Maintaining a consistent brand identity that is recognized by employees and customers alike is a critical element of strategy.
Or as Ulrich and Smallwood put it in their 2004 Harvard Business Review article "Capitalizing on Capabilities," it is important to be "good at ensuring that employees and customers have positive and consistent images of and experiences with our organization."
To achieve this goal, leaders of the organization must clearly define the brand identity. They must decide what is part of the identity and, just as important, what is not.
A vivid example of a potentially damaging brand-identity problem can be observed in the organization Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), which I have been studying with an eye toward assuming a professional leadership position.
The founder and president of JVNA is a prolific writer of books, guest op-eds and letters to the editor. His personal reputation and the reputation of JVNA are tightly intertwined.
Unfortunately, the president, in his writing, frequently strays or departs from the issue of vegetarianism/veganism. He has strongly criticized the Republican Party at times and he has also weighed in on Middle Eastern geopolitics.
This serves to muddle the identity of JVNA. It is alienating people who might be inclined to support the organization but disagree with the president's position on partisan politics or Middle Eastern issues, which are outside the purview of JVNA.
A more disciplined approach to establishing and maintaining brand identity would be beneficial. Excluding public pronouncements that have nothing to do with the organization's core mission is highly recommended to avoid confusing or scaring away customers.