The Relationship Between Brand and Values

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The following is reprinted with permission from AchieveIt.

Recently, I was participating in an online discussion about aligning organizational brands with personal brands. At the heart of the debate was whether brand integration was even necessary. My response was based on two premises; if you don't buy into my premises, you certainly won't buy into my response.

•    Premise 1: Everybody has a brand. It is more commonly known as your reputation. Your reputation and your brand are one and the same. And your reputation is largely based on your values.
•    Premise 2: Corporate brands are, to a large degree, defined by the vision of the organization, as well as its values statements (the values that are truly lived within the organization, and not necessarily the ones that are hanging on the boardroom wall).

Thus, if both personal brands and corporate brands can trace their roots back to the values they subscribe to, then to maximize both personal and corporate performance, the values should be aligned, especially when it comes time to do strategic planning. As a former H.R. executive, I discovered that people who did not perform well and who were eventually fired, generally weren't let go because they didn't have the skills, ability, training or intellect to do the job; they were let go because their personal values were out of sync with the values of the organization. Aligning personal and organizational values (and thus, aligning personal and organizational brands) generally yields tremendous results.

However, this kind of alignment requires that 1) you first know what your organizational values are, 2) that those values are well defined with behavioral expectations, and 3) that you hire, promote and fire team members with those specific behavioral expectations in mind. I have found that hiring first for values (a.k.a. brand) and second for talent will usually yield better long-term results than hiring for talent first and values second.

But organizational brands and values sometimes change, one of the online discussion participants told me. When that happens, how do you align or realign the personal brands of people who, for many years, have been connected to the "old style and values"?

The answer to this question lies in the fundamental knowledge that brands and organizational values don't change overnight. While we may want them to, they simply don't. For instance, let's say you work at a hospital that doesn't know how to innovate, has never innovated, but has done very nicely simply by installing proven best practices and technologies. A new CEO walks in and states that innovation is now a heralded corporate strategy and that your hospital is going to be known worldwide as a great healthcare innovator. In fact, the CEO insists that the new brand is going to reflect innovation as well.

Come tomorrow, has anything really changed in your organization? No. The same people are coming to work, and these same people know as little about innovation today as they did yesterday. Although the CEO wants a brand and organizational value centered on innovation, it simply doesn't happen, as the right people aren't in the right jobs to make it happen. But hire enough innovative people and, over time, the value will be adopted and the brand will slowly change. And all those people who weren't innovators to start with will either adapt or self-select out. But we're talking about a year or two before this transformation really happens.

It is my belief that you can't change your brand. You can, however, develop a brand strategy to change the things that can change your brand. Values [are] one of those things, but values require time to take hold.

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