Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Branding as Strategy Communication?

This week’s class reading touches on the importance of concise, dependable strategy to the overall success of an organization. The assumption is that if top representatives of a company can’t explain their strategy comprehensively and consistently, how can the company possibly move forward successfully? As the chain of command deviates from the top employees, the understanding and ability to communicate goals and actions is likely to be muddled, resulting in general confusion, inefficiency, and failure in the long run.

To fight this confusion of company identity and offerings, many organizations create branding campaigns that help to communicate their message to investors and consumers in a reliable, repetitive way. While this seems like a catchall for streamlining the perception and message of a company, it appears that even the most successful of groups struggle with properly communicating their goals and strategy. To emphasize this point, I’ve compiled the mission statements of the top 5 2012 Most Successful Companies, according to Forbes Magazine:

1. Exxon Mobile: Using innovation and technology to deliver energy and petrochemical products to meet the world’s growing demand. 

2. Walmart: Saving people money so they can live better.

3. Chevron: To be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.

4. Conoco Phillips: Use our pioneering spirit to responsibly deliver energy to the world.

5. General Motors: Design, build and sell the world's best vehicles.

While each of these companies is deemed at the top of all international corporations, they too employ vague missions to communicate their goals and abilities as a company. The missions begin to give consumers and investors an idea about the company’s offerings, but each statement gives very limited insight into the real function of each group or how they might achieve their stated goals.  Why then haven’t any of these companies struggle with the relationship between clear strategy and representation of said strategy?

As giant companies, it is expected that the inner-workings of each group are too complicated for a single sentence or catch phrase, but this simply underlines the importance of strategy definition and widespread agreement and compliance to said strategy among all employees within a company. By focusing on internal streamlining (rather than the external streamlining seen in branding) companies can afford to rely on proper representation by employees, who each take an active part in the international branding process.

How else might these companies account for successful strategy communication?

Sources: “Top Corporations, 2012”.

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? (Collis and Rukstad, Harvard Business Review, April 2008)

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