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The People Behind the Brand: Crafting a Compelling Narrative Through Talent
  • September 12, 2023

In a world where consumers are bombarded with countless brands vying for their attention, what makes a brand truly stand out? It’s not just the logo, the catchy slogan, or the multi-million-dollar ad campaigns. It’s the people. As leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs, understanding the pivotal role your people play in brand narrative is essential. They are, in many ways, the very embodiment of the brand.

The Silent Brand Ambassadors

Take a moment to reflect on your last visit to a Chik-Fil-A. It’s likely you remember more than just the taste of the chicken sandwich (or if you are like me and have celiac, you remember the grilled nuggets). It’s the warm smile that greeted you at the counter, the genuine “my pleasure” that resonated as you thanked them, and the unexpected acts of kindness you witnessed or experienced. These actions, subtle yet profound, narrate a brand story that no advertisement ever could.

Similarly, with Emirates Airlines, it’s not just about luxury travel. It’s the exceptional care from the flight attendants, the personal touches, and the commitment to service excellence. The average Emirate Airlines flight attendant speaks more than 4 languages.

These people-driven experiences become synonymous with the brand itself.

Every Interaction is a Brand Touchpoint

Every email sent, every call answered, every handshake exchanged, and every social media post made by an employee speaks volumes about the brand. In today’s digital age, a single tweet or a candid behind-the-scenes Instagram story from an employee can be more influential than a polished corporate advertisement.

This notion becomes even more pivotal when we understand that in an era dominated by social media and digital interactions, human touchpoints become invaluable. They provide authenticity, an increasingly rare and sought-after commodity.

The Role of Leadership in Brand Narration

But how do you ensure that every teammate, from the C-suite to the frontlines, is telling the right brand story?

  1. Hire For Who: Hire people for who they are rather than just what they know. This includes customer service. We would often take candidates out of the sterile environment of the office for interviews. Sometimes, this would include restaurants. We would observe how they treated the wait staff as this is a position of (presumed) power over another.
  2. Culture First: Before you market externally, market internally. Ensure that your organizational culture is steeped in the values you want your brand to reflect. Our core value of customer service at Contegix embodied this – “WOW the customer, every time, every engagement, with integrity and zero exceptions.”
  3. Empower Team Mates: When teammates feel valued, recognized, and empowered, they naturally become brand evangelists. They’ll take pride in what they represent.
  4. Consistent Training: Regular training sessions can help inculcate the brand’s ethos, ensuring everyone understands and lives by it.
  5. Celebrate Successes: Sharing and celebrating instances where teammates have gone above and beyond can serve as inspiration for others. As a leader, every problem is yours, and every success is the team’s.

The Future of Branding

Branding is no longer about just getting the message out. It’s about living the message, every day, through every interaction. As highlighted in the preceding article on “The Art of Writing Effective Board of Director Reports”, it’s the talent – the people – that form the crux of any successful venture. When these individuals embrace and embody the brand, the narrative becomes not just compelling, but also authentic.

As leaders, it’s imperative to understand and leverage this invaluable resource. After all, in the words of Richard Branson, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

In today’s market landscape, where authenticity reigns supreme, remember that your people are not just part of the organization; they ARE the organization. They are your brand.

Ad Redux
  • May 29, 2012

There was once a small, innovative company who was first in their field. They had built a product out of an idea, a spark of something that would change the world. Before beginning, they offered it to other companies, who rebuked and called them “crazy”. They go on to build the product and sell millions of it despite originally being told their was no market for it.

The competitors were wrong and quickly began to see the error of their ways. They rushed to enter the market. And what did the small, innovative company do? They ran an ad welcoming the competitor(s).

For those who know the history of computers and advertisement around it, you might be thinking the small, innovative company is Apple, known at the time of their ad as Apple Computer. In August 1981, Apple ran a full-page newspaper ad titled “Welcome IBM. Seriously.” when IBM entered the marketplace with a personal computer. The ad was tongue-in-cheek and probably meant to scoff IBM’s lack of vision for completely missing this revolution coming.

If you thought it was Apple, you are correct. But only partially correct. It appears another company has decided to take this same approach. If you have read a running or fitness magazine or website, you have probably probably already seen this ad. A small, innovative company is once again welcoming their competitors to the market.

More than 30 years since the original ad, Vibram has decided to embrace nostalgia and run a very similar ad. (Either that or their agency has just ran out of ideas.) For those that don’t know, Vibram introduced the running world to its FiveFingers shoes in 2005. In doing so, Vibram was part of the revolution that started the minimalist running movement. Minimalist shoes have removed (or significantly reduced) the thick, cushioned sole and designed a shoe this returns runners, like me, to being as close to barefoot as possible. The heel lift is nearly non-existent.

The similarities of the Apple and Vibram ads are striking to me. When I first saw the Vibram ad, I was instantly reminded of the Apple one. Some quick similarities on first glance:

  • “Welcome” of the competitor(s)
  • Pointing out millions of users
  • Noting the benefits of their product as perceived by the user

I truly wonder if Vibram considers itself the Apple of the shoe world. One look at the FiveFingers website and the words “It [Vibram FiveFingers] bucks tradition and makes people think differently.” pop out.

As a consumer of both Apple and Vibram, this ad has never spoken to me. Perhaps it does others.