XL … The Anatomy of Growth by Interbrand

Growth is human, it’s natural, and it’s as vital to businesses as it is to people. But in today’s global market, getting a grip on growth is increasingly multidimensional and holistic. Companies don’t grow just by flooding markets, we have to be more creative and strategic, using our brands to drive the development of new products, services, and experiences with the customer at the core.

At the same time, it’s vitally important to understand the true nature of your brand and its relationship to business growth, and success. Brands are the way people interact with businesses—as employees, as business partners, and, of course, as customers or consumers. Ask anyone about a successful brand, and they will be able to articulate the sense of personality, behavior, market position, culture, future direction, and the type of experience (product, service, people, etc.) that they expect. Brands are complex, simply because they are created by the organization as a whole—everyone and everything, working together, to create and indeed live up to the expectations of people. Used as a driving strategic force, and leading the creation of an organization-wide experience, brands are business strategy brought to life. The brand is the business, and the business is the brand.

Your Anatomy of Growth therefore comprises both your business and your brand. It’s crucial to understand both in detail, identifying what sustains them and how they work together. There are many forces at play, internally and in the market, and your brand strategy provides the means to navigate them. By developing a holistic picture—one that includes culture, capabilities, products, and experiences—brands can overcome challenges and nurture real, lasting growth.

Though growth is natural, it’s never easy. Traditional avenues of growth are riddled with challenges, and all too often companies talk about growth in purely financial terms—effectively a measure of the results. But the challenge for leaders is to create the conditions, strategies, and experiences to enable growth, and today’s demanding employees and customers expect flawless, seamless, and enjoyable products and services. This is an enterprise-level undertaking in an age where internal divisions (or silos) within businesses are very much still the norm—hence our belief that you need an anatomical understanding of how to create long-term sustainable growth, and that your brand is the key to success as the unifying driver for employees and customers alike.

Complexity can be countered with deep understanding, and today’s Top Growing Brands aren’t just charging ahead, they’re taking time to understand the landscape, and what growth means for their brands and businesses. Growth is personal, so diagnosing problems and finding the best solutions means diving in to reveal your Anatomy of Growth.

Growth is multidimensional

The classic Ansoff matrix simplified growth into two dimensions—products and markets. Your choices were simple, a two-by-two matrix looking at new and existing products and markets, but that is oversimplifying today’s complexity: growth is multidimensional and influenced by vital factors on the inside as well as the outside.

And as networks expand globally, the bar for products and services is being set higher. With so many Breakthrough Brands changing how people interact with the world, industry leaders are faced with the challenge of developing truly innovative and truly useful solutions. People are curating and streamlining their lives—they don’t just want more stuff, they want products and services that make their lives better. They want better and more connected experiences.

Naturally, technology has become a driver of these new products, services, and experiences, and, as we all know, it’s also totally transforming business models. Technology provides greater proximity to people—it allows brands to not only connect, but to become an integral part of their customers’ lives. It should be the conduit that ties together the business’s products and services and all of the brand’s experiences, and it has the potential to make seamlessness a reality.

As the Age of You progresses, human insight is still king—technology is the way in, and your brand is the uniting and guiding light: connecting with peoples’ lives—their hearts and their heads—uncovering needs and desires. And as big data takes a central role, it’s becoming more apparent that it’s not just about a trove of information floating in the cloud; it’s how businesses will form truly human connections in the real world.

As humans, we instinctively know that growth starts from within. For businesses, it’s just as important nowadays to seek human insights internally. We are all called upon to take a hard look at our organizations—and particularly the people within them—to develop stronger cultures and better capabilities. Our people are the innovators, the doers, the passion and energy, and the fuel for growth.

Companies have to be more comprehensive, creative, and customer-centric. The only way to navigate the multiple avenues of growth is to develop a clear and cohesive strategy that is completely designed around the customer. Growth comes from a clear strategy and exceptional customer experiences. That requires great people who work together with a powerful brand as both strategic vision and blueprint for the experience.

Brands grow businesses grow brands

Your brand and your business interact to generate growth. Both internally and externally, the brand is the thing that people “hold on” to, aligning them within your organization and connecting them to those you’re trying to serve. Your brand is therefore a proxy for your business: it drives your market, product, and service strategy by helping to determine where and how far you can grow.

Understanding the dynamics of your brand and business is essential. Starting with the business, you have to connect the dots between your internal culture and the market and translate that proposition clearly and powerfully to customers in the market.

Revealing the Anatomy of Growth

To nurture, accelerate, and sustain growth for your company and its employees, there are three crucial steps:

  • Create a platform to describe your brand and business in Forensic Detail
  • Generate the Creative Fuel to power your brand and business progress
  • Develop Sustained Focus to ensure that growth is continuous

Forensic Detail

Know your customer, know yourself. Taking the time to truly know your customer, and how your capabilities and people serve and connect to them, is critical for real growth. And, it provides a significant advantage.

Asking—and answering—questions like: “How clearly is my business and brand strategy understood?” “Why do people choose my brand; what makes it stand out?” “How committed, responsive, and strong is my team?” “Am I making the best use of my resources to deliver a positive ROI?” and “Is my total experience connected and cohesive?” are crucial.

Forensic detail is what yields real, actionable insights. With unprecedented access to data, it’s ever more critical to use analytics to cull these, and to be singularly focused on the ones that matter most.

What results is a clear road map, one that’s based on hard data and led by the needs of real people, one that can be easily understood and adopted by everyone in your organization, each clearly understanding their role and end goal—a road map that helps engineer and accelerate growth.


Creative Fuel

Growth is a continuous process of curiosity, learning, and development—one that’s natural to all of us. To grow, you need to first empower the people within your organization. To generate the creative energy your business needs, people need the permission to challenge, the freedom to try—and the courage to fail.

When employees know they can make a difference, they do. It’s crucial to build the clarity, communication, and trust that fosters this thinking. Once you’re able to empower individuals personally, the positive effects will ripple outward across your entire organization, to your agencies and partners, and out into the real world.

People fuel the growth of your business. Whether it’s giving employees the creative freedom to innovate or listening to your customers to create more impactful experiences, “How will this affect real people?” should be the first and last question you ask yourself.

Sustained Focus

Growing at a healthy, continuous rate takes vision underpinned by orchestration at every level—from people to processes. It’s one thing to create a process for change, but to ensure that those initiatives stick, you need to improve the skills and capabilities of the people responsible for administering that change every day at the ground level.

Today’s marketing teams oversee and influence more of the customer experience than ever. You need an approach that the entire organization can align around—that will boost brand and business performance among all teams, agencies, geographies, functions, stakeholders, and the entire brand experience.

Growth is not a statistic, nor is it simply about hiring more employees. It’s your way of working, a process that’s made real in the market: the careful governance of the people, processes, and platforms necessary to support and succeed.

This year’s Best Global Brands from Interbrand clearly understand their Anatomy of Growth, but to remain successful, we all need to accept that success is complex, nuanced, and personal. For each brand, growth means something different, and every story is unique. Best Global Brands are looking inward and outward, expanding into new markets, creating better experiences. They’re not just weathering change, they’re driving it.

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