The Brand Leader as Chief Integration Officer

When we recently surveyed our clients and asked them what keeps them up at night, the “ability to deliver integrated customer experiences and touchpoints” ranked very high on the list of key challenges that were mentioned.

That is not surprising, since the days when the CEO and the customer were the only two points where the brand experience could come together are simply over. There are now so many different ways for clients and customers to engage with a company and its brand, that organizational integration actually has become a key role for the brand.

The importance of the brand as integrator

Pressured by the need to design and deliver a coherent brand experience across product/service divisions and customer touchpoints, the role of the brand to serve as integrator for the organization has become more important than ever before.

This changing internal function of the brand has also greatly impacted the role of the brand leader, who on top of the typical market-facing challenges also contends with challenges like:

· Working across silos (between different product divisions and/or regions)

· Working across disciplines (product development, innovation, marketing, branding, etc.)

Brands are increasingly deployed to bridge gaps across organizations, which these days are, more often than not, global, multidisciplinary, and siloed. The brand can bring coherence to varied customer experiences and touchpoints, and help companies leverage best practices and competencies from all corners of the organization.

What it takes to lead a successful, integrated brand today

Though brand leaders shoulder huge responsibilities, they often don’t have the formal authority over the actual delivery of the brand experience to directly implement their strategy of choice. Therefore, successful brand leaders/integration officers need to draw heavily on their change management, influencing and capability building skills. In today’s companies, marketers need more than the organizational savvy that has typically defined their role.

Whether that means playing the role of motivator, diplomat, strategist, communication facilitator, or digital mastermind, today’s successful brand leader needs to create the enablers for effective marketing. She/he needs to be able to build and lead an empowered team of people across the organization who have the skills and competences required to do their jobs well—within a mandate provided by the brand promise.

To steer your brand right, choose passion over politics

All too often, however, the necessary enablers for an effective marketing function are not in place. At least once a week, I meet a brand leader who is more of a chief political officer than a chief marketing officer. Those reporting to such leaders are working below their potential, to say the least—which is not helping the brand.

When highly qualified, motivated, and often senior people are spending way more time on how to get anything done than on the quality of the content or what they want to do for their brands’ customers, you can bet that major opportunities are being missed.

Sometimes playing politics is a necessary evil, but I’d guess that most people didn’t start their career in marketing because they like to spend hours second guessing feedback or directives from a divisional president or delicately navigating through hierarchical minefields. Most people who start a career in marketing do so because they are passionate about building brand experiences that people love.

Granted, it takes a lot to lead in today’s marketplace. But sufficient focus on building the right enablers for an effective marketing function can unleash a lot of the energy and talent that is sometimes suffocated by politics. Therefore, to create a brand experience that is seamless, integrated, and truly exciting, brand leaders must build capabilities across a united and empowered function, and work cooperatively and creatively, integrating the organization. After all, brands are only as inspiring and successful as the people who build and lead them.

This is part three of a series of articles by Stephan Gans focused on unleashing your brand’s potential. Stay tuned for more insight from Stephan in the coming weeks!

 

Contributors

Chief Strategy Officer, North America