Simply put, brand integrity is purpose plus follow-through. You need purpose because the modern work world demands it, and you need follow-through because the world is wise to those who are all talk:
- Transformative technologies are driving commoditization in every industry and as new business models are conceived and new entrants join the marketplace, the scope of competition expands.
- Today’s workforce is seeking meaning in their work and customers are demanding brand accountability, companies can struggle to maintain relevance and sustain business health.
- Today’s customer looks for it, not just in how they are being marketed to, but in how the product, service, and customer experience delivers on what is sold and promised.
- The world demands it – from social justice, to sustainability, to human rights around the world, companies are inextricably linked with the future of our neighbors, our children and our planet.
In short, the world doesn’t need more things. It needs better things.
In the words of Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest financial assets manager (at this time, they manage over $7 trillion in assets, adding up to significant pieces of ownership of some of today’s best known brands such as Apple, JP Morgan Chase, etc.) wrote a letter to the CEOs of all the firms in his portfolio: “society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
Truth be told, you can make a quick buck or even a big pay out without purpose, follow-through or integrity. But why would you? Companies that are truly trying to problem solve, relieve pain, and open new possibilities in a way that creates more opportunity for all are the kinds of companies we want to stick around for the long-term.
The ultimate driver of long-term shareholder value is stakeholder relevance. Companies need to ground themselves in a clear reason for being, their essential goodness that resolves pain points in our shared experience. Long term business health depends on operationalizing this purpose through everything a company makes, says and does. When a company lives its purpose, employees gain a north star for decision making and customers are drawn to an answer that clearly resolves a tension in their world.
You must have brand integrity – a clear purpose and follow-through in delivering that purpose - before you can reap the benefits of brand for your business.
You can only realize the business benefits of brand once every part of your organization is working from the same song sheet. That’s brand integrity. When your product teams are operating with the same intention and understanding as your human resource teams, and when your sales team is aligned with your marketing team on who your customer is, what matters to them in the market, and how you are unique and meaningful to them, then you can see the broad efficiencies that are gained through the intangible value of brand.