In a recent speech on resolving the UK’s economic crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg referenced national department store, John Lewis, as an exemplary example of a share scheme which its staff enjoy and as a blueprint the UK would do well in copying. This got me to thinking about the often referenced John Lewis, as not only a fair employer, but also a trusted retail brand and innovator in sales and marketing. Below I have outlined a number of observations that if followed, brands could implement for better internal and external communications.
Agree your brand values and live by them – many companies go through expensive rebranding and messaging days to get to the heart of their ‘brand values’ to define their mission statements and company vision. While I agree that it is an important exercise and one I’m sure that John Lewis spent a lot of time, money and man power delivering, the number of companies which undertake and then forget the exercise is extremely high. Once these values have been set they need to be shared with the whole team and be clearly apparent in the way that business is handled.
Be true to yourself – when it comes to setting brand values, it is very easy for the decision makers in the driving seat to replace true values with more aspirational ones. While there is no reason why brands can’t be aspirational there also needs to be a reality check in place to ensure that they are not unrealistic and therefore won’t be met, so setting and maintaining ones which are fair, honest and representative is a must!
Empower your staff – as a consumer brand John Lewis recognises that the customer needs to be the main priority and that the people outreaching to these audiences are its staff, so quite logically John Lewis empowers its staff to get the best results. Not only do the staff get a share of profits and decision making powers over the running of the company, but they can also stay at one of the five holiday parks the brand runs, exclusively for its staff, to enjoy some R&R away from work! That’s why you’ll always find a willing and knowledgeable shop assistant at John Lewis. Now while I’m not suggesting that all brands should go to the same extent as the national retailer there are still some examples to be follow such as: be fair to your staff; and, when profits are made reward them effectively for the time and effort they put in.
Find and promote your key USP – John Lewis is famous for its strapline ‘Never knowingly undersold’ as for the past 85 years it has price matched all of its competitors which has meant it has earned the reputation for providing quality products at a fair price. So when deciding which of your key messages you are outreaching don’t dilute with too many messages; think about the key differentiator which stands your brand apart from the competition and push that.
Don’t shy away from the challenge – don’t be afraid to put your head above the parapet when it comes to making a splash, so add a creative edge to your PR and marketing. Again, the brand is a shining beacon when it comes to effective marketing with many of its ad campaigns emotively bringing a tear to people’s eyes or making unknown ad tracks number one hits. Think about what your audience responds to and create a campaign that reflects that.