Give the brand a seat at the top table: Interbrand’s Andrew Barron on defining one coherent growth idea

Interbrand has appointed Andrew Barron to the role of managing director after an extensive search to grow capability in Australasia.

Barron brings with him experience working in the UK, US, Australia and China with roles including marketing director – international customers for Allied Domecq, a consulting partner for Richemont, Citibank, T-Mobile, HP, Kraft, Formula One and Pizza Hut, and head of marketing for a global JV with the China Government.

He’s also been actively involved with startup businesses in the US and New Zealand, in technology and functional food. His background is in core business strategies for growth, a skill set he will bring to his new role.

Chairman and chief executive of Interbrand Australia and New Zealand Marty O’Halloran says Barron’s appointment is an exciting development for Interbrand New Zealand, and part of a regional focus on the consultancy.

In stepping into the role, Barron’s message to New Zealand CEOs is: “Make building your business around one coherent growth idea a bottom line imperative, because how you are selling today will be completely different to how you are selling in five years-time – and your only advantage is your connection with customers.”

Having spent time working overseas, Barron’s says an area New Zealand can improve is where brand is positioned within businesses. Those who continue to delegate it to the marketing team will lose out in the long term to those that put it in the centre, with a seat at the top table.

“You have to have your CFO, your HR director and so forth all understanding how brand drives growth for the business,” he explains, saying when done so correctly, the brand will inform everything from ad campaigns to innovation and investment in technology.

Lewis Road Creamery is one of those businesses he says is doing it well. It’s a fast-moving company that’s established a strong following of “roadies” and that hasn’t just come from an ad campaign— “it’s true to who they are”.

Defining that brand

Taking a look at how businesses should build that brand, Barron says it’s important to have a defining idea, that spans across all the activities of the business.

Be it sustainability or environment-friendly messages, these purposes win over customers but Barron warns it’s not as simple as inserting a using a generic set of values, and using words such as “authentic” or “trusted”.

Instead, he says the idea needs to be meaningful and functional in all aspects of the business. To explain he gives the examples of Google and Microsoft.

The former, started its days with the motto ‘Don’t be Evil’, and Barron describes the choice as over-lofty and unconstrained because “who is going to evaluate what determines evil?”.

It seemed to be a question that plagued Google as well, and when it morphed into Alphabet in 2015 to encompass its brands, the slogan was exchanged for ‘Do the Right Thing’.

The new slogan, slightly more specific than its former, lays out an expectation that employees will “do the right thing,” like “follow the law, act honourably, and treat each other with respect,” according to Digiday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, from early on had a goal of having “a computer on every desk in every home”. That straightforward goal drove how the company acted – so much so that by the end of the decade, it had achieved it.

It was Bill Gates that gave the business the mission back in the 80s, however, it’s since been criticised by new chief executive Satya Nadella, who stepped into the role in 2014.

Nadella had at that point been with the company since 1992 and according to Business Insider Australia had always been bothered that it was a “temporal goal”. With it achieved, he didn’t see it fitting how the company moved into the future, so in 2015 declared Microsoft’s mission as “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.

In the email addressed to employees outlining the new mission, three ambitions were outlined as a way to realise the mission: reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.

Addressing the right employees

While it’s important to identify a driving purpose, it’s just as important to make the right hires to ensure that purpose is going to be lived out.

With this in mind, Barron calls recruitment one of the greatest advertising channels. People want to work for businesses they feel provide a good experience, and those people help to provide that experience. 

And to ensure the brand is represented by the staff, Barron says the values imparted by the HR manager need to connect with those of the brand.

“We are talking to companies and helping them work with challenges around how brand should play out, not only the way they do events and their online presence, but how they recruit people.”

Where people meet bots

That online presence Barron mentions is one of the greatest challenge facing businesses at the moment with so many opportunities to create touchpoints.

He understands the appeal for businesses to be associated with the latest and greatest developments and quickly jump on them, however, warns that using technology for technology-sake won’t contribute to the brand.

Talking about apps in particular, he says many businesses have considered it a must-have and built one without giving consideration to how they fit into the overall experience.

“Not many of them are economically viable or actually return what’s put into them,” he says.

And beyond apps, great consideration must also be given when entering the AI world where there’s a temptation to steer away from the human experience.

Barron says customers want businesses to have the technology, but in a way they can configure the relationship they want, and engage with the business and its experts when they need.

It’s particularly important for the like of banks for which engagement can come with massive risks. He says customers want to be in control and not always dealing with a robot that determines the level of engagement for them.

“All the thinking going on now is about making technology work in a way that’s appealing and sympathetic to the human experience.”

And while he says businesses have been too busy to make it a priority to date, there are big opportunities for those that do as people will change service providers for it.

But again, in order for it to become a priority, he says it needs to have a seat at the top table, driven by the centre of the business rather than a department tapped onto the side.

“People will talk about brand or talk about customer experience, but is it important enough to have a seat at the top table and really be driven from the centre of the business.”

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