As a dad to three young children, I can hardly finish even a crime thriller on the beach, so, not surprisingly, business textbooks requiring more focus rarely get a look-in. But I am a firm believer that you never stop learning, and even a few nuggets of wisdom can go a long way (thankfully). So when this book came across my desk, with a theme that resonates with how we have developed the Disneymedia+ business, it was worth making some time for.
My initial interest was engagement with the end consumer - an objective we discuss often with our partners - but what Fisher addresses is a challenge that runs much more through the core of a business structure: how to align the way in which you engage your workforce with the way you engage your customer, and why this is crucial to long-term business success. The book handles this in a straightforward and easily digestible way and, drawing on real-life examples from John Lewis to Mazda to AG Barr, demonstrates a clear route from the wider business opportunity through to the day-to-day operational components needed to deliver this change. Above all, Fisher highlights the need to place a premium on people, both inside and outside your brand; what you deliver, how you communicate and what people think of you ARE your brand.
Clear guidelines are a big aid to understanding the overall objective and having an aligned workforce. At Disney, this is reflected in constant attention to the quality of our products and services, but also staying nimble enough to deliver them in ways that make it even easier for our consumers. For example, we recently launched a Disney Channel in Germany with an accompanying simulcast app allowing fans to watch on the move.
All the way through the book there is a clear message about the opportunity and need to embrace digital technology, and what it means for communication. With a fully informed public and a workforce constantly in contact outside the factory walls, inconsistencies quickly become transparent and companies are judged on their ability to manage this. Fisher highlights how Tesco's open and direct apology in light of the 2013 horsemeat crisis went a way to restoring the public perception of its brand. Everybody expects a quick response, and being able to deliver that becomes as important as the message being delivered.
The structural changes Fisher talks about are fundamental for an organisation, but he delivers a hard-to-refute case for them. I am not convinced of the need for a vice-president of engagement role, as he advocates, but it is clear that these changes require a catalyst - whether a person or an event. At Disney in EMEA, we put in place a process of aligning our organisation around our brands, a central part of which was the creation of Disneymedia+. The changes weren't easy to make and we are constantly tweaking it, but I do think it has resulted in a more concrete and valuable proposition for consumers and our business partners - and I think this book does a good job of capturing what it takes to get there.
And ... you can even take it to the beach.
Strategic Brand Engagement: Using HR and Marketing to Connect Your Brand, Customers, Channel Partners and Employees by John G Fisher. Published by Kogan Page.