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April 20th, 2016

Building a Brand Ecosystem

Ecosystems. It’s an industry buzz word that’s been around for several years, including the branding world. I’ve seen lots of examples of “brand ecosystems.” Most focus on the integration of social media, digital marketing, and overall participatory branding from the consumer’s perspective. And they usually employ traditional means of brand communication. That’s all good and relevant. But I’ve seen very little that includes the most important element of any brand ecosystem—your business.

By definition, an ecosystem is, “a system, or a group of interconnected elements, formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.” The definition fails when you leave out the foundational basis for this community—the organization.

Your organization must control and monitor the governance of your brand. Therefore, the moral imperative for any CEO is to make sure your business goals align with your brand strategy. If your associates do not understand why your brand exists, and what it stands for, they will not embrace your brand and influence behavioral change toward it. Think of your business as the coral reef for the brand ecosystem, feeding and nurturing everything else that exists within the system.

This inward-looking perspective of the brand needs to be constant and consistent in order to design brand experiences that will be meaningful and valuable to your customers and their consumers. The brand must be built from the inside out. Management needs to be vigilant with constant evaluation on the alignment between the business, the brand and the behavior.

Once you’ve delivered on the brand’s promise for your employees through these designed experiences, they will become your brand ambassadors. They will outwardly-face the brand through all elements of brand communication, product development, and marketing. This symbiotic relationship between internal and external “customers” of the brand is essential in order to achieve the brand’s full potential and success in the marketplace.

In the coming months, we’ll take each element of your brand ecosystem and define it (view white paper here). We’ll look at its relationship to and its role in nurturing and supporting the whole. Elements such as brand in the boardroom, brand as part of your business culture, brand as part of your product development process, brand as part of your customer service, brand as part of your human resource plan, as well as brand as part of your sales and marketing efforts.

Peter Drucker, often referred to as the father of modern management, observed that “the purpose of business is to create a customer.” He considered marketing and innovation to be the primary functions. We believe your brand to be the sum total of all visual and non-visual, verbal and non-verbal, tangible and non-tangible elements that help to identify, form, create, and influence unique and positive associations for a product, service, or entity, that differentiates it from its competition, creating meaning, value, and preference in one’s mind. It is the brand that fosters the marketing and innovation within the ecosystem, based on compelling truths and the promise that brand has for its constituents.

In today’s ever-changing marketplace, your brand must be a living, breathing thing. It must grow or die, constantly evolving within its own ecosystem to address the unmet needs of your customers and employees. And it must do so with truth, clarity, authenticity, meaning, and value. While your brand is often acknowledged to be your hallmark, it is also the lifeblood of your company. And, when done right, it is your compass.

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