Bank on Knowledge

You’d be forgiven for assuming leading entertainment companies would be masters of building entertainment brands. You’d also be forgiven for assuming top toy, clothing, or car manufacturers are the branding experts in their own fields.

You’d be forgiven, but you’d be mistaken.

Over the years, I’ve come to the striking realization expert knowledge is, among experts, woefully limited. Time and again, I’m stunned to find so-called “experts” possess knowledge that’s within the scope of the average person’s repertoire.

This wasn’t always the case. Great brands, established by strong leaders with exceptional vision, became giants in their fields. They fought to win their supremacy. They’ve been creative, been wily, used original methods to harness consumer attention, and, often, even reinvented their own brand categories.

Slowly, something alarming began to occur. The exceptional brand knowledge that fueled such amazing brand journeys disappeared. Not overnight, but gradually, like gas leaking slowly from a huge balloon. No one really noticed the incremental deflation, but it became embarrassingly apparent to people outside the organizations the emperor is wearing no clothes. To insiders, he was still parading in all his finery.

Opposition between inside and outside perspectives is logical. As time passed, key brand-builders left their organizations and took their knowledge with them. Every departing generation took a little more of the knowledge that was still there when they arrived. Without anyone noticing, even fundamental brand-building knowledge, essential to brand survival, trickled out the door after retirements and resignations. Replacements faithfully served their organizations, ignorant of knowledge they never had. And so continues an unstoppable spiral of ever-diminishing brand knowledge.

What’s not logical is the failure to address the problem.

You should establish a brand bank. A bank that contains internal brand knowledge. You must deposit the knowledge, save the knowledge, invest the knowledge, and grow the knowledge. This is an essential function for any company. So are the tools to make it happen:

  • People. Someone needs to be the brand custodian. If yours is a large organization, you may need several custodians to take care of defined areas of knowledge, brands, or market segments. The custodian is like an investment banker. He knows everything about the “client,” captures knowledge, notes movement, and takes heed of the client’s experiences. The brand custodian should become the brand authority, knowing what the brand does and doesn’t do, what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what the brand’s personality is.

  • Sharing. Knowledge must be shared. An extranet is one means of doing so. Instead of drowning all that valuable knowledge in page after page of anonymous data that will only become lost in its unruly diversity, use this tool for one knowledge purpose only: to record brand “experiences.” That’s it. Too often, a vast extranet or intranet defeats its own purpose. The knowledge may be there, but no one can effectively mine it. So forget the old ads and interesting press releases. It’s brand experiences your descendants need access to.
  • The knowledge baton. Just as staff circulates, knowledge must also circulate. It’s vital employment contracts account for several weeks of handover time to ensure the knowledge baton can be safely passed to the new brand custodian. One-day handovers simply aren’t good enough.

The above plan may not work for everyone. But that’s not the objective. What’s most important is a plan, a strategy for knowledge retention, maintenance, and growth. Start the debate, preferably among senior managers within your organization. How will you invest your own brand knowledge to ensure its security and longevity?

If you want your tarnished brand to recover its old potency, establish a brand bank now. Nothing can stop the steady deflation of uninvested knowledge.

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