Why Your Corporate Brand Is Failing To Win The Preference Of Customers And Employees24 January, 2018 / Articles
Every year companies spend vast sums of money and time on corporate brand development and brand communication. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most corporate brands are failing to stand out from the competition.
This isn’t an opinion; it’s a finding from our latest research. According to a recent study my company conducted, only one in four corporate brands is perceived as different from competitor brands across a range of stakeholder groups including potential employees and customers.
It might be tempting to think that your company is one of the fortunate few that has cracked the code for competitive differentiation, but our research suggests that is unlikely. The most successful corporate brands use a new approach to win stakeholder preference.
In our work with the leaders of almost 500 corporate communications teams, we have identified a very different approach to corporate branding that is superior in driving brand connection and ultimately crucial preference outcomes like willingness to pay a premium. This will help you evaluate your company’s corporate brand and take steps to differentiate it from competitors to drive stronger connections and preference amongst key stakeholders.
So, what is a corporate brand?
First of all, let’s take a step back and define what we mean by a corporate brand and how it is similar to and different from a product brand.
A product brand is the language, visual imagery and actions that organizations deliberately use to distinguish a product or service offering from alternatives, primarily to customers.
The corporate brand, however, doesn’t have a product or service tied directly to it and must appeal to more audiences. We define corporate brand as the use of those same components (language, visual imagery and actions) to signal the differentiated value of associating with a company to a wide range of stakeholders (jobseekers, target customers, social media users, etc.). Consequently, the corporate brand has a harder job to do: Connect to a broader range of audiences without the benefit of a tangible product or service.
Now, ask yourself: Do you have a winning corporate brand?
Take a moment and consider your organization’s corporate brand. Do either of the following statements describe your current positioning?
- Your corporate brand emphasizes your company’s illustrious history, unique culture or track record for market leadership and innovation.
- Your corporate brand emphasizes your company’s commitment to its values. For example, that your organization is dedicated to sustainability, inclusion, integrity or another similar value.
These are two of the most common brand strategies we see today, and you will notice that both focus on characteristics of your company. If either of them ring true, it’s not that your approach is wrong, per se. It’s just that you’re missing out on the single most effective approach to corporate branding — more powerful at driving brand connection than a strategy that emphasizes your company’s success or values. We call this a “personal benefits” approach to corporate branding.
Here’s what a personal benefits approach sounds like:
- Your corporate brand emphasizes how audiences will feel better about themselves by associating with you.
Notice that this statement did not say “feel better about the company.” By associating with the company, I feel better about myself, which results in a sense of connection to the company.
Paradoxically, the best way to increase a stakeholders’ connection to the company and corporate brand is to not make the brand about the company. Instead, you should make the brand about the stakeholder and what they get from associating with the company.
How Ford Appeals To Personal Benefits With Its Corporate Brand
One example of a company that uses the personal benefits approach well is Ford, a member of the CEB Communications Leadership Council that promises to help audiences feel free and unstuck with its “Go Further” positioning. As seen in this video, the company uses simple and relatable visual metaphors (for example, a girl with her kite stuck in a tree, a boy with his head stuck in his shirt) to evoke the visceral frustration of immobility, and then connects the company with satisfying forward movement. The personal benefit promise they’re making here is that Ford can help you — whether you are an employee or a customer — feel free and in control.
Why Brand Connection Is So Important
It’s accepted wisdom that building a brand connection with audiences is valuable. But what’s less clear is exactly how valuable and in what ways.
We found that creating a brand connection can reduce hiring costs, with 55% of job candidates with high brand connection to a prospective employer willing to switch to that company for a flat salary, compared to only 16% with low brand connection. Benefits were also clear in driving revenue growth, with 64% of customers with a high brand connection willing to pay a premium for the company’s products or services, versus just 14% with a low brand connection. We also found that high brand connection drives brand advocacy on social media and encourages members of the local communities to make supportive decisions on behalf of the company.
No matter what target audiences are most important to your goals, your corporate brand is an essential tool for driving preference and the outcomes with the people whose decisions matter most.