This is probably one of my more daring suggestions for Indian mindset who love hierarchies & resist change but start-ups/ companies that are serious about building a great brand in India and/or globally will benefit from this idea.
As mentioned in my previous article about the difference and importance of brand and marketing both, we can clearly recognise that both brand and marketing play an equal role in business growth.
The current start-ups/ companies (almost 99%) have a small brand team with a brand head who reports into Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The brand being the custodian, foundation or stability needs to have an equal decision maker (if not more) in marketing activities where it can ensure the marketing team executes as per the brand guidelines. Digital marketing has a high dependency on brand strategy and needs to be closely aligned with brand which many startup companies in India ignore. In real case scenarios, many at times the company sales & marketing activities are not aligned to brand strategy, brand guidelines, or strategic decision of picking brand ambassadors align to company’s brand values or goals. In the product department, certain product or design activities might bring sales immediately but might adversely affect the company’s brand perception or equity in long-term. Many departments internally need to collaborate and work together on projects but have too many disagreements or inconsistencies that lack a common purpose, where brand culture can play a crucial role.
Considering these scenarios, a Chief Brand Officer (CBO) can contribute to company’s overall growth and play a role of “enabler” across departments without undermining each of their role/ impact. The CBO can also take focus areas of brand building activities such as PR which traditionally is left under the CMO. This is unlike a position of brand head (reporting to CMO), CBO reports to the CEO directly and will have more leverage to manage, negotiate and lead senior leadership team towards a common brand vision and goals. You will find some valuable inputs about it in this section or Uber’s approach to CBO, or why CBO reasoned here. In India, Mahindra group has a CBO at the board member level managing leadership and stakeholders across the company group.
So why do we need Chief Brand Officer & not Brand head ?
If a company’s product is a tech product then the CPO & CTO would be one but if it is a non-tech product (such as apparel, lifestyle products, etc.) then the product team will collaboratively work with brand team to ensure the product is relevant to the market, aligned with the brand values, the brand also supports product team in adapting to new designs rolled out and enhance the product by branding and positioning it strategically. Design needs to be a common skill and appreciation of it between both teams. The brand team in this case, would work closely with the product team in new product development, business or market development cases in terms of brand building.
Given the nature of the product, if there is a separate tech team, for example working on UX, UI or technology interface of product and customers, then the CTO needs to also consult with CBO is terms of how technology can enhance the brand and customer experience apart from the hygiene work of following brand usage guidelines. The brand team can also provide insights, learning and feedback to the technology team about the customer experiences and challenges on brand experience where technology can intervene. The tech team that internalises the brand values can also look out for new innovations, new ideas and technological solutions that can support the brand and marketing team.
PR & Communication
While defining what a brand is, PR & communication plays a crucial role influencing target customers and market to build brand perceptions. PR is a tool where you support customer engagement with the brand, manage company reputation, distribute content or news, promote products indirectly and manage crisis or stakeholders. PR traditionally is under marketing team but it should ideally be under the CBO. This will allow PR and brand team to manage companies’ internal and external communication more effectively.
With PR and brand activities removed from marketing mandates, the marketing team can focus and enhance their role in marketing and sales activities. The brand team will support and provide the necessary inputs, content, and resources to compliment the marketing activities and push business growth. Marketing activities are across channels, mediums and involving diverse resources which is an intense exercise in itself. There is a volume of marketing activities including sales such as digital marketing, ATL & BTL activities, events, promotions, advertising which needs to be planned and executed along with the brand team as part of their KRA (Key Responsibility Area). Sponsorship, endorsements & brand ambassadors needs to be under the brand team.
Organization/ Brand Culture
Spanning across departments, starting from HR to operations team that need to be not just trained but inspired to be part of the organisation as a brand culture. Unlike the term “organisation culture” which is left to the HR team to drive, Brand culture is anchored by the brand team to successfully position, articulate and communicate consistently across the company which HR team is generally dependent on the communication team. Brand culture is an important DNA of the business to growth internally as a team and project externally to its audience. More importantly, the brand team enables a culture of collaboration and innovation that is critical for any business to grow. CBO and its brand team would play a crucial role in this only when it is encouraged to influence the organization across hierarchies.
CEO/ MD/ Founders
One of the key reasons for building a great brand is the ability of the founders and CEO that have internalized the brand culture and its activities to have a trickle-down effect across departments. The role of CBO is to reiterate this in top management. CBO also would exchange notes with the CEO in evaluating and aligning the long-term vision of the brand and its evolution with short term goals of marketing and business growth. It allows the CBO to help evolve the brand process and pivot during a crisis or any changes in business strategy along with other teams in the company.
“The CBO along with the brand team are the only ones who can seamlessly instill brand core, innovation and organization culture across the company aligned to its short-term goals and long – term business growth.”
The green dotted lines from CBO to other teams represent the influence, shared goals/ KRA and reporting which the brand team will have with other teams. This also gives any start-up or company at growth stage to keep its organization structure more dynamic and collaborative to allow innovation, experiment, and sustainable growth. Would be great to get more suggestions and learn from others who are building a company with a similar intent.
Get in touch with us for more about how to build your brand team and support HR team.