Scaling Org. structure during growth: Impact of brand
This is probably one of my more daring suggestions for Indian mindset who love hierarchies & resist change but start-ups/ companies that are serious about building a great brand in India and/or globally will benefit from this idea.
As mentioned in my previous article about the difference and importance of brand and marketing both, we can clearly recognise that both brand and marketing play an equal role in business growth.
The current start-ups/ companies (almost 99%) have a small brand team that reports into CMO. The brand being the custodian, foundation or stability needs to be an equal decision maker (if not more) in marketing activities where it can ensure the marketing team executes as per the brand guidelines. In real case scenarios, many at times the marketing team goes ahead with certain activities that not adhere to brand guidelines, make the strategic decision of getting icons/ celebrities to endorse a product or the brand without checking if the role model is aligned to the brand values. In the product department, certain product or design activities might bring sales immediately but might adversely affect the company’s brand perception or equity in long-term. Many departments internally need to collaborate and work together on projects but have too many disagreements or inconsistencies that lack a common purpose, where brand culture can play a crucial role.
Considering these scenarios a Chief Brand Officer (CBO) can contribute to company’s overall growth and play a role of “enabler” across departments without undermining each of their role/ impact. The CBO can also take focus areas of brand building activities such as PR which traditionally is left under the CMO.
So why do we need CBO separately?
If a company’s product is a tech product then the CPO & CTO would be one but if it is a non-tech product (such as apparel, lifestyle products, etc.) then the product team will collaboratively work with brand team to ensure the product is relevant to the market, aligned with the brand values, the brand also supports product team in adapting to new designs rolled out and enhance the product by branding and positioning it strategically. Design needs to be a common skill and appreciation of it between both teams.
Given the nature of the product, if there is a separate tech team, for example working on UX, UI or technology interface of product and customers, then the CTO needs to also consult with CBO is terms of how technology can enhance the brand and customer experience. The brand team can also provide insights, learning and feedback to the technology team about the customer experiences and challenges on brand experience where technology can intervene. The tech team that internalises the brand values can also look out for new innovations, new ideas and technological solutions that can support the brand and marketing team.
While defining what a brand is, PR plays a crucial role in influencing customers and markets to build brand perceptions. PR is a tool where you support customer engagement with the brand, distribute content or news, promote products indirectly and manage crisis or stakeholders. PR traditionally is under marketing team but it should ideally be under the CBO. This will allow PR and brand team to manage companies’ internal and external communication more effectively.
With PR and brand activities removed from marketing mandates, the marketing team can focus and enhance their role in marketing and sales activities. The brand team will support and provide the necessary inputs, content, and resources to compliment the marketing activities and push business growth. Marketing activities are across channels, mediums and involving diverse resources which are an intense exercise in itself.
Spanning across departments, starting from HR to operations team that need to be not just trained but inspired to be part of the organisation as a brand culture. Brand culture is an important DNA of the business to growth internally as a team and project externally. More importantly, the brand team enables a culture of collaboration and innovation that is critical for any business to grow. CBO and its brand team would play a crucial role in this only when it is encouraged to influence the organization across hierarchies.
CEO/ MD/ Founders
One of the key reasons for building a great brand is the ability of the founders and CEO that have internalized the brand culture and its activities to have a trickle-down effect across departments. The role of CBO is to reiterate this in top management. CBO also would exchange notes with the CEO in evaluating and aligning the long-term vision of the brand and its evolution with short term goals of marketing and business growth. It allows the CBO to help evolve the brand process and pivot during a crisis or any changes in business strategy along with other teams in the company.
“The CBO along with the brand team are the only ones who can seamlessly instil brand core, innovation and organization culture across the company aligned to its short-term goals and long – term business growth.”
The green dotted lines from CBO to other teams represent the influence, shared goals/ KRA and reporting which the brand team will have with other teams. This also gives any start-up or company at growth stage to keep its organization structure more dynamic and collaborative to allow innovation, experiment, and sustainable growth. Would be great to get more suggestions and learn from other who try building a company with a similar intent.