The thing about branding is that it is as much internal as external. It’s not just about getting customers to wear a logo or buy a name on a package, the people in your organization need to buy into the mission and goals too. After all, they’re the faces behind the logo.
The problem with this is, not all organizations make enough of an effort to define the corporate culture that stands behind the branding. Internal and external branding really should be considered in the same way, says Jack Gottlieb, president of Total Solutions Group, a strategic consulting, training, and coaching firm based in Jackson. Because if you want the outside world to buy into it, you have to believe in what you’re selling.
Gottlieb will speak on marketing and branding strategies at NJCAMA on Thursday, June 19, at 6 p.m. at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, 1 Preservation Place. Cost: $25. Visit www.njcama.org.
Gottlieb found his way to the marketing and branding life in college. He had attended Rider, where he played tennis, but took a year off from his studies. He’d been familiar with the gurus of personal growth and power, like Tony Robbins and Steven J. Covey, and had a strong interest in business. He came to find that personal development ideas applied to more than his game. “I loved the science of it and the psychology,” Gottlieb says.
He went back to school at Kutztown University, where he took two high-level leadership courses and “it really stoked my fire,” he says. “It was just in my blood.” Also in his blood is a blend of the pragmatic and creative from his parents. His father was an English teacher and his mother ran MRI facilities. “My dad is a very creative person,” he says. “My creativity absolutely comes from him.”
Gottlieb earned his bachelor’s in business administration, marketing, management, and industrial/organizational psychology from Kutztown in 2000. In 2004 he started Total Solutions Group to help companies find their best growth strategies.
When it comes to marketing, branding, and strategy, it is the internal culture that guides the enterprise, Gottlieb says. But it all starts with a look at the way an organization sees and presents itself. Ultimately, you want to impel people to take some kind of action. And that starts with creating an experience.
The Disney model. Few organizations have mastered marketing quite like Disney has at its theme parks. The company has a model that has been copied and replicated numerous times (to varying degrees of success), and this model is based on using multiple levels to create an overall experience.
Gottlieb uses the Disney model to illustrate his points, and he often urges companies to not so much follow the exact blueprint, but to consider its value in tangible and intangible ways. Certainly, Disney, better than any other organization, has capitalized on imagination and wonder. Its income sails on a river of money brought in by people who want to experience the childlike awe of the Magic Kingdom.
But it’s not enough, of course, to merely put up a sign and some rides. As Gottlieb explains, Disney has several sub-parks within its main park, each designed to create a unique emotion or level of wonder. You walk in and get wowed. Then you stand in line, which takes the most time but offers nothing on its own to keep visitors in a great mood. So Disney ensures that visitors waiting in those long lines get to meet Goofy or Ariel or whomever else.
Then you get on a ride, which has been crafted and re-crafted and honed to evoke the peak of the emotion (whether wonder or adventure or something else) that Disney wants you to experience. “And then when you get off the ride, you exit through the gift shop,” Gottlieb says. “Disney doesn’t really make much of a profit on ticket sales for entry to the park.”
In black and white, it may look like cynical capitalism, but the point is, the emotions Disneyland and Disney World make their guests feel, from the moment they enter until the moment they leave, are real. The company’s main value for the people of the world is in creating a warm, fuzzy fantasy that even adults enjoy. And Disney has become a master at generating those feelings as a product.
Gottlieb urges companies to consider their own internal processes for how to create an experience for their customers, whether that experience is fantasy and wonder or just plain old satisfaction with good customer service. Emotions, he says, generate behavior, which in turn generates results. Strong strategies look at how results actually come from the beginning through some reverse engineering. Figure the result you want (for example, buy a Little Mermaid toy), then look at how to get people into the place where they will take action (the gift shop that’s placed on the exit of the ride). Then look at how to inspire the emotion that will make customers want to take action. It’s not enough to just plunk a souvenir stand at the exit gate and say “Buy something from us to remember your ride,” you have to create the experience that will inspire people to want to hang onto these precious, fleeting moments forever.
Where it fails. Companies have an appalling lack of attention to their own cultures, Gottlieb says. Sometimes they place a framed statement on the wall, but that just becomes a decoration everyone walks past.
Like the company policy, corporate culture should be actively defined, Gottlieb says. The lack of clarity in exactly what the organization is trying to achieve is what kills growth. Ideas fail because someone introduces a campaign that is not clearly explained and not well understood. Without any clear direction, employees become confused and uncertain and, ultimately, form no emotional connection to the ideal.
The lack of clarity also leads straight into perception problems — not the least of which being several perceptions of what the company is really trying to achieve. The perceptions of a culture dictate the behavior of the employees, and if there’s a bad perception, guess what follows.
Organizations need to communicate their goals and beliefs to their employees, Gottlieb says. There needs to be a template to follow; a road map employees can consult and say “This is what we’re doing this for.”
What you ultimately want is for people to feel as if they play for a team they want to play on. After all, you’re not going to convince anyone to wear a Mickey Mouse suit and charm the world’s children if he doesn’t at least believe in the value of giving those children a memorable experience.