Getting Real: A Roadmap for Brand Growth

As we mentioned in The One Thing to Kickstart Your Brand Growth, “[…] these growth phase disruptors have the same basic elements of every company in the world. They have a brand, a vision, goals, human capital, technology, data, supply chains, distribution networks, etc. But they have that special sauce, that swagger that ties it all together to activate these elements for growth.” 

There are no real tangible differences in the makeup of any organization in the world, except the perspective an organization has for their consumer, their brand’s purpose and how they execute their vision on a daily basis at each touchpoint. This point of view and action plan is something that any company can devise and implement. However, it’s not something we could simply lay over the top of the organization or implement secondarily. It has to be embedded in our belief system and actually transform our status quo. 

The tactical elements of your personal and your brand’s roadmap will vary based on many different reasons, but the process and roadmap to get to the end is roughly the same for every company.   

Get Real and Raw with the current situation: One thing that I’ve noticed in some larger corporations, is that we have no idea what the truth is around our business. There is a great book American Icon that details the turnaround of Ford with Alan Mulally at the helm. The story goes that as he was implementing new accountability measures inside the organization to get a holistic picture of the current state of the business, he found that many of his team was false reporting on their business units, making it look better than it actually was. The reality was, that it was 2008 when the entire industry and US economy was failing. So, Mulally called the bluff of his team and forced them to give a real view of the organization. Only when Mulally and his team got real and raw with the current situation, were they able to make the right decisions for the company and the brand, ultimately avoiding the government bailout and skyrocketing the favorability of the brand in the American consumer’s eyes. 

Understand your personal purpose and align that with the Brand Positioning & Purpose: Once we get to reality can we see what our true purpose of our organization and brand is; from the relationship to our consumers to our operations to our communications to our employee morale. This real and raw view can help us understand again, why we exist and why we do what we do. This is an empowering moment for a CEO or CEO, because not only do you find your brand, but you also find yourself and why you do what you, personally do. In the story of Ford, Mulally was passionate about the organization and had a great respect for Bill Ford and what the family stood for as an organization. And Mulally, with his passion for operational excellence, he was fully bought into bringing the struggling brand back to the level of engagement, excitement, and love that it once was. 

Set a vision of where you and your brand want to go: With the raw view of reality and the deep understanding of our core purpose we can now see what the future can entail for our organization. Not simply a shareholder safe 5-8% growth rate, but a whole new future that continues to add value to our consumer, to make a difference in the world, to build an organization and a legacy that can continue on beyond our time at the organization. This visions comes with tremendous responsibility and with tremendous potential energy ready to be activated against. During the turnaround of Ford, Mulally was faced with some of the biggest challenges any modern CEO has been faced with. He knew that if he took the bailout he would lose the connection with the customer, there was now way that he was going to let that happen. With a real and raw view of the company and the passionate understanding of his own and the company’s purpose, he set a vision to become the greatest auto company in the world. And nothing was going to stop him. 

Prioritize and Produce: With a clear vision and understanding of where you’re going, it’s time to close the delta between the real and raw situation with the vision. This happens with a dedicated focus to efficient production across all aspects of the business. From operations to employee empowerment to technology enablement to consumer experience and communications. Knowing how everything works towards the vision, CEO’s and CMO’s teams can build a prioritized roadmap to implement the vision in a systematic and efficient way. At Ford, Mulally had many urgent things thrown at him the second he stepped foot in the Glass House. Building off his engineering and operations background, Mulally knew that the turnaround was going to be a systematic process across the entire business. From vehicle mix decisions to funding to quality operations to dealer engagement and empowerment to consumer experience and communications. All workstreams were personally prioritized through dialog with Mulally and implemented by his teams. ALWAYS reporting on the real and raw view of the situation. 

Learn & Grow: As the plan gets implemented, there will be business, consumer, environmental, and economical shifts that come up that need to be addressed. The roadmap is built to succeed, but is flexible enough to pivot or change directions if the marketplace demands. The growth phase startups have this figured out extremely well in how they continue to evolve their organizations as they learn from their consumers and about themselves as a business. Mulally used this as a strategic lever for his and Ford’s success, especially as the government bailout was looming. Mulally was able to stay nimble in his decision making an test various ideas and strategies to get him through one of the toughest business situations in modern history. 

Getting real and raw about where your company is today is a crucial step that many organizations are afraid to complete. It shows vulnerability, not strength. But what’s interesting, is getting to this understanding can and will become the single source of strength for any Brand Growth turnaround. Here you can re-find the purpose of the organization (as well as yours), build a vision for where the company is going and a roadmap to get from the current reality to the future. However, as we passionately implement our roadmap, we have to stay open to learn and grow with our consumers and our company. 

How are you tackling brand growth? 

Paul Miser