With more than $200 million dollars raised to aid the Australian bushfire disaster by everyone from celebrities and organisations to local fundraisers, it is truly incredible how people, in times of crisis, come together to support and help one another.

Generous donations aside, we have also seen a number of brands respond to the disaster by using their core products and service offering to help those affected by the ongoing fires – brands acting through their core brand purpose.

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, there is an increasing request, need, drive and sometimes even demand for companies to take action and have a voice around important current affairs, may they be social or political, or in this case, environmental. It is predicted that this will continue to be increasingly the case throughout the 2020’s.

A multitude of brands are responding to the current crisis:

  • Banks: Having finished off last decade with quite a negative reputation generated from the Banking Royal Commission, the Australian financial services sector have started on the right foot by being quick to roll out a natural disaster program for customers in communities impacted by the bushfire and drought emergencies.

The Australian Bankers Association announced a suite of fee-and-loan-repayment changes to help customers get through the crisis. Member banks include the big four banks and a host of other lenders, including Macquarie, AMP, Rabobank, Suncorp, ING, Bank of Queensland and ME Bank.

Some, such as NAB, have gone further and set up a $4 million fund to help customers and staff displaced by the bushfires. NAB customers who have lost homes, including affected business owners and farmers, this bushfire season can access $2000 grants, to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing. Westpac and other banks have provided similar offerings.

Telstra has also offered a number of other relief packages to aid those in need, including: Satellite Cells on Wheels to boost coverage where is needed, assistance packages, free payphones in affected areas, pre-paid handsets, recharge vouchers, access to broadband in evacuation centres, improvements to Triple Zero (000) and assistance with family and friends of those affected, who currently find themselves outside of the country and are wanting to check up on their loved ones.

  • Coles: have given $3 million in gift cards to over 6000 rural fire brigades across Australia.
  • Woolworths Group: almost $1.3 million raised for the Salvation Army in the months to Christmas, since surpassing $3 million including donations from its own customers.
  • Milky Lane and McDonalds: offering free burgers and meals to all fire-fighters.
  • Arnotts, Freddo, Mars Australia and Coca Cola: have all made generous pledges whilst also providing and distributing, through organisations such as Foodbank Australia, their products to all those affected by the fires. Coca-Cola Australia is honouring Australia’s firefighters with the creation of a limited-edition Share a Coke with the Firies.
  • Sports: both Tennis Australia and Cricket Australia have used their upcoming and current events to donate and raise money for the, with many players pledging to donate money according to the number of aces or wickets they receive during their respective events.
  • The Arts: from comedians and knitters, sewers and crafters, to jewellery makers, designers, ceramic artists to fundraising gigs across the country – the art scene have using their skills to raise and donate money where possible. The line-up for bushfire fundraiser concert is a smorgasbord of Australian talent as well as some huge international guests.
  • Architects: a new volunteer organisation called Architects Assist, comprised of over 130 architecture studios, has formed to help bushfire victims rebuild, offering pro-bono design and planning assistance to people whose houses, businesses and community centres have burned down.

These great acts of kindness will help bring some relief to those who have been affected by the fires. However, it is important for brands to ensure the way they respond in times of crisis, or when taking any stance, is not seen as an opportunistic move to increase sales in the long run. In order to be successful in doing so, brands must ensure the following:

  • Authenticity

Consumers can see right through brands that don’t respond authentically or with integrity, which in turn can convert to distrust towards the brand. What could be perceived as a kind gesture or widely applauded stance to a social crisis, if perceived as hollow or opportunistic, can turn ugly very fast.

For instance, P&G’s brand, Gillette, received a lot of backlash when they released their 2019 campaign “The best Men Can Be’ against toxic masculinity. Consumers saw it as an attempt to capitalise on the #MeToo movement, when this brand had little history in having this stance in the past. Some could say that the brand was known for disfavouring women at times, by adding premium prices to their women lines. The decorrelation between their brand purpose and values with the pro-social message lead to the campaign’s overall fail.  

  • Timing

Acting fast, especially in times of crisis, is crucial and in some way is also linked to authenticity. Brands need to lead when it comes to taking a social stance and not appear to be jumping onto a bandwagon. Gillette’s campaign came the #MeToo movement had gathered pace. Being too late can be perceived as being inauthentic, and therefore can cause a negative image in consumer’s minds.

  • Empathy

In an age in which understanding your customers and building relationships with them has become key to standing out in crowded marketplaces, empathy takes on a new level of priority. Empathy allows brands to build an emotional connection with their audience, to engage the people who use their products in real conversations and to inspire connection. A lack of empathy can in turn lead to…you guessed it, inauthenticity and distrust.

Empathy and authenticity must also be perceived by not only the brand and its communications strategy, but also from its people, otherwise a disconnect between both of these can end disastrously as well.

Consumers are looking more and more at brands to take action. The recent climate change protests and the ongoing fires, have been good examples of how companies across Australia have done so, creating deeper and stronger connections with their consumers than what advertising and campaigns have ever done in the past.

For brands wanting to respond to the bushfire crisis, empathy is delivered not just in donations of money or goods (however gratefully received), but in how the products and services they deliver can contribute to the recovery effort. The question brands need to ask is “what can we do to improve the conditions of those caught in the fires? If they need one things from us, what is that one thing?”

Whether that one thing is free burgers, scoring aces, mortgage repayment suspensions…brands are able to contribute authentically from within their own products and services to support the recovery effort.

If brands focus on doing what they do best, in an authentic, trustworthy way – it is more likely to be perceived as part of their core values rather than an opportunity for promotion. It has been truly heart-warming and inspiring to see so many brands put their hand up and offer help in their own unique ways.

Across our culture, communities and public life, Australia is living through a period of deteriorating trust. In some of our most venerable financial institutions, trust has been almost irreparably broken; trust in our political system has diminished through caustic public discourse; and trust in individuals once held in high esteem, is shattered.

However, the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2019 found that in this environment, individuals are now looking to their employers1 to fill this trust deficit. The findings suggest that this is the opportune time for Australian businesses to understand this need and take advantage of their employees’ desire and need for trust. But where do organisations start on their trust journey?


Building authenticity

Great brands, and in turn great companies, start with people. Employees that buy into an organisation’s purpose and have the motivation to deliver on its brand promise with every interaction, drive success and synchronicity throughout an organisation. Today’s workforce is globalised and more mobile than ever with the mounting demand of flexible working options. Human capital is one of the biggest fixed costs companies face, making sourcing talent and retention of workers an important consideration in their bid for scale and growth.

So how do companies face up to this challenge of acquiring and retaining the right employees who fit in with their ethos and will champion their vision? The answer lies in an authentic and strong creation of trust, a positive two-way benefit transfer between employer and employee, as clarified and crystallised in an Employee Value Proposition (EVP)2.

An EVP summarises the wider vision of a business and defines the employee’s role in delivering against that vision. In its simplest form, an EVP defines where a business is going, what it requires from its employees to get there and what it will provide to them in return.


Attracting the best

With fierce competition in the market place for the best people, and employees looking for organisations they can trust, rely on, and feel proud to work for, employers need to be perceived as more trustworthy than their competitors. A strong EVP that communicates trust will define what an organisation offers over its competitors and clearly outline the benefits which would attract prospective talent. Building long term, substantial and authentic trust can bring depth to a business beyond commercial outcomes.

Evaluating and identifying

If an organisation’s brand promise is to be truly delivered, businesses need employees to align to and buy in to their culture, vision and values. A strong EVP not only focusses on attracting talent, but also the right talent. A clearly defined EVP supports the qualifying of applicants by being crystal clear on values and expectations. It builds a criterion on which applicants can analyse whether they align to a company’s culture, vision and values, and gives HR teams a measure to easily evaluate each applicant against an agreed standard.


Retaining their people

So why is trust between an employer and employee so critical? Long gone are the days of employee loyalty determined by length of tenure. Today’s employees are agile, flexible careerists, creating their own portfolio of roles, driven exclusively by their own choices. Employees are looking to businesses to help them reach their potential, and with so many employers to choose from, retaining the best and brightest talent can be a major hurdle for organisations. A strong EVP, focused on retention, empowers and aligns staff, making them feel in control, loyal and valued. It makes those within the organisation feel like they are moving forward in their career paths with an employer they can trust. Employees have made a proactive choice in their employer and an EVP that reinforces trust can do wonders for productivity and morale.  


But where to start?

Establishing authenticity is critical in setting the baseline for EVP development. As we all know, actions speak far louder than words. Engaging employees across all levels, lengths of tenure, departments and functions is essential in understanding: who you are, what you stand for, why employees are drawn to your organisation and the unique benefits your organisation will deliver. By analysing, researching and understanding current employee perceptions of their organisation, employers can clarify and fine tune their messaging to achieve true employee (and employer) satisfaction. Ultimately, the best employers can clarify and hone their actions and their messaging and always measure current employee satisfaction against the true north of the EVP.


Delivering on trust

Everything communicates. Organisations have the power to transform the very human day-to-day interactions between themselves and their employees. When organisations have mastered an EVP and trust has become part of a company’s culture, they become known as valuing their employees, and prospective talent is drawn to them.  Their existing employees are engaged and committed and believe that what they are doing, matters.

In short, a truly great company can be defined by the extent of trust built within their culture. You can feel this permeating through every level of an organisation, shaping the way employees interact and giving them a unified purpose. Trust is in decline and where we look for trust is rapidly changing.  Organisations need to question their ongoing role in how trust can be delivered. The research is in and suggests employers have an increasing role and responsibility in rebuilding trust. For organisations who have an EVP as their guidance system, their rewards will be significant and ongoing.






Additional sources and references:

 Edelman Trust Barometer


Brand trust


Employee branding and Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

Trust is one of the most valuable assets of any organisation. In the B2B context trust and culture – the values, mission and habits of an organisation – are interdependent. When an organisation has a strong and positive culture and an authentic offer to the market, trust and brand advocacy are built over time. This enables long term bonds between employees, and between employees and customers, to develop. When a brand’s culture, which is brought to life on a daily basis, doesn’t meet the expectations of trust placed upon it, an organisation’s reputation can quickly deteriorate under this scrutiny.

We are living in swiftly evolving times where trust across the spectrum is being eroded. From the Banking Royal Commission and ongoing political instability to fears related to job security and low wage growth rates, it should come as no surprise that the prevailing mood for Australians is currently one of pessimism about the future.


The proof? From perception to reality

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been charting major shifts in general perceptions of trust over the last 19 years on a global scale. With data drawn from 33,000 respondents in 27 markets, the Barometer is regarded as a reputable source of information to understand the shifting value and importance placed on trust. The currency of this report is only more potent given our current environment where trust has been found to be so low.


Shifting sentiments: key findings

The significant finding in the most recent Barometer was that the general adult population across developed nations is largely pessimistic about the future. There is a general sentiment that their lives won’t improve five years from now. Whilst it was measured that only 1 in 5 people globally think that society is working for them, 75% of these people have faith in their employer. The pessimistic figure is more pronounced in Australia with only 1 in 3 people in the general population optimistic about what the future holds for them.

Key findings from Australia demonstrate an overall negative view, but with insights into where opportunities to build trust may be:

Australia – Key Findings:

  • Only 32% of the general population think life will improve for them in 5 years’ time, with just over half convinced that the system isn’t supporting them.
  • Australian women in the general population have less trust (45%) in the system than men (51%).
  • The top 3 national fears are cyber security (68%), dependency on foreign goods (65%) and a decrease in “the Australian way of life” (65%).
  • Trust in media (40%) and government (42%) is lower compared with business (52%) and NGOs (56%).
  • Trust in “My Employer” is greater than in all other major institutions (including government, media and NGOs), and for Australia is 2% higher again compared with the global rate (75%).
  • Almost 80% of Australians want CEOs to take the lead on change as opposed to the government.


Employers: A source of optimism in a pessimistic world

 “People have low confidence that societal institutions will help them navigate a turbulent world, so they are turning to a critical relationship: their employer.”

Richard Edelman, President and CEO

These key Australian findings suggest that this is the opportune moment for Australian businesses to take advantage of the desire and need for trust. Australian businesses and their leaders have the opportunity at this juncture to include trust as a strategic lever, built into their organisational framework and authentically delivered to their audiences. 

This is not just about the delivery of products and services. Australian organisations now take the lead on many societal issues including diversity and inclusion, parity, gender equality, and are key voices and influencers on government policy. After all, who remembers the marriage equality debate, and the leading positions taken by organisations as diverse as the AFL and Qantas?

The findings from the Barometer demonstrate clearly that trust is conducive to many positive and beneficial employee behaviours including advocacy (80%), loyalty (71%), engagement (69%) and commitment (87%). In fact, these insights clearly show over half of the population has an expectation that their chosen employment will offer an inclusive culture (75%), which enables them to actively contribute to and progress in their career (79%). Furthermore, 65% of employees additionally expect to make a valuable contribution to society through their work.

Employees are actively placing authority in their employers to create positive cultures with a vision for the future that is beyond profit generation. Are CEOs able to lead the change a generally disillusioned public is waiting for?


(Re)building trust in a disillusioned world

But where do brands start on their trust journey? In the context of trust deficit, how does a brand locate it’s starting position in the context of a shifting market and benchmark itself against agile competitors?

The Barometer highlights the value in measuring trust over time, and measurement provides organisations and institutions a better understanding of the business, societal and political context in which they are operating.

Brand measurement – the tracking of audience perceptions, sentiments, motivations and purchasing behaviour over time – drives an overall view of brand health. And most critically, measurement benchmarks then tracks the levels of trust audiences place in the brand.

The value of these insights cannot be underestimated in driving positive, incremental adjustments in business and brand strategy to further take advantage of building trust and advocacy with audiences over time.


Building cultures that attract the brilliant and the best

Earning trust is essential not just from external audiences but also from employees and future employees. Creating an employer brand the demonstrates, imbues and empowers trust is critical in attracting and retaining the best people in an organisation.

And that starts from the top-down. What value does an organisation bring to its people? Brands that develop a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) provide the reason for why people should want to work there. EVPs are built from the inside out and sustained by motivated and committed employees who understand an organisation’s vision, values and behaviours and the role they play in delivering to these.

An effective EVP is a two-way benefit stream of trust, the employer fulfilling its promise kept to the employee, and the employee positively contributing to the organisational vision. Over time, through authentic and reciprocal engagement, trust is a key tool for attracting and retaining the brilliant and the best.



The recent Edelman Trust Barometer clearly demonstrates the erosion of trust as a global phenomenon, a deficit that creates an opportunity for organisations to positively and authentically build their brands and take the societal lead. The opportune moment is now for organisations to have the conversation: are we ready to be the new leaders in Australia?


Sources and references:

Edelman Trust Barometer

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Top 10 Australian Insights

2019 Trust Barometer Australia Topline Results


Brand trust

Rebuilding trust in the FS industry and its players - it all starts and ends with culture


Brand tracking and measurement

BrandMatters brand research

Brand tracking and why it is important

What marketers can learn from NPS


Employee branding and Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

BrandMatters employer branding

Winning the war for talent: the employee value proposition

Since the Royal Commission Final Report and throughout the hearings Commissioner Hayne has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture. The inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit have caused a great many of the sector’s systematic problems and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture. So what can they do now?

 We see four key factors that summarise the journey to the situation we now find ourselves in:

  • A consistent market and media focus on individual industry player market performance and shareholder returns.
  • A highly protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry.
  • A deeply honed and sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short term incentives layered right through the organisation.
  • An under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped or unwilling to detect or handle the sheer scale of potential malfeasance that has occurred over the decades.


In case you need some evidence that things need to change 

  • As reported in Mumbrella 22 January 2019, Brand Finance annual report highlights how Australia’s big four banks suffered a $1.1 billion drop in brand value, led by ANZ.
  • ClearView estimated it had breached the anti-hawking provisions, somewhere between 300,000 and 303,000 times in just over three years.
  • $6 billion of commissions paid to financial advisers with respect to life insurance over a five-year period.
  • In the past six months since the Banking Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78%, the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years.


Some suggestions as to how the financial services industry can respond

First and foremost, there must be a united front. What’s needed is a true and authentic commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

The industry would benefit from an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be.  An institution that can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

The regulator and the Government also has a role to play, through ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing greater levels of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors joining the market including neo and fintech banks, like Volt and 86400.

The regulator also needs greater resourcing and financial resourcing, so it can stand up to the fiscal might that exists in some of Australia’s wealthiest companies. The regulator could also lead a new shared vision, code of practice and industry wide charter to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community. It could also lead an entire industry wide – as well as individual focus – around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise the meeting of customer’s needs.


Some suggestions and guidance around culture

A key to success is recognising that organisational culture is constantly evolving. Embedding culture, reinforcing the right behaviours and aligning conduct and risk management practices need to be an ongoing and everyday practice within everyday business. We need to ensure over time that complacency does not creep back in when this moves from the headlines.

As always, leadership matters. Senior leadership must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, and from middle management through to customer facing staff. Measures must be in place around how all levels of employees are trained, promoted, supported and measured.


Finally, at an individual brand level – it all comes down to purpose

Financial services brand research highlights the need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture, doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already positive signs. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

In summary, this is a complex and daunting task for the industry and the individual brands, including Westpac, Nab, AMP and Commonwealth Bank. Simultaneously they have to re-build trust, along with managing new digital entrants, evolving customer needs, market expectations and overall competitive pressures.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for the industry, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. If not now, when?

Friday, 21 September 2018 16:18

The strawberry crisis - where to from here?

Strawberries - A crisis of confidence.

There’s no doubt that the crisis facing the strawberry industry could not have come at a worse time for the strawberry farmers of Queensland.   Within days of a needle being found in a punnet of supermarket-bought strawberries, and at the peak of the Queensland strawberry season, all punnets of Queensland strawberries were withdrawn from sale.  Not only is this a major blow to strawberry farmers and the people who work in the processing, packing and distribution chain, but it now appears that a number of overseas trade partners have blocked Australian strawberry imports as well.

This crisis can’t be classed as a “usual” corporate crisis situation.  There’s no specific company scandal such as executive misconduct, an act of violence, equipment malfunction or security breach. In fact, there’s not really a specific company that’s been targeted.  It’s an industry-wide crisis, and as such needs to be addressed in a different way than the usual corporate crisis situation.

Usually, crisis situations are dealt with through a proactive crisis management plan – acknowledge the problem, get outside help, seek to isolate the specific brands and markets involved, monitor key public messaging and respond on the front foot.



So what can the strawberry industry do?

The biggest challenge facing the strawberry industry is to restore public confidence and provide ongoing certainty about the safety of the processes and distribution of their product.  They need to take charge of the situation, and for this to occur, communication is key.  The public need reassurance that measures have been taken to protect consumers from further incidents.  Some measures are already in place, for instance, metal detector checks from the production process through to the supermarket sale.  This is a positive and active measure that will help reassure the consumer.

The industry could also publicly seek assistance and support from the major chains and distribution outlets.  After all, they can suffer reputational damage as a result of this crisis too.

And never underestimate the power of the public to rally behind an Aussie farmer in trouble.  The public campaign to “cut it up, don’t cut it out” is gaining traction and being promoted through TV, radio and social media, and with a couple of high profile, fair dinkum Aussies endorsing the campaign, it can only help to generate a positive reaction to the strawberry “brand”.  The industry could also get social media and high profile personalities involved – there’s nothing like social media to spread a message.

Traditional media can also play a part, with breakfast TV and radio, evening news and lifestyle programs focussing on positive stories, and support of the farmer and their communities.

Why not give strawberries away, not throw them away.  Hand out cut up strawberries in high profile locations, with information about their nutritional benefits and taste qualities.  There’s nothing positive about images of strawberries being bulldozed.

And finally, get a PR firm involved.  They will present, craft and manage media messages and attention, organise a communications plan for both now and in the future and implement a risk management plan for any future crisis situations.  A good investment and something that would really have helped in hindsight.


And what happens if they don’t do something?

The industry must proactively respond.  Otherwise, they risk the remainder of this season’s sales, and possibly next year’s as well.  The steps are clear – remove the risk, control the commentary, restore confidence and get the public on board.   And buy some delicious strawberries!

We’ve been interviewed by the BBC on this story for their Asia Business Review show on Friday 21st September, where we highlighted the points raised above. We’ve also been interviewed by their online edition. You can read that article here 

As part of our brand commentary series, each week members of the BrandMatters team will discuss some of the week’s biggest, and most newsworthy, brand challenges.

Thursday, 08 March 2018 15:01

The role & benefits of corporate branding


Product brands used to be the focus of attention for multi-brand companies, but the role of the corporate brand has become more and more important over the years, as CEOs and boards have realised the enormous value a strong corporate brand can deliver.

What is corporate branding?

Corporate branding is the practice of promoting the brand name of a corporate entity, as opposed to specific products or services. The corporate brand is the “umbrella” brand that sits over all a company’s product and service brands. The scope of a corporate brand is therefore much broader than a product brand.

The way a company’s corporate brand and its product/service brands sit and interact in relation to each other is known as the brand architecture.

Why is corporate branding so important?

People now really care about the corporation behind the product. They no longer separate their opinions about a company from their opinions of its products or services. This is largely due to the digital revolution and social media, which has created incredible corporate transparency. Like never before, customers, communities, government, suppliers, partners, investors and employees have a clear view into corporations’ actual behaviour and performance. They can freely share in their knowledge of, experiences with, and opinions of, organisations.

While this transparency and scrutiny can be problematic for some organisations, it can offer an enormous opportunity to savvy organisations. Those that grab this opportunity with both hands, and leverage social media and other digital platforms, can grow their profile, amplify their organisational purpose, shape their reputation, generate positive sentiment, and ultimately, increase the value of the company.

Creating a powerful corporate brand

The creation of a powerful corporate brand stems from a clear strategic vision and compelling organisational purpose, combined with employees who understand, believe and behave in a way that supports the vision and purpose in every way, every day. The corporate brand is also built and strengthened over time through visible, consistent actions and communications to the market.

The benefits of a successful corporate brand

Let’s have a look at the benefits that a strong corporate brand offers the different areas and stakeholders of a business.

For human resources / organisational development

  • Employee behaviours are aligned to business goals – a clear understanding of who the business is and what it stands for ensures staff act in a way that aligns to the strategic needs of the business.
  • Increased staff retention – clarity around what it means to be part of the organisation increases staff satisfaction.
  • Ability to attract the best – consistent word of mouth and a clear proposition to the talent market ensures the company will stand out from the myriad of competitors.
  • Reduced recruitment costs – as the best talent seeks the business out.
  • Increased productivity – as a result of increased satisfaction and understanding of the organisation’s purpose.

For the corporate and business functions

  • Deep alignment, cohesion, understanding and focus across the entire organisation, of who the business is, how it is different and how that difference turns up as a benefit for stakeholders on a daily basis.
  • Overall higher levels of innovation through working more constructively and collaboratively.
  • Increased trust with key stakeholders - customers, employees, shareholders, distributors, partners, intermediaries etc.
  • Improved and aligned customer experience, as employees communicate and deliver against the company’s overarching intent with clarity, conviction and confidence.
  • Reduced confusion and ambiguity when important decisions need to be made.
  • Improved returns on company programs and initiatives through increased company presence, understanding and leverage.

For marketing

  • Economies of scale – one advertising or promotional campaign can serve multiple brands, as they all sit underneath the corporate brand umbrella.
  • Stronger brand equity for product brands, as the positive corporate brand equity “rubs off” on the product brands.
  • Increased acceptance of new products launched by the company, as potential buyers are already familiar with the corporate brand and its reputation.

For sales

  • A stronger negotiating position – a stronger brand brings a stronger negotiating position and more favourable terms.
  • Increased customer resonance – customers have a clear understanding of the value of the business, creating more sustainable relationships with existing customers, and providing new customers with a clear reason to choose the business.

For the value of the portfolio

  • Increased value of the company’s product and service brands – as the equity in the corporate brand builds over time, there is the opportunity to transfer the benefit that it brings to the company’s portfolio of brands.
  • Increased opportunities for expansion – by establishing the reputation and value of the business, we open up opportunities to move into additional markets.

For relationships with Government and media

  • Supports Government stakeholders – smooths the way for Government to support our concerns, views and opinions.
  • Increased positive sentiment and commentary in the media, ensuring the company’s brands receive the “benefit of the doubt” in times of crisis.
  • Protection from possible industrial activity – through positive, accurate understanding of the company and its overall contribution.

For the community

Given all these benefits, building a strong corporate brand is a worthwhile investment for any business. At BrandMatters, working with corporate brands is our daily fare. If you’d like to learn more about how we’ve brought concepts like those described above to life for our clients, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ve performed this sort of work for clients including Perpetual, Suncorp, Downer, Wesfarmers and Sage amongst many others.


At BrandMatters, when asked how we work, we often explain that we operate at the intersection of business, brand and marketing. Each of these areas is a critical function that requires an individual, well thought-out strategy. But what roles do business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy each play? And how do they interrelate? In this blog post, we explore the relationship between them.

Business strategy

A business or organisational strategy details a firm’s vision, mission and long-term objectives. The organisational objectives form the heart of the strategy. However, a complete strategy also prioritises those objectives and describes specifically how the firm plans to achieve them - while competing successfully in the market and optimising financial performance. The strategy should also cover the resources that will be needed to deliver it.

Business strategy considers many things, including market structure and competitors, entry and exit barriers, market segmentation, market trends, organisational scale, spread and structure, organisational agility, organisational culture, product/service portfolio, branding and differentiation, IP, business model, distribution channels, supply and demand, sources of revenue, cost structure, cash flow, technology, strategic partnerships and the keys to success.

The strategies proposed should reflect the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as its competitors and the market.

Brand strategy

The brand strategy and brand exists to enable, express and bring to life the business strategy. Therefore, branding is the expression of the essence of an organisation, product, or service - its reason for being. Branding communicates the characteristics, values and attributes that the organisation or product stands for, how it is positioned differently to competitors, and why a customer would buy it.

A brand strategy clearly outlines a brand's unique characteristics, values and attributes. It is comprised of the brand positioning - the unique, relevant, credible and sustainable position in the market that it owns - along with the brand story, values, personality and brand tone of voice. It should also include the employee value proposition (EVP), which is closely linked to your brand. If there are multiple brands, it may include a brand architecture framework and brand portfolio strategy. And if there are multiple brand audiences, the brand strategy may also include customer value propositions (CVPs).

Marketing Strategy

Once an organisation has signed off its brand strategy, it will need to create a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Marketing strategy is shaped both by business strategy and brand strategy.

Whereas branding is strategic, marketing is more tactical. Marketing is actively promoting and selling a product or service. It's about putting the right product/service in the right place, at the right price, at the right time. It unearths and activates buyers. Marketing is a push tactic. All marketing initiatives and campaigns should reinforce and support the brand essence.

A marketing strategy typically answers the following questions for a product or service:

  • Who are its customers?
  • Who are its competitors?
  • What makes it stand out in the market?
  • Which market trends can be taken advantage of?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses and what are the opportunities and threats?
  • What initiatives and programs can be used to promote it and take advantage of its strengths and the available opportunities, mitigate its weaknesses and minimise the threats?

The intersection of business, brand and marketing

As you can see, there are several points of intersection between business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy. Here are a few examples:

  • Mission, vision and values are closely related to brand positioning.
  • Organisational culture also aligns strongly to brand.
  • The competitive environment, market structure, market segments and target customers are fundamentally important to all of these strategies.
  • Competitive strategy links business strategy to brand strategy.
  • Business model strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy must all consider pricing strategy.
  • All three strategies must consider market trends to be viable in the long run.
  • Branding precedes and underlies marketing efforts. It's a pull tactic - brand creates customers predisposed to buying a product or service and supports marketing.
  • All marketing initiatives and campaigns should reinforce and support the brand positioning.

How do we ensure these three strategies integrate and align?

To create effective integration between business, brand and marketing strategy, consider:

  • The sequencing of these strategic plans. Business strategy comes first, closely followed by brand strategy, and then marketing strategy.

           Business strategy → brand strategy → marketing strategy and plan

  • Brand can be used to rally an organisation around its high-level strategies, so it can be helpful for brand positioning and strategy work to closely follow the creation of the business strategy. 
  • Brand strategy should be created at a senior level within the organisation, so that it is created by those who understand the business, business model and competitive strategy and the rationale behind them very well. 
  • Ensure the marketing team has the following qualities: strategic thinking, creativity, analytical ability and strong program management/execution discipline. These qualities are all important for creating a marketing strategy that links to business and brand strategy, for implementing marketing strategy, and for ongoing brand management.

At BrandMatters we consider these connection points and associated conundrums as part of our daily fare. If you’d like a point of view on how to resolve or reconcile any of the above we’d love to hear from you - please contact us.

The digital world has forever changed the way we interact with brands. No longer the domain of brochures and billboards, your brand experience needs to extend way beyond the human touch - into all areas of the digital relationships your customers have with you.

Here to discuss how your brand can amplify your UX is our valued partner, Jerome from UX agency Macadamia.

Us humans, we’re social beings. We enjoy being around people so it’s no surprise that, on the whole, we prefer dealing with people in our day to day lives, and this includes using products and services.

Business is operating at increasing scale within the world-economy. Commercial objectives and operational efficiencies are driving this 3rd industrial revolution we’re in - the result being exponential rates of digitisation and automation of the products and services we use in our day to day.

This hasn’t waned our innate preference to deal with people we like. The challenge here for designing human-computer interactions is making a computer (I.e. a digital experience) as competent, empathetic and likeable as possible.

So, in-lieu of having all our experiences (i.e. services) provided by a lovely human, our lives require us to deal with computers. Luckily, they’re getting smarter. Advancing fields such as AI mean that we can now find out the weather without asking a human or touching a screen, with Google Home you can say “Okay Google … what’s the weather today?” and have your own Google Assistant tell you if you need your umbrella or sun-hat.

When designing products and services today businesses have the opportunity to be innovative and align their offering across multiple channels. This brings about its own challenges, which we’re going to examine below as do’s and don’ts.

Let’s start with the don’ts

Don’t stop evolving

Brands are always evolving. This means that the experiences need to evolve as well. The relationship between both is likely more intimate in younger businesses like start-ups since they’re iterating both at the same time from the beginning, but there’s no reason that more established businesses (who often have their product, brand in a more fragmented situation) can’t start doing the same.

Just remember that the brand guidelines need to be in place before the final touches are put on a designed-experience. A good example is Domino’s Pizza who are now seen increasingly as an eCommerce company rather than a pizzeria. They’ve taken advantage of geo-tracking technology and users can now track where their order is rather than calling the shop to ask, “how far away is my large Hawaiian?”. Users can also split bills on the platform which is an excellent example of using technology to evolve by solving a specific, common customer-problem.


Don’t make unexplained changes

Looking from the outside-in, a business’s brand can be seen to have several components; UVP (Unique Value Proposition), Personality, Mission and Experience. Much like UX/CX design, branding is not a linear process. This places importance on telling the story and whether this is shown or told, customers and users trust those they understand. Dropbox even devoted a micro-site ( to explain their rebrand, which coupled with their progressive onboarding made for a smooth transition even for seasoned-users like myself.


Most businesses already have existing solutions for users. When making updates to these, especially at scale, it’s important to communicate to users the story behind the changes. Think of it like dealing with the same bank manager for years, there’s established trust there and a general understanding that facilitates a more seamless, efficient experience. If one day you go into the bank and the manager has changed unbeknownst to you, you’ll have to go through a whole new ‘getting to know you’ period with the replacement before the experience will be as seamless as it was before, even if the new manager is actually better.

Speaking digitally this change of manager can be seen as a combination of brand language and function. The ‘getting to know you’ period can be seen as onboarding. Conveying a story, the reasoning for changes and assisting the learning process can manage change and highlight to users the benefit of the ‘new’ way of doing things. The result will be a shorter uptake to a positive experience.

Don’t do everything

There are few things here:

  • Know when brand-proprietary concepts should take a backseat to user experience. In other words, don’t try and reinvent the wheel every time. This means that industry standard iconography (such as Google’s material design) can often provide a more intuitive user response. The same goes for micro-animations - less is more. Description: <a href=


  • Don’t try to use every technology available if it doesn’t suit your users or fall in-line with your brand. For example, not every site requires a pop-up asking users to sign up for their mailing list, especially if it’s the users first time or if they’ve come from a search engine link. This overuse of technology can not only be annoying to the user but also a costly exercise in knowing one’s users. WhatsApp’s Snapchat clone called ‘Status’ doesn’t seem to be having widespread user adoption, although Instagram has had greater success with the feature. So, doing one thing well is better than doing multiple things not so well, WhatsApp is a P2P secure messaging/calling service - this is what users go there for, not for social media.

So, what should a business do?

Do aim for the experience to be a UVP, whilst maintaining consistency

Particularly if your brand-ethos is customer-service centric, practicing UX methodologies when designing experiences almost goes without saying. Elements of a sound brand guideline will be referred to by a product team in ideating sessions, ensuring that products or experiences that don’t innately represent the brand don’t make it ‘out the other side’. Of course, there are several influencing factors in creating new products/services, some of which can’t be ignored like commercial viability and bottom-line. These sorts of influences often lead to selling space for advertising, something which WhatsApp founders (if we can use them again)  have openly voiced their disdain towards advertising-based business models. They’re a business who’ve focussed their engineering on a simple user experience and secure messaging, which is certainly in-line with the app’s brand - providing a way to “stay in touch with friends and family, anytime and anywhere” and that is the UVP for which keeps users coming back, over 1 billion of them in fact.

Do personify your brand to satisfy or preferably exceed user-expectations

Ensure branding has a clear voice, then translate this into a user experience. Today, this is often talked about as a personality....why? Since digital experiences are becoming more comprehensive and human-like, users expect language and cues that are authentic, trustworthy and friendly.

In the same way we profile users as personas, you can give distinct human-characteristics to your brand. By having a more human approach to branding, a more human-centric experience will be possible.

Putting in place a robust brand guide that can be translated effectively into seamless experiences includes establishing colours, language and imagery. Depending on the technologies and digital services a business is offering, this may in fact extend through to voice, for example with Apple’s Siri, Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa.

Do keep an eye on big players’ new function-releases and new technologies to be offering services and products to users in the latest manner they feel comfortable with.

I attended Startcon at the beginning of 2017 where Andrew Chen (Uber, Growth Team) was the keynote. He kept reiterating that reading the API documentation of big tech players can lead to some fantastic, innovative strategies, products and services. These documents are open for everyone to read and are surprisingly easy to understand (on the whole). So, when Canon printers found out about the Instagram API’s new endpoints, they built a printer that via an app allows users to print directly from their Instagram account. New businesses have emerged like FourSixty who make businesses’ Instagram feeds shoppable, couple this with their Google Analytics integration and there’s a great little eCommerce add-on that works well for businesses of all sizes.

Emerging fields like AI are forging new directions for software systems. Hardware is also advancing with increasingly realistic headsets for VR, more powerful smartphones with significant AR applications as well as the Internet of Things revolution we’re facing. This is providing an array of mediums for businesses to offer their products/services to users.

Knowing one’s brand and how it looks, feels and even speaks is essential, as is providing a quality experience to users that’s consistent across each touchpoint. Any shortcuts or gaps in your approach will only weaken the impact of your products.

Thanks for reading!

Jerome Bowman.

Monday, 18 December 2017 09:41

Granting a Christmas wish

As many of you know, as part of our Christmas gift to our clients, each year we aim to grant a wish for a family in need as part of our ongoing support of the charity Dreams2Live4. Dreams2Live4 is a national charity who provide hope to people struggling with metastatic cancer, meaning cancer that has spread. They provide hope and reflief to hundreds of patients throughout the year and, as you can imagine, Christmas is certainly a time where there services are in high demand. 

Last year, we met Manu, a mother of 2 who desperately wanted to provide her children with a magical Christmas that they could remember forever, we provided them with a once in a lifetime trip to Taronga Zoo as well as a festive feast and lots of toys from Santa.

This year we meet Charles, his wife and his 2 sons. Throughout the year Charles has been in pallative care, but he is being allowed to go home to spend the festive season surrounded by family. Whilst his family is his true love now, his first love was music. As an ex-musician, his wish is to play guitar for his family on Christmas day, so they can escape the heartache of his dreadful illness just for a moment.

Charles 1

In Charles' words: 

“Music is my outlet and has been since I was a young kid, guitar is my instrument of choice. I am self taught and have always got by on my Yamaha guitars which are fine, but it has always been my dream to own a Cole Clarke 12 string guitar, but as life goes on I have never found the opportunity or want to spent that money on myself. I'm truly happy with what I have, but it’s always been a nice dream.

Apart from living without this horrid mean disease and being there for my kids as they grow up, a chance to own this guitar, and play for my family on Christmas day would mean the absolute world to me. Thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart."

Charles 3

We are so pleased to be able to give Charles and his family the gift of music filled memories this Christmas.

To learn more about Dreams2Live4 and how you can support the work they do, visit their website




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