Promotional Feature

St Luke's: Living The Brand

By Neil Henderson, St Luke's, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 03 December 2010 12:00AM

If you want to achieve something incredible, getting staff on board with a real sense of pride in what they are doing can acheive real integration

There's a story that, in the early 60s, John F Kennedy was on a tour of Cape Canaveral and asked a janitor, scrubbing the floor, what he was doing. He proudly replied: "Mr President, I'm helping to put a man on the moon."

Apocryphal? Perhaps. But if you want to achieve something incredible, that's the kind of integration your organisation needs.

So often in debates about integration there is endless discussion about how to get agencies to work together or how to manage a one-stop shop agency and how many P&Ls there should be. Yes, it's a triumph when these questions are answered, but we believe these debates are missing the deeper point. Are the people who will actually deliver the brand, not just your agencies, striving towards the same goal?

If we are to make integration work, we have to start by putting the brand at the heart of the business ... and the business at the heart of the brand. To do this, we must recognise that at that heart is a group of people who actually deliver the brand - the operational staff. What the brand does and says must be something that not only delivers on the needs of the audience, it must also be something that the staff are proud of and will get behind.

Marketers for service brands have always known that it is the staff who define a brand in the real world - that the interactions consumers have with the staff form a bigger part of their experience of the brand than communications could ever hope to.

Today, all brands are service brands.

And this demands a new approach.

Even with an FMCG brand, the staff are responsible for far more than getting the product on the shelf. They have to educate and influence retailers. They must manage an ongoing dialogue with engaged fans of the brand, and answer the questions of disgruntled critics. And, in an era of increasing transparency, everything they do will be judged against the promise of the brand. Brands are educators, community hosts, advice lines, entertainment organisers - all roles that the staff have to deliver.

If these people aren't on board with the brand positioning, and if it doesn't ring true for them - reflecting their experience and the culture they are steeped in - then no matter how aligned your agencies are, you can never achieve true integration.

At St Luke's, we have been trying to get this right. We have been creating ideas that aim to set the agenda for brands. This is not just about creating a communications idea that inspires the audience in every channel; it's more than that. It is an idea that sets the agenda for the staff too.

Here are a few examples of where this way of thinking has led us.

The Bulmers sales force has a remit to build a sustainable premium cider category in the face of smaller competitors cashing in with novelty flavours. Bulmers is the pioneer of commercial cider-making in Britain and still makes cider in Hereford today - literally bottling and releasing the summer. The idea "Releasing the British summer since 1887" gives staff the ammunition and pride they need to deliver their brand's long-term success.

The RNIB is a complex organisation, offering a potentially bewildering array of services. But by travelling the length and breadth of the country to understand this diverse team, we were able to define its unified agenda.

All exist to help a blind or partially sighted person get back to normal life. The idea "Help someone find their life again" is a mantra everyone at RNIB can stand behind.

Toby Carvery's ambitious expansion plans are entirely dependent on training an army of new staff to deliver the nation's most cherished meal, consistently under pressure. The restaurants' kitchens are, in reality, brilliant cooking systems with fantastic operational excellence. The kitchen teams work with incredible discipline to create the perfect roast. So when we created the idea "Just as it should be", we wanted to say to the audience: this roast is just as tradition demands. For the staff, the idea is designed to inspire them to maintain the teamwork and dedication required to create the perfect roast.

For H Samuel, the idea "Helps you say it better" is a clear guide for all its staff about the advantage of the store over its biggest competitor.

At H Samuel, customers are properly helped to select the right gift - unlike at Argos - and so the idea is a service promise born from staff expertise and an inspiration for new staff to live up to.

These examples are not just the internal marketing that gets done at the end to launch the new campaign. This is working the other way round. It is putting the staff at the heart of their own brand so that when the customer meets them or Tweets them - at that moment of truth - the employee delivers with pride and sincerity.

And that is when marketing is really delivering integration.

- Neil Henderson is the managing director at St Luke's

(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement, December 2010)

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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