A Leader’s Guide to Creating an Enduring Brand

Guest
post by Lindsay Pedersen:




Show
me a valuable business, and I’ll show you a leader who has had to make hard
choices. They’ve had to look at 100 good ideas and take 99 of them off the
table in favor of the excellent one.

That
means they’ve also become proficient in prioritizing. Ruthless prioritization
serves you—the CEO, the general manager, the team owner, the person on the hook
for the P&L of your business. It buoys you from paralyzing overwhelm to
empowerment.

Then
you are truly leading your team, and your employees return in kind, with their
own understanding, demonstration, and embodiment of the business.
Easy
to grok. But how do you do this?

Everything
you decide to do in and for your business—all those hard choices and
prioritizing—either reinforces or erodes your brand. So you need to pay
attention to it. Brand should be the North Star to guide you. Your brand—the
thing you want to stand for in the mind of your customer—is the best way to
filter your decision-making. From day-to-day decisions (Should I attend this
conference? Should I reevaluate this idea?) to monumental ones (Should I
partner with this company? Should I quadruple my spending on this promising
investment?), brand shines so brightly that it makes visible the right decision
without you needing to spend precious time and cognitive energy weighing
choices.

Because
brand is the lynchpin for a business with pricing power, loyalty, employee
meaning, and enduring value creation, you making decisions that reinforce your
brand meaning enables your business not only to survive but to thrive.

You
still might not think brand is your area of expertise. In the past, you may
have felt tempted to delegate brand to marketing or even to an outside agency.
But to do so is to miss brand’s power. It’s to mistake brand for a
single-pronged marketing angle, when it is really the North Star of your
business. If you are delegating the brand strategy, then I’d suggest that it is
not a brand strategy. It might be a neat marketing campaign, but if it doesn’t
force hard choices across departments and over time, it’s not a brand strategy.

And
here’s the thing: You, the leader, must be the one to choose the focus of the
business. You, the leader, need to be the one to select a single brand promise
for your customers.

In
shining that light on one thing, you inherently cast all other things in
shadow. You deselect bad but also good ideas so that there can be single-minded
focus on one excellent idea. That focus is the very thing that makes brand
strategy powerful.

For
a brand to create value for a business, customers, and employees, it needs to
be genuine and bracingly clear. That is the only way it will empower the leader
and employees to make tough choices that amplify the brand. Value-creating
brands are ones that force tough choices.

The
truth is, it can be difficult, sometimes scary, to choose a focus, to make
tough choices to choose a brand North Star. It takes courage and conviction to
develop and follow one. Yet you cannot delegate courage and conviction.

Think
of a brand that you love. What are the tough choices that this business makes
to inspire that love? In order to offer what you appreciate from them, what can
they not offer? 
In order to appeal to you, who might they not resonate with,
and therefore not have a relationship with? Now, think how much leadership
courage and conviction it takes to make those tough choices. How does a leader
cultivate that courage and conviction? By creating a brand with intention,
infusing the brand throughout the business, and modeling the importance of the
brand.

When
I hear a leader talking about the importance of brand, I am also watching to
see whether this leader really means it. Has this person said no to something
attractive in service of the brand? Behind closed doors, does the leader look
to the brand as a guide in the same way the leader does publicly?

When
employees see you owning brand, using brand to filter and to make trade-offs,
demonstrating that you feel it in your bones, the employees will too. Employees
need to see you believing in and modeling the brand when it’s easy but
especially when it is hard—or there is zero percent chance that the employees
will stick their necks out to follow that guiding star.

It
matters to employees if you’re giving them air cover or not. Because that’s a
leader’s ultimate job, to do that hard, strategic heavy-lifting—the heaviest
lifting one might ever do. It takes moxie to create a brand strategy. The
reward is pricing power, loyalty, and enduring pride among employees. The
reward is a brand—and a business—that creates value and endures.

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR:
Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging An Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. She is a brand
strategist and leadership coach who views brand as a blend of science,
intuition, behavioral economics, and ancient storytelling. She developed the
Ironclad Method™ while building brands with companies such as Starbucks,
Clorox, Zulily, T-Mobile, IMDb, and burgeoning startups. Lindsay lives in
Seattle with her husband and two children. Keep in touch with Lindsay through
her website:
www.ironcladbrandstrategy.com