Zara. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Zara. Picture: BLOOMBERG

First impressions are based on how people behave, how they look, how they speak and what their reputation is, among other things. These impressions shape how we react to them.

A brand is no different. It’s an image for itself; how it looks, speaks and behaves, based on a promise of some nature. Depending on the congruency of its messages, positive or negative perceptions are created in the minds of consumers. And this experience of the brand will affect both the bottom line and customer loyalty.

There is a direct correlation between brand and business performance. Zara, for example, is listed at number 51 on Forbes’ World’s Most Valuable Brands 2017 list. The retailer is valued at US$11.3bn. It is renowned for its promise to develop a new product, being the latest in designer fashion and getting the new merchandise to stores within two weeks, while other retailers may take longer.

Despite its reputation for doing no advertising, the key to Zara’s success lies in the fact that it does a substantial amount of brand-focused work. First and foremost, it delivers on its promise: the latest fashion products, at affordable prices, delivered in record time. Consumers have seen this; they have heard it and they have experienced it.

In considering the success of brands such as Zara, we need to remember that there are three key components to human and brand behaviour which top brands drive and leverage successfully. These three components are thought (the identity, belief, purpose or promise); word (a thought expressed, or promise expressed); and finally action (the moving words or promise delivered – in other words, the brand delivery).

When committing to a brand promise, business leaders need to be very sure the company can deliver on that promise. If they can’t deliver, they should not make the promise. This means ensuring the right systems and processes are put in place, and most importantly, having the right people in the business doing the right jobs for the right reasons. The ideal is to employ people so committed that they will do whatever it takes to deliver on the promise or belief.

If these are not in place, expect disappointed customers, a tarnished reputation, an erosion of trust, loss of clients and, ultimately, a negative impact on the bottom line.

Brands are built from the inside out, not the other way around. They have to be lived, not just spoken about. While it is the role of the marketing department to manage the congruency of the brand and deliver a congruent message, it is not the sole responsibility of that department to manage the brand. A brand is far too valuable to be managed by one department alone. That means that every employee is critical to the delivery of the brand’s promise to customers. Successful delivery requires every employee to act with the vision and promise in mind.

The big take-out: There is a direct correlation between brand and business performance, says Shift Joe Public’s Terri-Leigh Cassel.

Terri-Leigh Cassel is managing partner of Shift Joe Public.


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