Magazine article Communication World

Survival: Can Branding Save Your Organization?

Magazine article Communication World

Survival: Can Branding Save Your Organization?

Article excerpt

What sustains an organization? How do an organization's brand and reputation affect its ability to attract, retain and motivate employees? Can organizations with well-known brands outperform their competitors, especially during turbulent times?

Those are some of the questions that Towers Perrin asked approximately 20 organizations with well-known brands around the world. The interviews validated many ideas, but a few surprises emerged.

PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST

A brand by itself cannot sustain an organization. But with senior leadership strongly committed to people, organizations like Southwest Airlines can keep "flying high" even during hard economic times.

"We put our people first, even before our customers. This might surprise you," says Texas-based Southwest Airlines vice president of public affairs Ginger Hardage. "When employees know they are valued and taken care of, then they can take care of customers.

A STRONG AND REASSURING PRESENCE

Organizations report that during turbulent times, strong brands are essential to their success. "It is all about trust, given the changing economy," says Debbra Smith, vice president of communications for Retail Bank at JP Morgan Chase Co. in New York. "People will gravitate to a name and brand they can trust. They want to know they are getting quality service."

Ed Faruolo, vice president of marketing for CIGNA Corp. in Philadelphia, Pa., agrees: "Your brand is the one thing you own. In these times of uncertainty, people love the security of strong brands."

Brands also reflect the fundamental character of their organizations. Underwater stock options and diminishing financial incentives have made employees more inclined to scrutinize what their organizations really stand for.

THE NEED FOR SPEED

Brands help organizations break through the clutter. One reason consumers reach for brands they know is that familiarity reduces their decision-making time. "We are overloaded with information. Brands exist to help make the decision-making process easier and stand out from the noise," says Christian Lawrence, vice president of corporate communications at GeneralCologne Re, Germany.

BEYOND HEADLINES

Bud Grebey, vice president of public relations at Munich, Germany--based Siemens AG, reports, "Brand is more critical, but not so much as a result of recent issues dominating headlines. It's really more important because of the complexity or totality of business solutions our clients are looking for."

Grebey adds, "Customers and companies are much more judicious about what they're buying these days...and the brand is symbolic of both your track record and your ability to deliver on your brand promise in the future."

STUDY HIGHLIGHTS

Seven top trends identified

1. Brands are even more important and relevant to attraction, retention and engagement than in the past.

2. Even with cost-cutting across the board in many organizations and industries, organizations continue to invest in their brands.

3. Companies that have made significant investments in their brands universally attest to the high return on investment (ROI).

4. Organizations report that consumers are more discerning than in the past, and that brand recognition is a differentiator in important decisions.

5. Although stock options and other perks in the past may have swayed employees' opinions on whether to remain with an organization or to join a company, now candidates are looking more deeply into other elements of a work environment before making their decisions.

6. Companies are convinced that if they want their people to deliver on brand promises, particularly such things as service and quality, they must demonstrate those attributes in the workplace, too.

7. Leaders carry tremendous weight in influencing an organization's brand and reputation, both in positive impact and in actions that can quickly destroy a firm's credibility. …

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