Company behavior builds or detracts from the story you need to tell
By Bob Wheatley
Today we hear again at Food Navigator that legacy soft drink businesses are in decline. A cultural shift has already occurred and it is changing how the game is played for growth. Either you are authentically “in league” with the consumer’s passion for healthy living and their need for control in their lives around it, or you risk outright rejection despite whatever equity you believe has been retained and accumulated over time.
Alignment is summed up in the brand story you need to tell, as consumers now want to “join” the brands they care about as “members” rather than invisible users. The brand/customer relationship operates more and more like the ones between people, where give and take (reciprocity) is always at work. So by definition the story is more than the words you impart through communications pushed out the front door.
Your brand story is the sum of many things. And thus the transition to optimizing and navigating the consumer sea change to healthy living is much more than a messaging exercise around a product tweak or two in a formula or an improved tag line. The brand story is more than a press release or an ad or a social channel. It is…
Everything you do, produce, believe and say.
CEO’s care about alignment, and understand all aspects of the organization’s business strategy must be on point with the core mission – assuming it’s optimal. In Theodore Levitt’s outstanding book, The Marketing Imagination, he makes this simple and powerful point: The purpose of business is to get and keep a customer, therefore all divisions, departments, processes, executives, resources operate in service of marketing whether the participant recognizes it or not.
- So too the brand story is not just a marketing narrative thing — it is the outgrowth of alignment on product, mission, formulation, ingredient, sourcing, operations, policy, employee behaviors, distribution strategy, brand strategy, internal systems, financials, staffing, customer experience and more.
Mapping to healthy living may begin with insight into consumer wants, needs desires and behaviors. But it is guided by how well the organization pulls together to fully walk the walk that informs how you talk the talk.
The prescription for change then requires stepping a bit higher to look through and over the organization; how it operates to determine where there is consistency and where disconnects exist. The right core beliefs, values and mission will drive this.
Once aligned, the story can be told because the reality of what happens in all aspects of go-to-market behavior syncs. In the syncing is magic. That fundamental layer of believable proof is the lever that elevates one business over another and transcends the typical perceived boundaries of history and size that suggest stalwarts just continue and always win.
Stalwarts can recalibrate winning when they recognize these essential truths; it just requires more inertia to turn an organization baked in an established belief system than one in earlier stage development mode.
- We’re navigators at Emergent so we can see how these issues interconnect and the tremendous possibilities that are ahead for those willing to bring the disparate parts of an organization together under a focused goal.
That synergy and consensus is what builds the right brand story, and thus a story well told.
The relationship to business growth…
So what does all this have to do with making shareholders happy and building business? Levitt said it: the goal of business is to get and keep a customer. And how that customer prospect operates is vastly different today than it was 10 years ago. No amount of social/digital spend for example will alter the unalterable conditions of consumer preference for healthier choice — and higher quality food and beverage experiences they want to coincide with their higher quality lives.
- You may say you’re aiming for the vast middle where the crowd is bigger and maybe more malleable. The middle is on the same rush. Change is already in motion. The ship has left the dock.
Growth is now measured in relationship to the degree of relevance to consumers who increasingly favor relationships – not just transactions – with brands and retailers. The ones they believe are a mirror (aligned) of their desire for a healthier, better and improved life. If you’re a partner with them on this journey, you are well positioned for growth. If your brand story – thus the organization and its behaviors viewed in sum – is not aligned it will need to change. Transformation can be a beautiful thing. A re-imagined future is pretty exciting.