Only then should you…
  2. Tell them about any processes and procedures that may be changing as you move forward. Give them time and opportunity to understand these changes, ask questions, and make suggestions to make them more effective. There’s already been significant upheaval in how they’re performing their jobs, and it’s critical that you get this right. Then you can…
  3. Share with your team how your company will continue to be different, and better, than your competition. This is team building at its very best as you bring your employees into your vision of the future, motivate them and encourage their loyalty.

Now that your employees are on board, consider also communicating with your vendors. Follow the same steps as with your employees. With the country’s supply chain and manufacturing capabilities so disrupted, vendors you rely on also need to know where your company and your leadership stand.

This type of communication is essential – and it needn’t be difficult. If need be, talk with your advertising agency and get their help. You would never ignore your customers. So don’t ignore all the people who help keep your brand promises.


Triage for Your Ailing Brand

Recent events have done all kinds of damage to brands – much of it largely invisible. Businesses have been turned on their heads. Not only are most employees working remotely, many companies have lost suppliers, given up face-to-face contact, and left customers wondering whether the brand promises they used to trust are still being kept.

We believe that a brand is much more than your web site, slogan or logo. Those are the “face” of your company, but the promise of a brand goes much deeper – and it represents your company as a whole. That’s why we look at your culture, operations and processes, too – not just the areas you’d typically associate with “traditional branding.”

After all, if your teams in Manufacturing, Sales and Customer Service are all operating on different assumptions about your brand, how can you expect your customer to understand and value your product consistently? Internal disconnects like that are the gaps we’ll uncover for you, and we’ll also find ways to capitalize more on your strengths. We’ll present your senior team with both gaps and strengths, along with actionable strategic recommendations that will bring your brand back into alignment.

If you’re thinking, “Well, my HR people can do all of this,” we respectfully disagree. Here’s why 

  • An outside source can gather useful feedback because your people will be more comfortable speaking with someone who doesn’t have access to their personnel file. This is a confidential “brand” discussion, not a morale survey.
  • You and your reports already have plenty on your plates, and don’t need to be embroiled in all this detail. But we’ll make sure you’re informed all along the way.
  • We don’t doubt that you know your company well, but you may know little of what your customer-facing employees think. Skeptical? A well-known study published in Inc. reported that 100% of front-line people knew the company’s challenges – but only 4% of those challenges worked their way up to the C Suite.

We know that you and your team have put a lot of time, effort and money into making your company successful. You’re unique, and the last thing you need is a cookie-cutter solution. That’s why we begin with you and your leadership team, agreeing upon goals, learning about you and your competitors and designing a brand exploration that is totally yours. 

Elsewhere on this web site, you can find a more detailed explanation of how we go about realigning your brand. But a better way to learn is with a one-to-one conversation. We listen hard and talk straight, so don’t hesitate to get the conversation started. Just click "Home" above, and then click "Get Started."

 


Can we finally commit “committed”?

Many years in advertising and branding have left me just a bit cynical (big surprise?). I’m usually a really cheerful positive guy, but when I see toothless language used to describe successful businesses and their products it’s just, well, sad. And avoidable.

Take “committed” for example, or its brother, “commitment.” Commitment is a great human attribute, but is it really worth saying in a slogan? “We’re committed to making better paperclips.” As a consumer, can’t I assume that particular commitment is pretty obvious? That’s why the company is in business, right? “Making better paperclips” is three words instead of six, it starts with a nice assertive verb and it’s a declaration of the quality of the product.

There’s the “working” construct, too. “Working to help our customers …” and “Working together to create …” You’ll find those in content and copy all the time and that’s bad enough. But in a slogan or tagline “working” is just air – I know you’re working. Starting those lines with “helping” or “creating” is much more powerful. 

One more example and I’ll get off the stump. Too many companies describe themselves as “Leaders” or “Global Leaders.” I expect the C-Suite and the board feel all proud about being leaders, but I’d assert that leadership means little to the consumer. Especially these days, when every company and product in the world are just a few clicks away. Being the biggest isn’t necessarily a benefit, either. Remember how famous Avis got for being #2? (Great story if you’re too young to remember.)

Anyone who’s ever done a copy test knows that individual words have power. When our team evaluates a brand and its promise, we don't just look at the words and images that promote the brand. We gather data from every level of an organization—especially people who face the customer. And we even talk with vendors, board members and other stakeholders. Only by examining a company and its brand from top to bottom can we distill the essence of a brand’s promise and present powerful recommendations. And that's why MBM's proprietary branding process works.

What Can I Say?

“But what can I say?”

Supporting the people in your organization isn’t easy even when things are going well. And now you’re living with events going very not-well. By now, you’ve gone through the process of asking employees to work from home. Or tougher yet, you may have let people go or put them on furlough. Painful things for a boss to do and say.

So, what’s left for you to say? Here and during the coming weeks we’ll offer executives some possibilities. Simple one-at-a-time suggestions for you. If these ideas feel like a good fit, feel free to use them (add your own personal thoughts or just copy and paste if you like). We’ll offer more as you work through the weeks and months of struggling to keep your business moving.

You’re concerned about your employees (and so are we). And we also hope these simple messages offer you some personal support. So, first of all, consider this …

“You’re stuck at home, in isolation with your family, limiting your trips outside the house and maintaining safe distance when you do. Congratulations. You’re part of the cure. It feels strange, but you’re doing exactly what needs to be done. You’re in partnership with millions of other Americans who are taking this health threat seriously. I thank you, and the country thanks you. Your continued health also preserves the health of others. Keep it up! And look forward to lots of hugs on the other side of this.”

Stay well. This isn’t forever. And we’d love to hear your thoughts if you like. Just share them here.

Kurt