Making Business Services Brands Unbreakable

By Josh Feldmeth

Yes, global marketplaces are turbulent; businesses need consultants to help navigate them, brand is a major driver for businesses—and business services brands are really hard to build, lead, and manage. It’s not an impossible task; it just requires some fresh thinking.

Cultivating good habits

You could say that the process for building strong business services brands is akin to quitting smoking, or other bad habits. As Charles Duhigg writes in his book, The Power of Habit, “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” This thinking can also transform business services brands. With intangible products and minimal direct brand-building (e.g. advertising), they’re fundamentally an extension of their people. Companies like McKinsey construct cultures using a cue-behavior-reward infrastructure to nurture successful employees and build unbreakable brands.

Higher purpose

Even the most highly motivated business service organizations struggle to align their people’s motivations, as high-powered partners and top-shelf talent are often reluctant to sublimate their points of view to a common objective. That’s where purpose comes in. If employees are to be engaged in the cue-behavior-reward loop, they need to be pulled by a belief system that appeals to their better selves. Where lofty mission statements falter, a well-articulated purpose has the power to forge shared beliefs and, in the words of Margaret Mead, stir “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens (to) change the world.” The good news is that purpose is essentially free. One simply needs to identify it, and claim it.

Strategic content

Following a shift in behavioral mindset, the number two driver for business services brands is intellectual property and content. Conferences, white papers, proprietary studies—even when they’re well written, they often fail to look and sound like they come from the same organization. In these cases, and it’s a symptom that plagues nearly every business services brand, whatever clarity of purpose and endemic cultural values exist are lost through a farrago of smart but disconnected content.

A cohesive content strategy solves this problem. It orchestrates the many voices of the organization around a strategic platform of thought leadership, and harmonizes them through a common voice. The stronger the content strategy, the lower the volume of content required to achieve higher returns to brand strength. The upshot: Less content is more. Less effort is required. And the organization’s people give more of their best thinking and efforts.

Josh Feldmeth (josh.feldmeth@interbrand.com) Chief Executive Officer, Interbrand New York, San Francisco & Toronto

RankBrand NameBrand Value ($m)Change in Brand Value
4IBM78,8084%
41Accenture9,4718%
62Xerox6,7791%