Does your company have those generic Brand Pillars?

Integrity communication respect - Melbourne Branding Consultant

Does your brand have those generic pillars that everyone else claims; “Respect” “Customer Focussed” “People first” “Passionate” “Honesty” ”Excellence”? The truth is they don’t help your Brand and are probably having the opposite effect.

This Enron image, taken from Netflix Culture Manual, sums things up nicely. Brand pillars are usually, at best, worthless and at worst counterproductive. Firstly, Brand pillars like “Respect” and “Integrity” are a bit like saying “honestly” in a conversation. The moment you hear that word an alarm goes off, and we question “are you telling me the truth here?” Secondly there is little or no value in claiming something that nobody would claim the opposite of. “We put customers first.” Do you know any companies that say, “we put profits first and customers second”? “Reliable” Does anyone claim to be unreliable? “Excellence” Does anyone claim to be mediocre? Of course not, so there is little to be gained by stating them.

If however you do have Brand pillars and want to keep them, then make sure they are not of the generic sort or may draw into question your integrity. If you really really do feel “Respect” is a pillar that you believe in then you had better go about ensuring it is credible. Ensure it is interwoven into the fabric of the organisation and works at every level. Add a CRO (Chief Respect Officer) to the Board to demonstrate to everyone you really do value it and it’s not just a sound bite.

Ultimately what you are doing is creating a company culture. The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, that are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go” [Netflix] Back them up with action and share them with everyone and invite discussion and comments. Be transparent and demonstrate examples of how and where the values come to life to reinforce your commitment.

Personally I think it’s time to ditch the Brand pillars entirely and focus on a single Brand essence. Something more unique, ownable and shareable. A Brand essence that will engage with target customers as well as employees and help the Brand to stand out from the competition. An essence that is not just talked about but lived by the Brand.