How the senior management of your company affects the brand. New research.

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How the senior management of your company affects the brand. New research.
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It has been pretty much accepted that senior management can have a major impact on the delivery to the customer of a brand’s values and vision. However, very little work has been done to look at exactly what the impact is and how it works.

In a study just published, a team of researchers surveyed 226 staff in the hospitality industry to see not only what impact senior managers have on their organisation’s brand but also how this occurs.


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Findings

What the researchers found was:

  1. The knowledge employees have of the brand is directly related to their commitment to the brand
  2. That knowledge employees have of the brand and products is directly related to senior management’s focus and orientation towards the brand. In other words the commitment the senior management has towards the brand (of the organisation and its products and services) significantly affects the employees’ commitment towards and knowledge of the brand.
  3. Perceived fulfilment of the psychological contract mediates the relationship between top management’s brand-oriented leadership and employees’ brand commitment. What this means is that the employees feel that the senior management is committed to the brand and is supporting and helping the employees to fulfil their roles.
  4. Lastly the researchers found that the employees really need to believe in the brand(s) and agree with the service’s or product’s benefits. This is known as brand-employee fit.

What this means in practice

Management and the employees need to be engaged with the brand, supporting the organisational goals and delivering on the expectation of customers. Any failures to do this can drive customers away and in the hospitality industry, get bad reviews on Trip Advisor and other forums for example. This frequently has a direct effect on the profitability of the company.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership from the very top of an organisation is core to achieving the brand vision where it most counts – at the interface between employee and customer. In the hospitality industry, this needs to be from the Chief Executive down.

The paper defined transformational leadership as: “Leaders’ approach that motivates employees to act according to the brand by appealing to their values and emotions. These leaders display the following behaviours: acting as a role model and authentically “living” the brand values, communicating brand identity to employee, and demonstrating personal pride in the brand”

It isn’t just a case of speaking the brand identity either – management should “live” the brand identity or ‘walk the talk’. The paper suggested that most of the motivation and drive that is shown to the staff at the frontline is in the non-verbal sphere of communication. The authors said that this can be done in three ways:

  • Demonstrating commitment
  • Living brand values
  • Exercising trust in the employees.

This means there needs to be congruence between what the senior management say and do.

Not just the hospitality industry

The paper looked at the hospitality industry as an area where the interface between staff and customers has one of the greatest effects on profitability. However this also applies to any organisation that has customer facing staff, for example the retail sector, any dedicated customer service team such as a call centre, as well as transport such as airlines and ferries – most of the service sector in short. In these sectors the staff on the ground are generally paid quite poorly by comparison to the leadership and yet they are the face (and the basis of the customers’ perceptions) of the organisation.

One example of the high profile, motivated brand leader is Richard Branson of the Virgin Group. Though no longer Chief Executive of Virgin Airways he is very much the face of the airline, and the person everyone associates with the brand. He lives and breathes the ethos of the brand and helps drive the airline with this brand identity.

Reference – available to members

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