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Perhaps we, too, need to changeâ€”without moving or being acquired. There is perhaps a point where concepts like brand, culture, and community begin to merge. Dana Beth Ardi, a human capital partner at JPMorgan Partners, has commented on this phenomenon in a recent issue of Forbes ASAP magazine. She noted that the new economy represented by the â€śdot.comâ€ť revolution was really a reconceptualization of the very definition of â€śwork.â€ť The knowledge workers of the new economy wanted to join communities, not companies. They rallied to the
concept of â€śbrandâ€ť and â€ścultureâ€ť as ways of identifying with these communities, and saw the building of a brand as a sort of process of creating their own identities as they went. Aided by flat forms of organization, she notes, the â€ś...seeds of the Human Capital Movement were planted and cultivated. This has forever changed the way Americans work.â€ť5
Perhaps we as a profession can more profitably think of ourselves not only as employees of organization A or B, but also as members of a community defined by professional skills and interests. In being members of that communityâ€”of forensic professionalsâ€”we may find more value to ourselves and bring more value to our organization, whether it be A or B.
5. A brand represents only its past.
Bedbury here notes that success can be a double-edged sword: It can build and sustain growthâ€”to a point, but if the base product or message is too narrow, there will eventually come a time when the flower outgrows the pot. He notes that Nike had this problem. They were highly successful with competitive male athletes and had adopted a â€świmps need not applyâ€ť tone to their corporate message. The problem was that there was a natural limit to the size of this market. Nike needed to expand its market to women, casual athletes, older people, and those who would purchase the brand for simple mall walks, but they needed to do this without losing their solid male/serious athlete base. Bedbury notes the â€śJust Do Itâ€ť campaign was the answer they found after one or two false starts. It had a much broader appeal without losing contact with the base of support.
We are not in the shoe business, but we do have an audienceâ€”customers, if you will. Who are they? Is this base too narrow and, if so, how can we expand it without losing touch with the primary core? If we are part of the organizationâ€™s audit function, does this mean we have no value to corporate finance, legal, human resources, public relations, or risk management? We may perhaps benefit greatly if we start thinking about our profession as a sales organization with customers. How do we get more customers?
6. A brand lacks width.
Bedbury suggests five steps to increase brandwidth. The first is co-branding; partnering with another entity that brings value to your core business because they have resources or capabilities that you do not. We saw earlier that this was one of the more common strategies adopted by many law enforcement organizations as they began to rethink the business they were in. Bedbury notes that when Starbucks aligned with United Airlines, each partner got a benefit: United was able to serve its customers a premium coffee during their flight and Starbucks got exposed to people who had perhaps never tried their product.
Second, try to achieve brand extension. Bedbury recounts the experience of Time magazine, which for years had a popular section in each edition about
interesting people. Time saw the potential in expanding on this interest, and People magazine was born. So successful was People that it, in turn, spun off another publication, Teen People.
Starbucks also sought new distribution channels, Bedbury notes third. In addition to their effort with United Airlines, Starbucks also put whole bean and ground coffee products into 30,000 grocery stores to create a complementary channel for their product. Now the folks coming off those United flights had even more opportunities to find the product to which they had been exposed.
The fourth step cited by Bedbury is new product categories. Ralph Lauren now has a line of home paints. Martha Stewart moved from culinary interests into an entire line of clothing and other products. Starbucks, in the coffee business, launched a brand of coffee ice cream that in six months became the best-selling coffee ice cream in the country.
Finally, per Bedbury, consider creating a subbrand. Nike is a successful brand, but Air Jordan is an even more successful subbrand. Toyota has long been a force in the automotive business, but its Lexus subbrand is even better known, and many buyers are only vaguely aware that it is a Toyota product.
The possibilities of these concepts in the forensic profession are intriguing. Partnerships seem to be a natural avenue to explore, and perhaps many forensic professionals operate in that mode today. Other possibilities are surely present, if not evident. We need to think clearly about what we produce. Is it investigations, service, analysis of data, responsiveness, or some mixture? Whatever it is, it is capable of being thought of as a product and, thereby, may well obey the laws of marketing and branding. We may wish to ponder the benefits of so doing.