Brand belongs at the top table

Your brand: it’s more than what you look like. It’s what you do. That’s why brand needs a seat in the C-suite.

Case in point: this week The John Lewis Partnership launched a new visual identity with a powerful message – then immediately undermined that message with its actions.

The company is owned by its employees, and that’s the point of difference that comes across loud and proud in its new logos, packaging, livery and TV ads. John Lewis and Waitrose have both added “& Partners” to their names and logomarks, and the new TV ad ends with the line, “If you’re part of it, you put your heart into it”.

But 270 of those partners won’t be part of it for much longer. Back office staff in 50 shops recently found out they’re losing their jobs. The company’s actions don’t match its message.

The message – the logomark, the feelgood ad – has been crafted with careful attention to brand. It doesn’t look like hiring/firing decisions are getting the same attention.

The result: the value the company can get out of its new brand just dropped.

Your brand is much more than a set of rules about colours, type and taglines. It’s everything that makes your organisation distinct. That makes it a powerful tool you can use to make meaningful connections and improvements for your business.

As with many powerful tools, you’ll get the best results when your brand is wielded by an expert. But in our experience, companies don’t always make the most of their in-house brand experts, who work as design police most of the time and only get to flex their muscles when it’s time for a rebrand. Brand people are worth so much more: companies who base their behaviour on their brand, not just their look, grow twice as fast as others.

We can only speculate about The John Lewis Partnership’s organisational structure, of course. But if there’d been a brand person in the room when the company decided to fire 270 partners, we imagine they’d at least have questioned the timing.

And if that person had director-level power, maybe they could have challenged the decision itself – in the same way brand managers challenge stretched logos or incorrect typefaces. “This goes against our brand. We’re a partnership – that’s how our customers know we’re John Lewis and not some other retailer. Are we sure this is the right decision for us?” There will always be times when the bottom line has the final say – but brand should always factor into the decision.

We want to help you make sure your messages and actions are aligned under a coherent brand. We’ve assessed and aligned mismatches between identity and behaviour for clients like the PSR, and the Government Office for Science.

As with many powerful tools, you’ll get the best results when your brand is wielded by an expert.