Brand leadership at the core: a board-level function

I attended an excellent presentation recently, by our local Institute of Directors branch: the subject was ‘Raising the Professional Standards of your Board’. Part of the session covered the roles and responsibilities of directors and key tasks of the board. In fact, it was the slide underlining the key tasks that caught my attention from a brand perspective.

The slide identified the key tasks of the board as:

  • Establishing vision, mission and values
  • Setting strategy and structure
  • Delegation to management
  • Exercising responsibility to shareholders and other stakeholders
(My thanks to Tim Rose and Paul Munden for that)
These points almost exactly mirror the key tasks of Brand Leadership, and emphasise why the brand should be at the heart of management, and, as I have often argued, a board responsibility.

Establishing vision, mission and values

The values of the brand should be those of the organisation. The ‘brand’ is often confused with the company’s products, but the brand and its values are what the business is fundamentally ‘about’. It is how it conducts its business; its relationship and interactions with staff, clients, suppliers and the world at large. Consider for example, the Apple brand. The brand is not about shiny boxes, iPhones and Macs, though all of those reflect its values. The brand is about the corporate values and the vision of its board.

Setting strategy and structure

Brand strategy and structure are direct manifestations of corporate strategy and structure. They cannot be constructed in isolation. Brand and corporate objectives MUST coincide.

Delegation to management

The operational tasks affecting the brand need to be delegated to the managers intimately involved with delivery – operations, product development, customer service, marketing etc. But delegation must encompass clear guidance, objective setting and understanding of the strategic framework and the organisation’s values. There is a clear distinction between delegation of activities and direction to strategic goals.

Exercising responsibility to shareholders and other stakeholders

Corporate responsibility is a brand issue. It is a manifestation of values. We have only to look at recent history to see brands seriously damaged, if not destroyed by irresponsible, ill-considered actions of directors and executives. The brand is an asset, in many cases it may be the most valuable asset an organisation owns. The same care and stewardship should be applied to the brand as to any tangible asset. Brand damage can be more difficult to repair than damage to plant, machinery or property.

Directors should recognise brand leadership as a shared responsibility dealing with the core corporate values. Just as the financial soundness and probity are the responsibility of the whole board, not just the CFO or FD, so the brand, its values and leadership, should be the remit of all directors, not just marketing.

(for all you directors, check out the slides and handouts from Tim and Paul’s excellent presentation on ‘Raising the professional standards of your board’)

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