Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marketing from the inside out

I have two loves: Marketing and Leadership.

In my former corporate life, the two seemed so disparate. Leadership and its development belonged in Human Resources and Marketing belonged to the Marketing Department. For my more than 20 years, I was always in Brand Marketing, but always had a passion for some of the work done by HR. It seemed that only when HR and other functional groups developed an integrated working relationship, that we were able to advance the development of leaders.

This didn't happen nearly enough.

It was out of my frustration of seeing how line management functions (like marketing) never took on full ownership of organizational culture and people concerns (present company not excluded). Only when we had a problem, did we make it a priority. We relied too heavily on HR.

When I decided to form my own business, I knew that leadership is and continues to be lacking at all levels in many organizations. I felt that I was in a unique position to teach leadership from a practical, business leader point of view. I was not just schooled in leadership, I had to live the realities of leadership when theories may not have a practical application.

Bill Taylor's recent article, "Brand is Culture, Culture is Brand" hit home for me. Today, I no longer see Marketing and Leadership as two separate entities, in fact many of my branding principles and leadership insights that I consult, train and speak on are one-in-the same. I often say that branding and leadership are the same exact thing. You can't be a brand without being a leader. And you can't be a leading organization without leading your consumers, customers and employees effectively.

Bill Taylor's words take it one step further "even the most creative business leaders I know recognize that success is not just about marketing differently from other companies: more daring ads, more new products, more aggressive use of Twitter and Facebook. It is also, and perhaps more important, about caring more than other companies — about customers, about colleagues, about how the organization conducts itself in a world with endless opportunities to cut corners and compromise on values."

In my work today, I help aspiring leaders to develop and connect their own personal brand to their company's brand. This is another way to build engagement from the inside out. You can't separate an organization's internal culture from its external brand. When these aspiring leaders find that they can't connect their own personal brand to their company's culture, they go elsewhere. In Marketing terms, this is a sign of internal brand dissonance. The company loses its connection to one of its critical constituents: their employees.

So next time you think that simply connecting with your customers and consumers is the only important thing to do in your role, think again.

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