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Hans Hedin, Vice President of Business Development at Global Intelligence Alliance shares his observations about how leading global companies brand their intelligence programs.
What is the most important factor in cultivating an internal corporate culture that fosters good market intelligence practices?
“Active and vocal support by senior management is perhaps the most important factor in fostering an “intelligence culture” in any organization. Beyond that, it is very important to demonstrate the benefits with good internal training and marketing efforts. All these help “brand” the market intelligence function.
Branding is often the cornerstone of building an intelligence culture. While marketing communications is indeed an important tool for informing the organization about the benefits and characteristics of Market Intelligence, marketing efforts alone will not yield sustainable results if the business impact of the intelligence activity is not tangible.
Hence, “market intelligence branding” should be interpreted broadly - from covering the entire identity of the intelligence program such as using names, symbols and slogans to the quality of content of the intelligence deliverables that eventually create the business impact.”
In what ways can senior management show “active and vocal support”?
“Firstly, a company’s CEO needs to publicly acknowledge the vital role of the intelligence program in facilitating the company’s business and support this with concrete examples.
Brands are constantly being created and enhanced by well-known individuals lending their status to different products and services. C-level executives voicing their support to internal intelligence programs follows the same logic – they can greatly enhance the credibility and impact of the intelligence program if people know that it’s strongly supported from the top. With all brand development efforts, the efforts to brand an intelligence program need to be sustainable, and sustainability is measured in actions, not words. Therefore if the intelligence program’s brand rides on the CEO’s voiced support to the activity, he or she should also be an active user of the deliverables that the program produces, otherwise the ‘brand promise’ will soon lack credibility.
Secondly, senior management should be involved in co-creating intelligence content with the intelligence team and the rest of the organization. After all, market intelligence plays an integral role in all key business processes, typically starting with strategic planning and including sales, marketing, product management, R&D and corporate communications.
Another very important of showing active support of the Market Intelligence function is to make it count to each employee through their balanced scorecard. Many management consulting firms already do this with employees who spend time with clients, suppliers, distributors, partners, consumers, etc. Such employees can contribute valuable field intelligence back to the company. They can be scored on their capability to develop and external intelligence networks, how many market signals they contribute and the level of discussion and interaction they bring to the Market Intelligence process.
Lastly, senior management needs to ensure the function has adequate funding and resources to conduct it’s activities – in addition to the internal training and marketing efforts required for internal branding.”
How does branding an intelligence program work?
“Many organizations today apply modern marketing techniques to spread awareness about different internal functions. Brands are created under HR or internal communications for instance, all for the purpose of recognition, appreciation – and impact. Eventually, such internal brands may powerfully shape the organizational culture.
Similarly, developing an intelligence culture starts with systematically branding the activity.
Once the program’s brand name and visual identity have been established, people start to recognize the intelligence program and become more aware of its existence.
With active and ongoing communications about the intelligence function, internal stakeholders will gradually develop an understanding of and appreciation for the intelligence program. Often times, the lack of active and bold internal marketing of the intelligence activities is the single most important obstacle to creating an intelligence culture in the organization. People simply cannot adopt things that they are not aware of.
Finally, the true impact of an intelligence culture will be enhanced when stakeholders join in the intelligence process as active contributors, rather then just being the end users.”
Can you please give us an example of a good branding campaign?
“When a US-based financial services company decided to adopt a software tool to serve as the focal point of their intelligence program, they took its internal marketing seriously from the very beginning. Various brochures, T-shirts, mugs, pens, mouse pads and other promotional items were distributed to make sure that everyone would know something about the company’s Market Intelligence and how to access it.
While the promotional campaign only lasted a couple of months, it provided a significant boost to the company’s intelligence culture.”
Another example of affecting the Market Intelligence culture is to have “Market Intelligence lunches”. This could mean simply setting up a booth in the cafeteria or lunch room that presents what Market Intelligence is all about. People who want to know more can talk to the company’s Market Intelligence professionals. Even if not everyone talks to the Market Intelligence team, they will be general, be more aware of Market Intelligence within their company.
You could also invite guest speakers who talk about a topic of interest. One company that was focusing their international expansion towards Asia organised an “Asian week”, where the food served at lunch had Asian influence. They also invited guest speakers from Asian countries to gave presentations on what it is like to do business in Asia; the market situation and the challenges. This was a very practical and hands-on approach to marketing their Market Intelligence activities and I would say, much more interesting and inspiring that just uploading documents on the intranet describing the situation in Asia!”
So the form of communication is really important?
“Yes, very much so!
I would love to see more Market Intelligence units switch over parts of their regular reporting of market updates from documents to videos, webinars, podcasts, blogs, lunch briefings etc. This would make the Market Intelligence program so much more visible. It would also increase the level of communication and interaction, so that there is a two-way flow of ideas and input, instead of the one-way communication where the main focus is on producing documents.
So, if you manage the above mentioned aspects well, you can really go quite far in branding your Market Intelligence program and the deliverables – and raising awareness across the organization.“
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