Brand Stewards are Irrelevant.

We Need Brand Architects to Design and Sustain a Brand.

Brand Stewards Often Refer to a Person, but Ultimately it’s a Culture that Sustains It

What is a brand steward? Simply put, it’s someone making sure that the brand stays true to its promise to customers. It means protecting the equity of the brand and making sure that the customer experience is aligned with what the brand stands for. Someone needs to look out for the brand, but the idea of a brand steward seems incredibly passive and outdated. It’s as if this person is simply making sure everyone is abiding by the style guide and doling out hand slaps if anyone is  non-compliant.

In order for the brand to stay true to its promise, the experience of a brand needs to be delivered by everyone.  A brand becomes real only through the eyes of its audience, built through the accumulation of every touch-point between him or her and the organization. Such a task is monumental, and a single person in an organization cannot perform this task. The best way to “steward” a brand is by building a culture that sustains it.

Building a Brand-Enlightened Culture Requires Architecting

Expanding beyond stewarding is architecting. The brand architect needs to be responsible for strategically positioning the organization and developing a long lasting brand that inspires internal and external audiences continuously.  The chief marketing officer, the chief branding officer or even the CEO can assume this role; ultimately, it needs to stem from the top.

Aside from all the activities that bring to life the experience of the brand, the crucial part of brand architecture involves designing and building a brand-enlightened culture that sustains the growth of the brand. Such a culture needs to have:

1. Awareness

A brand-enlightened culture knows who they are. It’s being self-aware and being proud of everything that the organization is and isn’t.

Take a regular pulse on the organization through internal and customer surveys or town halls and communicate the results to promote awareness.

2. Shared Purpose

A group contributes toward its culture by having a shared purpose of the brand. They understand and embrace the organization’s vision and why they go to work everyday.

Share the vision and purpose of the organization from the top. Back the vision with very specific programs and plans as reasons to believe.

3. Known Behaviors and Rewards

Members of this enlightened group also know how to demonstrate that they belong. They know what kinds of behaviors are accepted and rewarded in the community.

Share stories that exemplify types of behaviors that showcase the brand and culture. At the same time, develop culture specific goals in everyone’s yearly plan.

4. System of Education and Communication

As the brand starts to develop and grow, expect to revisit activities 1-3 so that the organization grows together.

As simple as regularly scheduled in-person meetings to as intricate as developing an engaging intranet platform, the main idea is to engage members regularly.

Sustain your Brand by Developing Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors live the values of your brand authentically. They are infectiously enthusiastic, and they may be borderline obsessed. These are the people you are building your brand for, so find them and then develop them. Whether they are your employees or users of your service or product, the job of the brand architect, that pays tremendous dividends, is to identify them and then develop an honest and reciprocal relationship with them. Give them the inside scoop, the exclusivity and attention, listen to what they love and how you can improve to strengthen your bond. In return, they will become the corner stones of your brand culture.

Brand stewardship is a way-too-narrow lens to look at how to build a long lasting brand that matters. We need to architect brands instead.

Howie Chan
Howie Chan
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