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Sharing Is the New Essential

April 18, 2013

By Lynn Santa Lucia

The poster child for brand building, Larry Light, who last spring was appointed chief brands officer at InterContinental Hotels Group, says the company’s new mission boils down to this: To build brand preference. But here’s the kicker: For IHC, branding is not a marketing process but a business plan.

The new emphasis, Light says, is on shared responsibility for success — and that means everyone at the organization shares the common goal of building strong brands. Sharing, then, is more than simply activity as we’ve come to know it in social media. It actually defines the culture of the operation itself (i.e., how we are organizing our business).

For the majority of brands, the time has come for a different model from that of “partitioned responsibility” (you do your thing, I do mine) and “global thinking executed with local tinkering” (think USA, do as I say). Evolving to a “three-box shared responsibility model,” as Light sees it, will create fantastically strong brands. Here’s where everyone needs to come together:

  1. Defining the brand’s “north star” (where the brand can be and should be). Getting clear on that ambition and crafting an inspiring definition should be responsibilities shared across functions and geographies.
  2. Establishing the brand framework. Though difficult to execute, and would require discipline, a shared approach to design standards, trademark policies, etc., will work to reinforce any brand.   
  3. Delivering results. Marketing is all about results. Too often in marketing we start with input or tactics rather than output or results. In the new model, there is no “brand plan” and there is no “business plan.” It’s all one plan, with the objective being to build brand preference.

Business success is tied to building strong brands. And recognition and reward must reflect that common goal. Light predicts that the financial reward system ultimately will be tied to that measurable objective.

Light leaves us with this: As a chief marketer, ask yourself: What percentage of your day is dedicated to helping build brand preference? If it’s less than 50 percent, then you’re a cost to doing business.

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