Tony Lyons President & Chief Strategy Officer



Your Brand is Bigger than Marketing and Communications

There’s this notion that brand belongs to marketing. That it’s separate from the nitty-gritty operations of a business. Unrelated in every way. 

Some still believe brand is your visual identity, a wrapper—a look and feel, tone and voice—vacuum sealed around your business. That it’s your mission statement, packaged up for all to see and buy into. 

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Business and brand go hand-in-hand. Because it’s the entire ecosystem of an organization. It’s integrated into every action and inaction of the business, and every interaction audiences have with it. 

Truth is, everything you say and do, every expression, supports or undercuts your brand narrative. Simply put, telling the story is no longer enough. You have to live that story. 

This concept of an integrated brand isn’t new. But it’s one that few businesses, if any, are following through on.

Most are paying lip service to this idea, putting a coat of paint on something, relying on visual identity or messaging and hoping that it’ll work.

Some only see a tenuous connection between brand and business operations. Like trains headed the same way but taking different journeys on different tracks. Others are intimidated by what it takes to integrate the two; it often leads to disruption, restructuring the way things have always been done. 

It’s a major challenge. Yet members of the C-Suite across industries are realizing brand is as important to business operations as it is to marketing and communications. 

Maybe even more so.

Operations through the lens of brand

As decision makers and top-level executives, we have the ability to implement meaningful change in our organizations. But first, we must reframe our perspective on what brand and operations are—we must see things through the lens of an integrated brand. 

That means uncovering how brand impacts and influences the operations of our companies. Breaking down the silos so we can see how it’s all interconnected. And letting this insight guide every business decision we make. 

Let’s use a member-based organization as an example. Operational components include a governance structure, a hiring policy, and a fiscal policy. 

  • There are physical and digital workspaces to consider; 
  • the tools available to help employees and volunteers do their jobs; 
  • accessibility for members, the technology and interface required and so on. 

Doesn’t sound like branding, does it? 

Consider this. An association is positioned as a support centre for members, offering a rich database of resources to facilitate professional development. It promises an intuitive member portal, with a curated system delivering only the most relevant information to each individual.   

But members are experiencing something different. Support is inconsistent, the portal is challenging to navigate, and resources are hard to find. Or they’re unrelated to each individual’s industry and goals. 

In short, what’s promised and what’s delivered are disconnected. Which has a direct impact on member satisfaction and retention. So, an operational change is needed to close the resonance gap, not brand or marketing. 

Again: everything you do impacts how your brand is perceived by consumers, members, partners, and stakeholders. Put another way, your brand is your reputation. And your reputation is everything.

The image and message you project outside of the organization must be lived within it. What you say and what you do must align.

So how do we create synergy between two elements of business believed to be separate from each other?

Systematize and assimilate brand with operations 

Ask yourself: is my brand narrative and brand structure influencing business decisions? How can I bake this thinking into the operational structure of my organization? 

This is the biggest obstacle we face—figuring out how to systematize and create a methodology for an integrated brand. It’s uncharted territory for most, requiring buy-in from the top down. And the barriers, or friction to change, compound the larger your organization is. 

Yet market-leading brands like Apple and Nike are making strides. Look closely and you notice they speak a different language. They have a different narrative from some of their competitors. They have a different way of operating.

In fact, they don’t act and think like an organization at all. They act and think like the brand, so much so it’s almost cult-like. Brand is fundamental to how these organizations function. It becomes a decision tree in a way: if ‘X’ is happening and the brand says ‘Y’, then their actions equal ‘Z’. 

“The carpenter, focused on definition and build says, ‘Our brand is…’ The gardener, seeking to cultivate and adapt over time, always starts with, ‘If we do our job right, then people will think our brand is…’”


Mitigate the negative consequences of your actions by changing your actions, not by changing what you say and how you look. That’s the difference between branding as it’s traditionally considered and an integrated brand.

Tell the story, live the truth

No business can hide in the digital age. You can nuance a story—try to trick people into thinking differently—but the truth will surface, eventually. And when it does, your reputation will suffer. As they say, good marketing will make a bad restaurant go out of business faster.

If your problem is operational, marketing and communications is not the answer. Integrating your brand ethos into how you run your business is. 

Think of a brand as an individual. They have a specific set of skills and personality. They operate a certain way, with empathy and warmth and integrity. And they speak in a voice that is truthful, telling their story honestly and living it completely. 

Now, look introspectively at your organization. How can you make incremental changes to better align operations with your brand story? 

Establishing a natural synergy isn’t an overnight job, there’s this push-pull dynamic within an integrated brand. Some activities and processes are necessary, even if they conflict with your chosen narrative. So it becomes an exercise of finding balance, identifying how one action influences another and vice versa.

It’s a huge undertaking. But as a member of the C-Suite in your organization, your actions have direct consequences to your brand. You have the power to implement change. You have the opportunity to lead by example. 

Sometimes, that means looking for outside help. Because we don’t always see the obvious when we’re so close to our businesses. Working together, we can harness the potential of your brand to drive meaningful outcomes across your entire organization. 

When you’re ready, contact Alphabet® to learn how.