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Are Brands Dying?

By Denise Lee Yohn – Leading Authority and Speaker on Building Exceptional Brands

Denise Lee Yohn, Marketing keynote speaker at The Sweeney Agency Speakers Bureau

In today’s influencer-marketing, Amazon-dominated, supply-chain-driven business world, it may seem that value of brands is on the decline. And now that we’re headed toward a recession (or at least a significant market downturn), people are likely to question the power of brands to influence purchase decisions more than price does.

But brands can and should remain incredibly influential even in these conditions – it’s only the type of influence that must change.  In addition to the sway brands may continue to wield externally on certain customers in certain categories, brands now have the power to make or break a business through the culture on the inside of the organization.

A New(ish) Type of Brand Power

Actually, the alignment and integration of external brand identity and internal organizational culture has always been important. But it’s reached a level of criticality that can no longer be ignored or downplayed.

My book FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies thoroughly explains all the reasons behind this new reality, so briefly let me simply point to three developments:

  • Employee retention, recruitment, and engagement have become top priorities for companies given the Great Resignation and now the push to Return to Office (RTO) and a company’s brand can be an effective talent magnet and motivator.
  • Customer experience has become the new marketing thanks to the extraordinary influence of reviews and word of mouth, so everyone in an organization – not only those in the marketing department – must do on-brand work.
  • Public scrutiny of companies and their cultures has increased while trust in corporations has decreased, so business leaders must shore up their corporate reputations by changing how they run their companies.

In this context, companies must fuse brand and culture – that is, they must create a mutually reinforcing relationship between what they say on the outside and what they do on the inside.  When they do so, they achieve what the folks at the agency Barkley call a “whole brand.”

Whole Brands Win

In The Whole Brand ProjectTim Galles, Project Director and Chief Idea Officer at Barkley and his team study and celebrate organizations that they qualify as whole brands based on five sets of brand actions: product value, workforce performance, customer experience, design system visibility, and effectiveness of communications and advertising.

By analyzing 13,000 consumers and over 150 brands in 30+ categories, they’ve proven that whole brands produce greater profits, performance, and impact than fragmented brands.  Specifically, whole brands on average:

  • Produce a price-to-earnings ratio 2.5 times greater than the 80% of brands below them (among publicly traded brands).
  • See 6X greater 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
  • Command a premium price and brand loyalty — 33% of consumers will pay full price for these brands even when a direct competitor is on sale.
  • Enjoy double the market penetration.
  • Are the preferred brand in their category 2.5 more often.

Results like these make a clear and compelling case for adopting a whole-brand approach to brand-building.

What Whole Brands Do

Galles and his team explain that building whole brands requires a completely different mindset: Whole brands “see everything they do, inside and out — every experience they create — as the brand.”

As such, whole-brand thinking, they say, is systems thinking. It requires looking at the “interconnections between all the ways a brand touches someone, not just a linear flow of messages via campaign or platforms.”

I discovered the same truth in the research I did for my first book What Great Brands Do:  The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the RestGreat brands define their brand as what they do and how they do it – and they sweat the small stuff because everything communicates.

In addition, I found that great brands commit and stay committed – meaning, they are crystal clear about their purpose and values, they lock them in, and they execute on them relentlessly. In the same way, the Barkley team explains that the strongest brands are the most consistent brands. They find that whole brands have significantly lower variation and volatility across the five dimensions they investigate. This suggests “suggests greater discipline, and a more focused sense of purpose,” they conclude.

Most importantly, great brands start inside – they start brand-building not with communications but with culture.  They develop a brand-led culture that promotes whole-brand thinking and actions – and that, in turn, leads to whole-brand results.

Brand + Culture = Results

All this brings me back to where I started. Aligning and integrating organizational culture with brand is the key to brand power. When you fuse brand and culture, you create advantages in workforce engagement and productivity, customer experience, and trust with all stakeholders.  

So, brands aren’t dying – they can be more valuable than ever before because brand plus culture equals results.


About Denise Lee Yohn

Denise Lee Yohn delivers fresh ideas and clear-cut tools to build a breakthrough brand. She inspires and teaches business leaders to realize the full potential of their organizations.

Blending a unique perspective, over twenty-five years of experience with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay, and a talent for energizing audiences, Denise is a leading authority on building great brands and exceptional organizations. As author of the best-selling book What Great Brands Do and the new book FUSION, she cracks the code on how to achieve brand leadership.


To learn more about Denise Lee Yohn contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency  www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]