What is a true brand champion?

Superman or Supernerd, what is the profile of a brand hero? Seems to me that you don’t have to have a qualification in the legacy of Marvel comics to appreciate the link between the popularity of heroic figures in popular culture and testing social circumstances.  It’s no great surprise, therefore, that the Golden Age of Superhero comics coincided with the aftermath of a catastrophic World War. But this isn’t a geeky treatise on the power of fiction and fantasy. This book is grounded in commercial reality. It’s about the superpower behind organisations, it’s about the people behind brands.

We’re all aware that these are troubled and testing times for so-called free market economics. I pointed to problems with the capitalist system in Brand Engagement but when, a few months later, single companies lost more in a year than the GDP of the nation they stem from, it would appear the scale of the issue was larger than anyone anticipated. In the first few months following the infamous credit crunch the UK government allegedly invested more in interventionist policies to stabilise the economy than they spent financing the whole of WW1. But even the dark days of international conflict gave rise to role models and heroes. Where are they now?

As former Masters of the Universe investment banks, those bastions of a certain brand of performance culture momentarily slunk into the shadows for a rethink, how many ancillary industries have we seen suffer in their wake? Seems a genuine corporate champion or two wouldn’t go amiss.

It may be popularity polls and shareprices rather than bombs that are dropping these days but as world and corporate leaders struggle with economic crises who wouldn’t welcome a caped crusader who could clear tall buildings in a single bound?  If they also had the answer to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco plumping out their codpiece, all the better.

Here in the real world, as so many political and corporate leaders appear t have embraced “the dark side” we’re more likely to bump into a bumbling Clarke Kent, a nerdy Bruce Banner or an uber slick Bruce Wayne than a Super or Batman.  The heroes who are most likely to live and work around us every day are the alter-egos of what we may expect.  They include police officers, doctors, lollipop ladies, bean counters, teachers and insurance underwriters, personal assistants, Mac wizards and spreadsheet jockeys. They’re often the little people who are able to rise above the universal and altogether natural concern for the self and put the needs of others first in their list of priorities.  They too fight for health, safety, authenticity, growth and excellence in their own modest way.  But like many of their comic book counterparts, they’re not forced or compelled to heroic acts. They do it because they choose to.

Though they seldom acknowledge it, organisations count on there being enough of these workaday superheroes in sensible shoes quietly making a stand for truth and justice within the corporate rank and file. If they aren’t wearing their underwear over their tights or aren’t sporting a natty cape and tiara, however, how do you spot them?

10 Ways to Spot an Engaged Employee

Well, if anyone is prepared to willingly bear the symbol of a brand on their breast there’s a fair chance they’re going to be substantially engaged with that brand. But what does an engaged employee actually look like? While there are variations and eccentricities, in my experience the most common traits exhibited by engaged employees are that they are:

  1. Obvious  (they clearly add value although don’t always shout about it)
  2. Authentic (they are themselves in the workplace)
  3. Receptive (they listen and are open to new and different approaches)
  4. Involved  (they are active members of the community)
  5. Proactive  (they take the initiative)
  6. Energised  (they do things)
  7. Achievers (the things they do tend to be fruitful)
  8. Advocates (they are proud and happy to recommend the brand)
  9. Role models (they lead by example)
  10. In demand

Delve beneath the surface of the various Best 100 Companies poll and you’ll encounter these characters and characteristics in spadefuls.  Having been privileged to have worked with a number in the past I can confirm that in each case:

– the Top Team were advocates of a culture-led approach to brand management

– they developed a very clear business case for change

– they understood the current culture and were clear about the desired future culture

– they involved and engaged all employees in the development of a compelling story about the evolution of the business

– they “professionalized” their internal communication function and ensured that line managers in particular were skilled communicators

– they insisted on partnerships between the external and internal facing communication/engagement functions, like Marketing and HR.

Doesn’t sound anything like where you work? Well next time there’s a corporate crisis just pause for a second, try to look beyond what the emails from the CEO and army of middle managers are saying and consider why the otherwise unassuming and bespectacled Jane from IT always grabs her coat and heads for the stationery cupboard when the going gets tough. After all, someone keeps the super villains at bay and the systems running!


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