Finding your brand mandate

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What gives you the right to sell a product/service at margin today? It’s easy to assume you have a brand mandate. Or that you deserve one. But what is your brand doing to earn/retain the mandate it wants/has?

Defining brand mandate

Let’s start by defining what we mean by brand mandate. If the role of brand definition is to answer questions about why (purpose), where (positioning) and what (values), brand mandate focuses on defining how you operate. A strong brand mandate enables you to set distinctive boundaries within which your brand will operate going forward.

Done well, brands make conscious decisions through their mandate that set out how they intend to press forward. The role of a mandate is to set aside the reasons that brands think they deserve a place in market, and instead focus on the rules they set themselves for how they will be most effective.

It’s not yours as of right

It’s easy to assume you automatically have a brand mandate. You exist – so you must have a mandate, right? Yes and no. Yes, in that you are a brand. But no, in that unless you have a mandate that enables you to meaningfully carve out space in a market, you really only have a license to participate.

You don’t have a brand mandate because you opened. Presence isn’t enough.

It can’t be because you worked hard to get here (past tense). Because then you’re relying on your history.

You do not have a mandate because you’re doing a good job. Because most everyone’s doing a good job.

Ditto service, people, methodologies, products, channels, technologies, systems, processes, efficiencies … for most companies anyway.

The four aspects of brand mandate

To forge a true brand mandate, consider four things:

  • Role – your biggest responsibility as a brand in a market with multiple participants
  • Audience – the customer base that will best respond to the role you have given yourselves
  • Offer – what a brand with your role in a market brings to your customer base
  • Extent – how you choose to commit to delivering your offer

Defining your role

One of the most powerful things a brand can do is to define *who* you will be in the market. There are any number of ways to do this, but here are four examples:

  • Market leader – the brand responsible for leading the sector forward. Usually the biggest player in the market. Tends to take a defensive position.
  • Market driver – the brand responsible for driving change into a market as an innovator and/or opinion former.
  • Market challenger – the brand that takes it upon itself to challenge the status quo, usually by picking a fight with the market leader
  • Market equaliser – a brand that sets out to right a wrong in the marketplace, usually by making the market more accessible and/or more affordable.

Locating your audience

Choosing a market role in many ways defines who you will then focus on in terms of audience segmentation. If you see your role as the market leader, for example, then your focus will be on building a scale-based audience of current and emerging buyers.

By contrast, if you choose to be the market equaliser, chances are you’re banking on opening up access to a market for those who have previously been shut out or who have stayed away.

Distilling the offer

So many brands that we deal with retain a generalised view of the value they bring to a market. Your brand mandate draws on the role you see for yourselves and the audience that you are focused on to distil your offer to its most compelling form. A market driver, for example, that is intent on marketing to an established but restless audience, will need to concentrate on introducing freshness and new energy into its offer. Their goal will be a twist to the offer that their audience finds familiar but intriguing.

Defining extent

One way of doing this if you want to be the market challenger for example, may be to adopt the challenger brand mentality and obsess on one aspect that others either ignore or don’t do well. For example, you may choose to obsess on aesthetics or service or quality or delivery. In choosing to invest all your energies into that one area that your audience will respond to, you can reinforce the credibility and value of the role you have chosen.

Another strong definer of extent can be geography. Will you operate within all markets, or select markets? Will you be available physically – or not? In deciding your presence, you will need to weigh up things like the advantages and disadvantages of availability, and the signals those decisions send to customers in terms of convenience.

Bookmarked by your strategy (which defines where you are heading) on one side and the distinctive value you will deliver on the other, your brand mandate sets the scene for the story you will tell.

Think of your brand mandate as your playbook. It establishes your place in a market and the rules for how you as a brand will deliver on your strategy. It also forms the basis for why customers will value you and the payoffs for them doing so.

When we are resolving these aspects in a big picture change programme like our Plan to Thrive, we do so in the following order:

  • Define your future
  • Mandate your role
  • Define your value
  • Share your story

Creating your brand mandate

Your brand mandate is in point of fact your brand’s right to compete. To create yours, factor in things like the scarcity of what you offer, or the richness of the ideas that you encourage.

Consider the loyalty you forge, or the need you are meeting that your competitors don’t.

Examine the insights you’ve developed and applied that are truly valuable, or the excitement you generate, or the journey you’re taking people on, or how you are looking to generate the most wonderful change …

Better yet, think about how you’re combining ideas and where that’s taking you. Then capture all that in a brand narrative/manifesto that articulates what you’re doing to be truly special.

Tell yourselves that. And hold your brand culture accountable to that mandate. Every day.

The right to create value

Carlos Zwikker has looked at the role of mandate in the context of innovation. His perspectives inform our definition and add important insights.

Zwikker sees a mandate as a way for those responsible for new ideas and disruptive thinking to be protected from the existing business.

Value creation, he says, takes time and those responsible for making it happen need to be protected from business-as-usual pressures. “The mandate defines your innovation or value creation strategy: why do you innovate/create value, within which barriers (driven by the company’s Direction) does innovation/value creation need to deliver and the definition of success metrics for innovation/value creation.”

To do this effectively, Zwikker advocates three measures:

  • Your innovation strategy needs to be linked to your business strategy and vice versa.
  • The mandate needs to be accepted and adopted by the C-Suite of the company.
  • There needs to be a clear mandate governance needs to be specified. “The team needs to report into a body that not only understands the working of innovation and value creation but has accepted and adopted the requirements and ways to assess success of innovation and value creation.”

These ideas apply equally to setting the mandate for how your brand operates.

Bringing your brand mandate to life

If you’re looking to identify your brand mandate, we can help in a couple of ways. We can run a strategic session with your senior decision makers to set out a framework based on your wider strategic objectives. Or if you’re clear about where you need to operate, use our Audacity consulting services to eloquently capture your thinking.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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