Lessons From Other Sectors: Branding, culture and values

Lessons From Other Sectors: Branding, culture and values

 Written by Daryl Fielding, former Brand Director at Vodafone UK and leading brand strategist

Written by Daryl Fielding, former Brand Director at Vodafone UK and leading brand strategist

Do you think branding is snake-oil or the stuff of life? I encounter many organisations that sit somewhere on this spectrum of opinion.  Yet few would regard their reputation as unimportant and many recognize that they have many constituencies that they serve. Even the simplest of organisations have employees and customers. In my executive career I was responsible for brands such as Vodafone, Cadbury, Milka and Dove. Fabric of the nation brands; brands supporting the critical infrastructure of the nation; big, complex organisations with many stakeholders.

If the very essence of the organization can be captured, distilled and brought to life, everyone in it walks a little taller and tries a little harder. And if the individuals served can be understood and respected, powerful empathy for them can be created. Connecting these two things together inspires and reinvigorates. That is great branding; rooted in truth and serving people. Whether you are in the snake oil camp or not, I hope my talk will open your eyes to what focusing an organisation on these aspects involves and what it can deliver.

How do you get to the bottom of the essence of the organization? There are many ways. At Vodafone, I looked at the culture and values, at Cadbury the heritage and history, and with Dove, what the brand did when it was at its best. Values are often a wish list carved on a wall in reception and rarely represent truth, which is why trying to leverage this nonsense often fails. The real values of an organization take more winkling out but are much more resonant when you do. The Vodafone story is a powerful one.

How do you find the real unifying insight with so many different stakeholders?  Generally, the deeper and more emotional you go, the more people are the same. Fundamental human needs, to love, to provide, to succeed, to nurture, to give are universal and you need to find one that is relevant and resonates. With Dove, the insight came from intuition, validated by psychologists. With Vodafone, it was inspired by academic research. Rarely, in my experience do these deeper insights come from conventional market research. You have to go further and dig deeper… then use research to validate.

With Dove, we found an insight, which united every woman in the world. There was a huge challenge with bringing this understanding to the organization, though. Most of the senior stakeholders were men, and just didn’t get it. We engaged them in the most spectacular way, and this internal stakeholder engagement was a critical success factor in inspiring thousands of people in Unilever.  

I am looking forward to telling these stories at the conference and hope to help you to look somewhere you might not have looked to reinvigorate your own organisations. I run a charity enabling young people from tough backgrounds to start careers in marketing, so am passionate about the state sector and education. Although brands and education might seem strange bedfellows, I hope thinking about things differently will inspire you as leaders of the most important organisations in the country.

To hear from Daryl Fielding, visit her keynote session on Purpose Branding: The Relationship between culture, brand and leadership on Tuesday 20 November at AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition 2018.