Bad cop: The tough side of brand leadership

If you are the officially-appointed or de facto brand leader of your credit union, you’ll need to face a tough reality: sometimes protecting the brand won’t make you the most popular person in the office.

I learned this early during my tenure as a brand leader at a credit union. During what I called “marketing and branding sweeps” of both the main office and its many branches, it quickly became apparent that, at least to some employees, I was seen as a pest (polite language) and sometimes harsher than that (coarser language). “Brand Nazi,” “Brand KGB” and “Brand Jerk” were a few examples I can recall. Looking at it from their angle, it did make some sense. After all, I was “the marketing guy” visiting from the mothership (main office) and enforcing what our brand was, both visually in a retail sense and philosophically in a member interaction sense.

I routinely had to take down homemade posters, flyers and other off-brand marketing materials. I also regularly (in kind and constructive ways) reinforced brand-centric messages staff was required to share with each other and with our members. Most of the time employees understood but, even on my best days, I could still ruffle feathers.

No, I certainly wasn’t the most popular guy around the office when I represented the brand. Want to know a secret? That’s okay. It was okay for me and it’s okay for you now. When you stick up for your brand, you’re protecting something much more important than the individual feelings of certain staff members. Your credit union, if committed to the brand, likely invested a great deal of time and resources in developing and implementing its own brand. It therefore makes little sense to let your brand begin to drift at any level, especially at a front-line face-to-face member interaction level.

Brands don’t typically collapse overnight. More often than not, they begin to fray, thread by thread, like an old sweater. If you don’t snip and mend that thread quickly, the entire thing can fall apart. Brands drift and erode first primarily at the front-line and branch level. Taking aggressive steps as your credit union’s brand enforcer to rally employees around the brand, and sometimes re-focus their efforts to the brand, might get you a few figurative rotten tomatoes to the face, but that’s a badge a good brand cop can wear with honor. Holding everyone accountable to the credit union brand is your job.

With hindsight, protecting a brand is in some way similar to raising children. It’s great if you’re on friendly terms with them – however, that’s not your primary role. They say good parents worry about being parents first and friends somewhere down the line. The same thing applies to branding. Parents are trying to raise up kind, honest and brave children. Brand enforcers are trying to raise up committed, excited and culture-grounded employees dedicated to the credit union brand. If you can be their friend, terrific. Sometimes, you have to be brand enforcer over friend.
And that’s really okay.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details

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