One of the most overlooked elements of a product launch is the need for a brand team vision. Launch teams charge headlong in pursuit of tasks and deadlines without taking the time to sit down together and ask a few basic but critical questions.
In this article, we’ll explore why having a brand team vision and values is important and guide you through some of the basic principles of developing one with your team.
1. Why should you have a brand team vision?
Whenever we deliver our Launch Excellence course, delegates are often sceptical about the need for a brand team vision. Some participants initially regard the session as “fluffy” or irrelevant before it is presented and yet it has become one of the consistently top-rated sections of the course.
The reason for this is simple: teams with a clear brand team vision and values are more effective. Collins and Porras (1996) carefully analysed the performance of companies with a clear vision and values over a 70-year period and found that, on average, these companies outperformed their competitors without a vision & values by a factor of 12. This methodology has since been applied to teams and divisions within companies with very similar results.
Teams with clear visions and values worked far more closely together, had higher team morale and performed better than teams without a team vision. The reason for this is that they had a very clear idea of how they wanted to work together and what they were striving to achieve, a goal that went far beyond the simple business targets of the organisation.
2. What is a brand team vision?
Simply put, the brand team vision serves as the guiding beacon for the brand team. It summarises whom you are, what you stand for and what you want to accomplish.
The brand team vision consists of two sections: the core team ideology and the team’s envisioned future.
3. Core team ideology
The core team ideology, quite simply, defines very clearly what the brand team stands for and why it exists. Stating this a little differently, the core team ideology clearly lays out how the brand team wants to work together, how they want to interact with the world outside their team and why they want to work on the brand – what gets them out of bed in the morning.
3.1 Core Team Values
The core team values form a small set of enduring principles that guide the team behaviour. They set out very clearly the behaviours valued by the team members and how the team members will strive to interact with each other and with the outside world. Team values require no external justification and need to have value and importance only to the team itself.
Identifying these values is not easy, for the simple reason that they have to be real. Core values that are not real, not valid or not followed, tend to rapidly lose their value to the team and are seen as a fruitless exercise. When you are defining your core values, you have to be brutally honest. There is no correct set of core values; nobody can force you to have values such as teamwork, customer orientation and open communication.
Be honest about the values that you truly hold – remember, they only need to have intrinsic value to the team itself.
3.2 Core Team Purpose
The core purpose is the brand team’s aspirational reason for being. It reflects the team members’ idealistic motivations for working on the brand – in many ways; the core purpose captures the soul of the brand team. A typical example of a team core purpose might be “to remove the scourge of cancer from the human race” in the case of an oncology brand team. As you can see, the core purpose would last for the entire duration of the brand’s lifecycle and it will (probably) never be fulfilled.
Deriving the team’s core purpose, however, is not simple and requires in-depth thinking and a fair amount of lateral thought. One of the main techniques that we have used to great effect is called The Five Whys Technique. It is simple enough in concept but really challenges brand team members to think beyond the characteristics of the drug itself. The team begins by writing out a description of the product and what it does. You then ask the question “Why is that important?” and write out the answer. The team then repeat the process five times, asking the question of the answer above it. Each stage brings the team closer and closer to the truly aspirational purpose that defines a good brand purpose. The Five Whys therefore allows the brand team to frame their work in a more meaningful way that guides and inspires, rather than simply selling a pharmaceutical product.
One final point on the core purpose – as we have noted repeatedly, the core brand purpose is designed to guide and inspire across the cross-functional brand team. This makes terms like “maximising shareholder wealth” or “achieving organisational goals” inappropriate as a core brand purpose. Terms like this do not inspire across the team and provide precious little in the form of guidance.
4. The Envisioned Future
The envisioned future represents the future that the brand team are trying to achieve. It consists of two closely interrelated parts: the BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and the Vivid Description.
4.1 The BHAG
The BHAG is a carefully constructed and challenging 10 to 30 year goal that the team wish to achieve; within the pharmaceutical context, this is usually within the life span of the product.
It differs from the team’s core purpose in that, unlike the core purpose, it can actually be achieved with a huge amount of hard work and a fair amount of luck. Examples might be “to become the number one selling product within the class” or, in the case of NASA’s moon mission, “to put a man on the moon before the USSR”. As you can see, the BHAGs are very clear and precise, far more so than the aspirational core purpose, but they should never be a certain outcome.
4.2 The Vivid Description
The vivid description is an inspirational paragraph that describes in detail what it would be like to achieve the BHAG. More than 100 years ago, Henry Ford’s BHAG was “to democratise the automobile”, written at a time when motorcars where the preserve of the rich and the horse was still the main form of transportation.
His vivid description is still one of the most powerful that we have come across: “I will build a motor car for the great multitude.... It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.... When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways and the automobile will be taken for granted…”
Developing a brand team vision allows the team to centre their efforts on an aspiration goal, with a clearly stated set of core team values that guide the behaviours of the team members.
In a world where teams change quickly and often, this vision and values also provides continuing guidance as new members come on board, allowing for a more inspired and effective team. It is for these reasons that the Brand Team Vision session is one of the most popular modules within our Launch Excellence programme. In each of the learning courses and solutions that we have presented, across three continents, the response has been extremely positive, as delegates realise the importance of having a clear brand team vision.
The guidance is therefore clear: take the time to develop your brand team vision and values, it will pay substantial dividends later!
Collins J. and Porras J. (1996) “Building your company’s vision”. Harvard Business Review (September Edition).