Using brands to break down organizational silos

Illustration of three silos

Over the years we’ve had the honor of working with a number of multinational organizations to revitalize their corporate brands. Many are made up of diverse, individual business units with separate P&Ls, which can often create silos. Typically, leaders of these business units enjoy having the opportunity to essentially run their own business within the larger organization. Often, the autonomy and reputation of the company are what entice them to come on board in the first place. But today’s corporate leaders know that siloed organizations are inefficient and make it difficult to deliver the optimal customer experience. According to Forrester, 59% of customer experience professionals said insufficient collaboration by business owners across silos damages their firm’s customer journey.

More than a few CEOs have told us that this creates a huge challenge when it comes to building a stronger, more unified brand across the organization and around the world. They say, “Everyone wants to do what they think is best for their business, they don’t want to be forced into following rules that they feel don’t apply to them. How can I get them to see the benefit of working across the organization?”

We believe that corporate branding efforts offer the perfect conduit to breaking down the silos. Especially in B2B organizations, there is often much more to be gained by connecting to the corporate brand than “going it alone.” But, it takes a unified, collective understanding of the company’s vision, a deep appreciation of branding, ongoing investment and commitment from the top leadership – and we mean the very top of the organization – to making this a long-term priority. The CEO must be the brand champion. To be successful, it takes ongoing education on the value of brand and how tapping into the strength of the corporate brand can help each leader build a stronger, more profitable business within the larger organization.

Can it be done? Absolutely. Two organizations with whom we’ve had the privilege of working come to mind – 3M Company and Cargill. Both embarked upon a global effort to create a more unified brand experience and both continue investing in their brands and reshaping their organizations to be more customer-centric. Lesson learned? When a company wishes to revitalize its brand, to be successful it must form a cross-functional team with representation from across the company to create a platform for sharing ideas and leveraging synergies between businesses. Intentional brand experience design can, when done well, break down organizational silos helping to deliver an exceptional, consistent, on-brand customer experience.

Interested in reading more about organizational brand alignment? See our identityWise Issue No. 34 on Five Ways to Improve Internal Brand Alignment.

Tony Costa, Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha, Michael E. Gazala, Gabriella Zoia, Kara Hartig. Mapping The Customer Journey | Four Approaches To Customer Journey Mapping: When And How To Use Them, Forrester Research. November 16, 2015. https://www.forrester.com/report/Mapping+The+Customer+Journey/-/E-RES55987

Deb Fiorella

Thanks to living in various parts of the United States and Europe, Deb brings a global perspective to building and managing client relationships and brands. She oversees the development of all brand and marketing strategy behind the team’s design solutions for Fortune 1000 organizations and nonprofits. Having worked on the client side for a Fortune 500 organization in the beginning of her career, Deb understands the day-to-day challenges our clients face and ensures that the rest of the team does, too.

Deb’s natural leadership abilities, experience and insights help the team deliver brand strategy and design solutions that often exceed expectations. No wonder clients seek her guidance and expertise time and again!

Born in New York, Deb has called home to many places—including Brussels, Belgium—until settling in Minneapolis after earning a BA in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Minnesota. Her ongoing education in marketing and brand management includes the Yale School of Management AIGA “Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders.” She is a member of and financial advisor to AIGA, the professional association for design, and belongs to Design Management Institute. Deb speaks to industry peers on the national and local level, and regularly educates business leaders in many industries about the benefits of design as a strategic business tool.

In her spare time, Deb enjoys painting, skiing, biking, cooking, reading, traveling and doing fun kid stuff with her husband Craig and their daughter.