What is a brand? And what does it mean to ride for the brand?
Having grown up on a farm, I know brands and branding well. In farm and ranch life, a brand is an identifier for your livestock, a symbol imprinted on an animal’s skin/hide. (There are other forms beyond the iron branding tool, such as ear tags to identify ownership, i.e., to which farmer that animal belonged.) According to The Cowboy Accountant™, “In the early days of the American west, a brand was a ranch’s trademark, used to separate and document ownership of livestock. The brand also represented pride, duty, and stewardship, which inspired loyalty and dedication.”
In the business world, brands and branding take on a different meaning, but not all that different. According to The Common Language Marketing Dictionary, “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.” That’s not all that different from the definition above. They continue, “ISO brand standards add that a brand ‘is an intangible asset’ that is intended to create ‘distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values.’” Others would define a brand simply as: “Whatever the customer says it is.” It’s what the customer perceives it to be. As we know, when we think about our favorite brands, especially some of the iconic/cult brands, they represent pride and stewardship, and they inspire loyalty and dedication.
The brand isn’t something you earn. It’s something you live up to. -John Dutton, Yellowstone
When I first read about Ride For the Brand, a poem/song by Red Steagall (although I do believe that Louis L’Amour was the original “ride for the brand” author), I was intrigued because it fits well with everything we as customer experience professionals talk and write about when it comes to both employee experience and customer experience. The words – and more importantly, the meaning – are especially focused on the employee experience and being loyal to your employer, an important consideration in the relationship between not only ranch employer and employee but also employees and employers in the general business world.
Imagine my surprise. As I was researching “ride for the brand,” I came across an article about a school in my kids’ school district that lives the mantra of “ride for the brand.” They not only adopted this mantra but totally embrace it. The senior class student body president, back in 2014, said, “Last year, when we began to chant RFTB at football games, it showed that we were all unified under one cause; we all had the same goal, and we were all proud of our school.”
I believe that’s what this phrase embodies: Unite. Ride for the cause. Ride for a common goal. Be proud of who you ride for.
Think about your scenario. As an employee, how did you end up here, with your particular employer? What pulled you in? Was it purely the job and the salary? Or was it more than that? Was it the company’s core values? its purpose? what the brand stands for? corporate causes and social responsibility? These are all important considerations as you think about riding for the brand.
I recently wrote about interviewing for culture fit and hiring for culture fit – and whose responsibility it is. I think those are important first steps to getting the right employees on board, employees who will ride for the brand. Other ways that employees will align with the brand include with the mission statement, the brand promise, and the brand purpose. These will all be critical to aligning with the brand and riding for the brand. Staying loyal to what matters is critical to this line of thinking.
Going back to the high school in my kids’ school district, this statement rings loud and true: “When Stallions ride for something bigger than themselves, it not only benefits them as an individual, but it has a positive effect on the entire school. Riding for the brand is what will set our school apart from the others school in our district. Not every school has an unselfish mentality and thinking about others as a core value of their school.” Reminds me of this post, Who Are Your Employees Playing For?
The Cowboy Accountant shared his thoughts on the topic. I love this:
“When we give an honest day’s work, each day and every day, we are more personally satisfied with our efforts and ironically we’re seen as more valuable by an organization. And, more valuable means more frequent promotions, bigger raises, and extra bonuses. So, if we want to improve ourselves professionally, perhaps we can think like the cowboy and ride for the brand. Each day and every day, no matter how tired we may be and no matter how much we may disagree with the strategic direction, because, well, just like the cowboy that’s what we agreed to do. It’s the promise we’ve made and the code we live by. In that way, whether we’ve ever thrown a leg over a horse, roped a cow, or enjoyed a meal from the back of a chuck wagon, we are living the cowboy way of life and enjoying the tangible and intangible benefits that accrue to us.”
The next time you interview for a new gig – or even today as you think about the job you have and why you joined the company – consider that. Did you know what you signed up for? Are you riding for the brand? Or just for the paycheck?
Play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. -Tommy Lasorda
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.