Today companies face similar brand and culture challenges, which limit their potential.

We’ve seen it with our own clients. Case in point: We are currently helping several companies transform their businesses and evolve their cultures and brands to better reflect their potential today and their vision for tomorrow.

These companies are in different industries, including financial service, technology and skin care. They range from 20 to 98 years in business, and have revenues ranging from $200 million to $6 billion. Despite the differences in industry, size and age, they all face similar challenges: They lack a clear vision, purpose and set of values. They have poor internal communications. And their brand stories and differentiators have not kept pace with how the world has changed over the past decade.

The factors that are holding these companies back fall into two categories: culture and brand. Both are mission critical to any company’s success — and when not handled properly, can even threaten an organization’s future growth and sustainability.

Cultures need leadership, purpose and alignment.

Many leaders have excellent backgrounds and track records in operations or engineering or finance. However, they lack a clear and consistent vision and do not possess the communication skills to effectively reach their people. For employees, that translates into the feeling that the company’s leadership is either weak or confused — or both.

In addition, the demands of downsizing, right sizing and every one doing double and triple what they once did is also taking its toll — translating into lackluster earnings and employee performance. It’s commonplace for employees today to be burned out, apathetic and ineffective — issues that all come to light in the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study which highlights issues such as employees’ stress and anxiety about the future and job security, and doubts about the level of interest and support from upper management.

Having a cultural common purpose does impact a company’s bottom line. In IBM’s recent CEO study, Leadership Through Connections, three imperatives were found essential for outperformance: empowering employees through values, engaging customers as individuals and amplifying innovations with partnerships. CEOs see greater organizational openness ahead. As rules are redefined and collaboration explodes, having a strong sense of sense of purpose and shared beliefs to guide decision-making will be key to avoiding chaos, protecting a business’ future, and delivering stellar results.

Companies need to practice brand basics.

For a variety of reasons, many companies have not invested the time, resources and money into developing effective brand fundamentals such as platform tools, consistent and aligned touch points, and internal methods for disciplined brand stewardship over time.

We often encounter companies that have not adapted or evolved their brands, even though the world and the marketplaces in which they compete have changed significantly. As a result, their brands look dated and their messaging and positioning are no longer appropriate or relevant.

A good brand positioning is a differentiated market position that no other company can legitimately claim, captured in a powerful brand idea. It should be simply worded and function as a totem pole around which actions, behaviors and communications are aligned. The brand idea must be used internally as an affirmation of a distinctive and dedicated culture and externally as a competitive advantage.

Another frequently missed opportunity is the lack of emotional connection to a brand. Companies need to make a connection with their audiences with compelling messaging and a riveting, authentic brand story. The story helps people connect on an ethical, logical and emotional level to capture hearts and minds.

It is also imperative to have the right touch points for your audiences to receive your messages. Today corporate communications is a two-way street. All audiences expect to receive it the way they want — when and where they want. Only by knowing your audiences intimately will the right delivery channels become apparent — social, digital as well as traditional.

In conclusion

So, what will help you become the market leader your company has the potential to be? It’s simple. Make an investment in integrated brand tools and acquire the discipline to execute your brand across company silos, as well as media channels.

Manage for your long-term success and sustainability. Brand development is not inventing what you should be. It’s uncovering the potential of what you are. Help your company develop a distinctive culture and strong brand that’s unique. Then, reinforce the connection between your brand and your audiences — both internally and externally. In doing so, you’ll create employees and customers that will be ambassadors and advocates for life.

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