/ˈbrandiNG/ noun The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.
At Rise8, we enable teams in mission model organizations to deliver software that saves lives. And there’s a lot that happens to empower, enable and inspire these teams. While many factors in this empowerment are obvious (standups, training, pairing), other things can be easily overlooked, especially when done well. One of those things is the team brand.
A brand is a way a company, organization, or individual is perceived by those who experience it. As Jeff Bezos says, it’s “what they say about you when you’re not in the room.”
More than simply a name, term, design, or symbol, a brand is the recognizable feeling a product or business evokes. As such, brands live in the minds of everyone who experiences them: employees, investors, the media, and customers.
Branding is the act of shaping how a company, organization, or individual is perceived/experienced. We care about branding because in shaping those experiences, we can in turn drive behaviors, and behaviors drive organizational performance. We want to shape the behaviors of our customers, employees, and shareholders by shaping their respective experiences through branding.
In a traditional business model that looks like this:
However, in a mission model like the Department of Defense (DoD), the financial investment is not for a financial return, but rather a mission return. Additionally, the delineation between shareholder, business, and customer is difficult since they are all part of the same organization.
Add mission model transformation to the mix, and we believe it starts to look more like this:
Transformation Experience Cycle
Universally, a good experience drives an exchange in value, but we need to understand how the exchanges differ between models. In both models, employees exchange their time and passion for a good workplace experience. However, the customer and shareholder exchanges are different in a mission model. In a business model, shareholders exchange their resources for a return on investment that comes from customers who exchange their money for a good experience with a product or service. In the DoD’s mission model, shareholders exchange their resources, time, and influence for mission advancement that comes from customers (warfighters) who exchange their time and passion for a good experience with a product or service.
While the customer doesn’t have money to exchange for the experience (and also doesn’t have a choice), the degree to which they can, and will, advance the mission is variable.
The will is determined, in part, by the experience. The can, on the other hand, is determined by the quality of the product, as measured by effective, efficient, and adaptive to change. Finally, the reality is that our organization is also a bureaucracy and there are some who may not be primarily driven by the mission. Usually, when that is the case, they care about more capital in some form, irrespective of mission outcomes. But we can use a positive customer experience to also yield customer gratitude and favor to be exchanged for the desired capital.
Transformation as a Product
The transformation leadership sits in the middle of that circle, turning the output of each value exchange into the input for the next experience. Managing the “mission enterprise experience” is as much about selling products and services as it is about providing them, and that includes the transformation itself.
Stated another way, you have to build products and you have to sell products because the best product doesn’t always win. The best customer experience wins, and that includes a lot more than just the “best” product.
It’s important to emphasize the transformation itself is a primary product. As we state in concert with our vision, the Space Force can’t be afforded to be disrupted on the “battlefield”. To avoid disruption, it has to transform into a digital organization and we are the ones ushering in digital transformation. The products we build today may or may not be relevant in a future “space war” with China (or aliens?), but the digital ability to sense and respond using software will always be relevant. That’s the strategic imperative, not a suite of products. But in order to convince the bureaucracy to transform, we have to demonstrate value by continuously delivering war-winning products that operators love. In other words, it isn’t that we want the Space Force to have a suite of digital products, it’s that we want it to be a digital force!
The thing that unites all of these desired experiences is the brand. We either create a brand and shape those experiences, or the experiences shape themselves and define our brand for us. In early attempts at branding Kessel Run, the COO claimed he had crushed it but later reflected that a number of unmanaged experiences shaped bad perceptions and defined a brand that crushed his team.
To lead a truly successful transformation, we have to build not only incredible products but also a deliberate brand to shape the mission enterprise experience. Being deliberate means thinking about it (hard), communicating it, and living it. When we think we are doing those things too much, we are just starting to do them enough!
Curating the brand is not enough. Branding without marketing will not sell the experience. Having a well-designed brand image and a website that explains the value proposition using a distinct voice is not enough. Remember, branding is not actively encouraging people to “buy” your products or service. Marketing is about creating a demand for your product or service. In a mission model, the demand can be leveraged for additional resources as well as to build decision-maker interest and encourage them to take actions we need to build the transformation.
We care about shaping experiences through branding and marketing because the experience drives behaviors, and behaviors drive organizational performance.