Going Beyond the Brand: Why engagement is essential

2019 marks our 60th anniversary. 60 years is a long time, a lot has changed. Every desk now has a computer on it; more than two-thirds of the world’s population has a mobile phone connection; more than 60% of American women are in the workforce – with nearly all major corporations now employing female executives; and let’s not forget about the evolution of the Internet and all its progenies.

It’s evident that we, including many other companies, aren’t the same business as when we first started. And it was this idea of who are we now, 60 years later, and the business we’ve become that started us down a journey into exploring the message we convey to our audience.

A journey into the unknown

Last year, we embarked on a journey of self-awareness. Awareness of ourselves as individuals and team members through our Clifton StrengthsFinders assessments, and an awareness of ourselves as a whole by learning what our staff, clients and members of our community are saying about us.

In our process, we engaged a third-party specialist to help us step back from our business to see our brand as our current and potential customers do. They conducted one-on-one interviews with our staff, a range of current and past clients, as well as significant community influencers. They guided our staff through workshops to dive deeper into our culture, what we stand for as a firm, how we are successful and how we deliver the best services to our clients.

So you might be asking why is all this so important? Well before I get into the results, let’s talk a little about branding.

Branding ain’t just for cowboys, y’all

By definition, branding is the “distinctive wording or design used to identify a particular brand.” Many factors work together to form your brand, including the quality of your product, the messaging you put out, the behavior of your staff and your pricing.

A strong brand has multiple impacts on a company’s bottom line and people, including how it:

  • drives new business
  • increases brand awareness
  • gets recognition
  • increases business value
  • generates new customers
  • improves employee pride and satisfaction
  • creates trust within the marketplace
  • allows people to perceive your brand

Look at these brands – what do you think when you see these iconic symbols?

What do these brands have in common? All of them:
  • are among the 100 most visible companies in the United States;
  • are known for their innovation;
  • have established a strong work culture;
  • have consistent, significant growth; and,
  • are ranked at the top of The Axios Harris Poll 100 – which ranks the reputation of the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. by consumers.

Now let’s look at some other equally familiar brands and what might be said about them.

What do these brands have in common? All of them:

  • are among the 100 most visible companies in the United States;
  • had major compliance snafus in the past year, and,
  • are ranked at the bottom of The Axios Harris Poll 100.

In other words, it isn’t what you tell people you are, “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” says Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.

So this begs the question, what are people saying about your company when you’re not in the room? At BMF, we decided to explore that question and the results were thought-provoking.

The results

Alright, well a lot of what we heard maybe didn’t surprise us, but some comments gave us a chance to step back and think about our core messaging, how we present ourselves externally and how we communicate with our clients and prospects. And it was this engagement that helped us understand the business we are, the business others’ think we are, and the business we aspire to be. Because you can’t just assume you know what people think of you or your company – you need to ask.

The culmination of these interviews, discussions and workshops were synthesized into a brand positioning statement – our “brand manifesto” – which is the underlying message that we communicate internally and externally and captures the essence of the BMF brand and its personality.

“As trusted advisors, our role is not defined by numbers on a spreadsheet, but in the quality of our people and what they can do for our clients.”

Time for change

Completing this important activity not only gave us an opportunity to reflect on and highlight our growth, but it also allowed us to better understand ways we can serve the growth and needs of our clients. And while we may not have those simple 1-page tax returns anymore, we do continue the same core support for our staff, our clients and our community as we did when we began. And it’s these – our core values – that helped us create the image and brand that we are today.

If you haven’t looked at your branding or the message you’re sending, maybe now is the time for your own self-awareness journey.

About the Authors

Stephanie E. Smith
Stephanie E. Smith
Strategic Communications & Engagement Manager, Marketing Department


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