If you think about what a brand really represents, at least in the context of a B2C business, it is the value – and the values – that serve as the bond between provider and consumer. An effective, well-developed brand is very powerful.
Consider the McDonalds’ golden arches or Target’s red dot. These companies have invested years and millions of dollars to carefully craft their brands. In the case of procurement, the brand is the association others in the enterprise have with the people, processes, and technologies we are known for. Everyone has some kind of brand; the question is whether it is carefully crafted or just a jumble of what people say about you when you’re not there.
If you want procurement to have a carefully crafted brand, here are 3 steps to follow.
Step 1: Stand for or Against Something
The ‘something’ needs to be simple, straightforward, and defining. Are you for self-guided buying or supplier diversity? Maybe you’re against long term contracts or anything that puts too much pressure on cash flow. We all know that most procurement teams are going to have to achieve all these things and much more, but in this case, we’re trying to pick something procurement will be known for internally above all else. You’re projecting an image to the enterprise. It must hold value with the consumers we’re trying to win over. Better yet, it should be something that evokes an emotional response in them. It should elicit pride or calm a source of fear. Maybe procurement can find a way to make people’s jobs easier. That is the stuff brand dreams are made of.
Step 2: Communicate Your Brand
Once you have picked your special something, you have to figure out how to communicate it. This is like being part of a political campaign. I’ve been involved in a lot of community improvement projects in the town where I live, and we have to get each one to pass at the voting booth. You’re winning over one voter at a time, in just seconds on Facebook or through a yard sign. The best lesson I’ve learned from these campaigns is that you need to have a clear mission (that’s procurement’s special ‘something’) and then tell everyone you meet the three simplest, most memorable reasons reasons why it is important or beneficial – from their perspective, not yours. Everyone in procurement should know what the mission and three supporting points are – and they should practice. They should regularly talk about them in a consistent way. That is how to win the messaging war, a critical victory on the way to brand recognition.
Step 3: Remain Consistent
Procurement needs to behave consistently with the special ‘something’ and the three supporting points all of the time. You can’t relax when no one is looking, or when procurement is alone, or when you go for drinks on a Thursday night after work. You have to behave consistently with what you’re telling people all the time – no exceptions. Nothing damages a brand or undermines a communications strategy like a lack of sincerity or authenticity. The best way to solidify your brand is to live it. If anyone on the team is having trouble getting in line with the special ‘something’ or the approach to evangelizing it, you’ve got to call them out.
Every individual in procurement IS procurement when they are on the job. There is no room for sloppiness or apathy in the brand-building business. You’re building something that you should be prepared to defend. Something with value. Something you can trade against. That’s what makes the branding process worthwhile.