Custodian of the Brand

It is imperative that every company employee become the Custodian of the Brand. The whole concept of, “it’s not my job, I don’t do that,” is crazy! You have to hold the consumer’s hand even if another department owns the function. You have to bring the consumer comfort all the way to the point of transfer to the appropriate person who will deliver satisfaction. Look at it as though you are crossing the street with your four-year old child to your spouse on the other side. You do not let go of your child’s hand until he or she is in the safety of your spouse’s grasp.

To be a Custodian of the Brand, you have to embrace the brand and what it stands for. A consumer, a fan, or any individual you’re working with, has to have confidence in you and believe in you if there is any chance they are going to believe in the company and its brand. When you instill this feeling, it increases the likelihood that they will turn to you when they need your services, when they want to buy something, and when they want to be involved with an entity.

To be a Custodian of the Brand, make damn sure you deliver on all promises. This is key to building brand confidence. You must always be the custodian of the brand and you must always reek of what the brand stands for. In this case, not for what you personally stand for, but what the organization’s brand stands for (hopefully they are one in the same, but that is irrelevant to intended results). Always. The custodians of the brand can make or break the feelings of loyalty toward a brand. So vigilance is imperative.

I always recommend to my staff and students that when they work for an organization, they should learn every job within the company. When I started out in business working in radio, after I completed my responsibilities, I would ask other department heads if they needed help, which inevitably they did. Working that extra bit (more hours for no extra pay, by the way) helped me understand the inner workings of the organization much deeper, and made me be a better Custodian of the Brand.

To be a Custodian of the Brand, you must ensure the brand always equals what it stands for, not sometimes. The toughest part is to be consistent. It can’t be “one and done.” You can’t be perfect once and boot it the next five times. That will erode brand confidence. There has to be an ever-present consistency. As an aid to this, I told employees to always visualize the word, “BRAND” and place a big equal sign next to it. Then insert any action under consideration and think, “Do my actions equal what the brand is intended to stand for?” If it does, proceed. If not, stop and reevaluate your next course of action.

Now that Randy Moss is with the New England Patriots, would you ever expect him to say, “My team sucks, it’s an awful organization, I want nothing to do with them?” Would you expect Randy Moss to say, “You know what, I’m not feeling good, the ball is not being thrown to me too often?” He wouldn’t make either statement these days. In the past, while with the Vikings, he had been very vocal. But now, when you see Randy Moss at press conferences, he equals the brand. Everything that comes out of his mouth is brand-centric. He drinks the Kool Aid that Coach Belichick serves. Randy Moss is a Custodian of the Brand. You might say, “But wait Lou, he’s not in marketing” – but as I like to say, everyone in the organization has to be in marketing.

Randy Moss equals the brand because Coach Belichick demands it. And if he doesn’t like it, I’m positive Coach would say, “See you later.” The brand is more important than any individual. The team is more important than any one player. Any employee who does not embody the brand should be “fixed or nixed.” If that is the philosophy from above, then any employee can become a Custodian of the Brand. But it must be prerequisite to employment.

The biggest problem with folks both in corporations and in professional sports teams is when the people who work for the organization, especially in marketing departments, think that they are bigger than the brand, and act outside the brand identity. No one is bigger than the brand and everyone must fall in line – From ownership to groundskeeper. Everyone is a Custodian of the Brand.

About Lou Imbriano

Chief Executive Officer at TrinityOne (www.trinity1.com) & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College's Carroll School of Management. Former Chief Marketing Officer of the New England Patriots & Chief Operating Officer of the New England Revolution. Click here to read Lou's full bio http://www.trinity1.com/aa_about/exec_bios01.php.
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5 Responses to Custodian of the Brand

  1. Reality is; sometimes the company will let down the brand through bad policy or bad execution or bad luck. Then the key is whether employees are empowered to “fix things” with the customer so the brand tarnish is removed.

    Sometimes this will cost the company more. Are you really ready for that? Will employees who make mistakes, even if their heart is in the right place, be reprimanded for costing the company – or will they be exalted for keeping the brand shiny?

    This one is in management’s court. Blow this call once, and employees will learn that you don’t really mean that brand is first. You mean that short term profit is first.

    This can be a tough call. It’s where the reality meets the boardroom. Easy to preach – hard to do while swallowing an expense. Takes a longer term view.

    But there’s a new factor to add to the equation: social media. When you do right by your brand, you can get positive mentions on FaceBook, Twitter, Blogs, etc. But the penalty is worse. Do wrong, and you will get scorched on these media.

    Realizing this may make it easier to swallow the short term expense. Bad word of mouth is now nuclear for your brand.

  2. Lou Imbriano says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I believe it is imperative all employees are trained and empowered to be Custodians of the Brand. Yes there will be short term increases in cost, yet it is truly only an investment in long term financial growth. Now even more then ever, with Social Media magnifying the positive as well as negative, should force companies to “bite the bullet” and get there customer service philosophy and plan in order.

    Thanks for the comments and checking out the blog. I appreciate it.

    My best,
    Lou

  3. Ryan Beale says:

    Great Post, Lou!

    I couldn’t agree more that successful brands/businesses have employees that are “custodians of the brand.” The best example is my employer, HubSpot (sorry for the plug – but it’s so true!). We have over 150 employees here in Cambridge, MA and every single one of us has a blog and are on social media networks. All of us preach the concept of “inbound marketing” (a Hubspot Brand) and while certain “outbound” and traditional marketing methods can and should be used in concert with inbound marketing, you will never hear any of us say a bad thing about “inbound marketing.”

    Actually, you may hear one bad comment about inbound marketing… “it takes time and effort to work.” :)

    RB

  4. Tola says:

    Interesting…
    Yes, one should always be a good custodian of the brand they represent. But let’s be honest, if you’re only doing the job to pay the bills then it’s not going to happen.

    Take for instance, a first job, where you just want something that’s going to give you an income; You really don’t care what anyone says about it, you just do your job and get out, heck, you even insult them sometimes. The way I see it, it’s when you get older and become more principled and grounded in your beliefs, that’s when you become a custodian. By then, you become more picky where you work and whom you work with and by that you stand a better chance of supporting that brand, or walking away from it if you can’t support it.

    That’s what I think…

    • Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Tola,

      I am really happy you commented and appreciate your honestly. What I am going to write now is possibly the best advice I can give anyone. You can not look at it that way. Every job you have regardless of the compensation is an opportunity. Yes, most people approach things in the way you describe and that’s why I am writing this blog and experiences. The norm is not where you want to live.

      Don’t be like most people – be exceptional. What ever task you are faced with you should approach it with the attitude that you are going to “own” it and be the very best at it. Not necessarily for the person you work for – but definitely for you. If you approach everything you do the way I describe above – you will break through the clutter of mediocre employees and be successful.

      If you are in a job and are asked to fetch coffee, as menial as it may seem, be the very best coffee fetcher possible. If you look at it as you describe, you are missing the point and the opportunity. Be the best you can be regardless of others and their substandard ways.

      The attitude you give to others will define you – not them.

      Best wishes,
      Lou

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