Behave Yourself! Why good brand governance isn’t just about rules

Andy Bosman – Chief Marketing Officer for RSM US

An interview with Andy Bosman, Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of RSM US

Recently, the B2B Brand Council had a chance to sit down and talk with Andy Bosman, CMO of RSM US, the leading tax, audit and consulting firm focused on the middle market (which not long ago rebranded itself from McGladrey). Our topic was arguably one of the least glitzy, but most important, areas of branding: governance.

Rather than describe how to best organize and arm your “logo police,” Andy had a few unexpected things to say about the evolution of governance, and its necessary transformation from a restrictive tool for locking down a brand into an expansive mindset that can free a brand to really grow. Here’s just part of that conversation:

B2B Brand Council: Start us out, if you will, with your definition of brand governance.

Andy Bosman: Today, brand governance is all encompassing. It’s anything and everything a company’s employees do to bring a brand to life every single day.

B2BBC: “Anything and everything” sounds like it’s going to be hard to fit into a brand book–or should you even try?

Andy: I love those old brand books–and brand guidelines are still important to your marketing team, to those people responsible for the look, feel and consistency of messaging. But those books aren’t as important to line employees, those who are out interacting with customers every day, because it’s their behaviors that we need to get aligned with the brand experience and promise rather than just making sure our logos fit the standard and the look and feel is perfect. We can give them those things. But a brand that really works is driven much more by emotion and your connection to what the brand stands for than by a specified look or logo.

“It’s behaviors that we need to get aligned with the brand experience, rather than just making sure our logos fit the standard.”

B2BBC: So, if not a brand guidelines book or website, then what? What tools can you employ to work on that emotion and connection?

Andy: At RSM, we’ve made a really productive shift, keeping the brand books for the marketing team and using simulations for employees who interact with customers.

B2BBC: Simulations – as in training exercises, or workshops?

Andy: It could be anything from a board game simulation, which is a couple of hours, to a workshop lasting a couple of days, where you bring folks in and really talk about the strategy, about the brand promise, and then go through a realistic business simulation.

And the success of participants in running their mock businesses depends on what they deliver for the client experience, how they improve the talent or employee experience and, overall, how they better the company based on the overall strategy, not just how they boost the financial results, although that’s obviously an important piece.

By training on behaviors that support our core brand promise of  “The Power to be Understood,” we teach and motivate our employees as to why and how they should bring the brand to life.

B2BBC: So it’s not just about the external, customer-facing brand?

Andy: No, it’s very much internal, very much a cultural thing. And yes, we have all the systems in place to make sure that the logo is where it needs to go and the colors are what they need to be, but it really comes down to culture. People need to be asking, and able to answer “What can I do to bring the brand to life? And how do I do that?”

“It really comes down to culture. People need to be asking, “What can I do to bring the brand to life?”

It’s not just important for our 800 partners; in the US we have over 10,000 employees and globally we’re almost 30,000. They make sure (or not) that we deliver the brand promise–so how do we equip them to succeed?

B2BBC: How did you manage to succeed with your recent rebrand?

Andy: Honestly, it was a little tough at first. Basically, we were telling the McGladrey organization–which is celebrating its 90th birthday this year–that, “Hey, we’re going to change our name.”

But we did our research. We spent a lot of time with clients and prospects. And what we were able to come back and show was that the lack of a consistent and truly global brand, the absence of having that governance of behavior in the brand globally, was an inhibitor to meeting our future goals and objectives.

So when we really tied it to the business objectives, when we demonstrated that the lack of a brand would keep us from getting where we want to go, everybody embraced the new brand quite nicely.

And, of course, we were at great risk if we didn’t make the change. Especially for us, serving the middle market, this is about one-to-one relationships. So clients are looking for that customization of experience. But if they’re reading materials from the organization that lead them to believe one thing, but my experience dealing with you on a personal basis is very different, then trust declines, the integrity of your brand declines, and their willingness to really listen to you goes down.

B2BBC: So you can almost think of governance as an ongoing part of brand activation.

“With behavioral brand governance, you’re listening to your customer base, you’re continually evolving your brand.”

Andy: I suppose so. After all, just consider how brand books get very stale after a couple of years and everybody wants to change the brand, but mostly because you’ve gotten tired of it internally. But with behavioral brand governance, you’re listening to your clients, you’re listening to your customer base, you’re continually evolving your brand. So you keep it fresh. You keep it moving forward. You keep it relevant.

Of course, this requires moving out of a compliance mentality. “If you do it this way or don’t do it that way, I’ll slap you on the wrist.” In this model, you’re entrusting your employees to understand the brand and, again, bring it to life and personalize it. So you’ve got to give them a lot of flexibility…

B2BBC: …and teach them how to behave.

Andy: Exactly.

About Andy Bosman: Andy is the Chief Marketing Officer of RSM, a global leader in tax, audit and consulting for the middle market. He leads strategic global marketing and communications functions, and also develops and implements corporate branding programs.