There is another piece of news coming out of Silicon Valley aside from the banking debacle. And, that is Meta’s “year of efficiency” planning. Apparently, Meta’s leader, Mark Zuckerberg, has just discovered the benefits of financial discipline and operational excellence. In his recent memo to Meta employees, Mr. Zuckerberg indicated that this year will require a flatter and leaner organization. These principles are not new. Many enterprises have jiggered with organizational structures and more disciplined financial approaches to maintain margins and grow profits by cost cutting, zero-based budgeting and other elements of financial engineering.
And, so, Meta’s “year of efficiency” will revolve around financial discipline and organizational alignment. This is a mistake. It is not enough to be disciplined financially and reorganized in an efficient manner. For brand-business success, two additional elements are needed. The brand-business’ most important action is addressing its people. And, for a winning brand-business revitalization, articulating brand-business goals is critical.
Of course, refocusing a brand-business requires improved financial discipline with a dedication to operational excellence. But, the refocus also requires leadership marketing and revitalized brand goals.
Financial discipline is about stopping the bleeding, eliminating waste and improving productivity. Doing these three actions gives the brand-business the right to grow. Caution is also required. When a brand-business finds itself in a troubling situation, the focus tends to be reducing costs rather than building brand-business value. Eliminating waste and improving productivity are a continuing challenge. But, cost-cutting takes a brand-business only so far. A brand–business needs plans, goals, people and actions that will deliver high-quality revenue growth leading to enduring profitable growth.
Financial discipline must be more than cost cutting. Meta says that it needs to be better at resource allocation and improved productivity. Meta also indicates that its headcount is part of the problem. But, some of this resource allocation and improved productivity must provide updating and increasing the quality of innovations and refreshing the brand-business experience. A brand-business cannot cost cut its way to enduring profitable growth.
The real commitment, understanding and value of financial discipline relates to how the brand-business is managed. Is the commitment to organic growth? Cost reduction? Acquisition? Financial discipline is one area where the brand-business has immense control.
Along with financial discipline, there are the two other drivers of quality top-line growth: operational excellence and leadership marketing.
Operational excellence is delighting the user with a branded experience so that an increasing number of them look forward to interacting and potentially purchasing more often. Operational excellence focuses on improving the experience quality which includes the service experience, the actual product experience and the environment in which these interactions take place, user expectations and minimizing waste. Operational excellence decreases costs and improves customer satisfaction.
The “year of efficiency” needs effectiveness as well. There will be little effectiveness without leadership marketing. Leadership marketing gets users to Meta’s websites. Operational excellence takes place while users interact with Meta’s websites.
Leadership marketing is not about advertising per se. First and foremost, leadership marketing focuses on the brand-business’ people. Customer-focused employees come first. Internal alignment is a must-do action. A committed culture is critical. Employees are the frontline when to comes to customer relationships, regardless of brand-business type. Internal brand pride is an essential success factor affecting external brand-business outcomes.
No matter how great the financial discipline and operational excellence, a brand-business cannot be revitalized if its people are not proud, are uninspired or lack trust in management and its decisions. What a brand-business does not want are employees who tell their friends not to work at Meta.
At Meta, reports are that employees “sparred” with CEO Zuckerberg because Mr. Zuckerberg’s town hall address focused on corporate outcomes alone. The assumption articulated was that in a leaner, more efficient organization, employees would be happier as there would be fewer roadblocks.
Along with addressing employees, leadership marketing focuses on attracting new users to the brand, encouraging current users to interact and purchase more often and increasing user loyalty. With a strong foundation of financial discipline and operational excellence, the brand-business is ready for effective marketing. Leadership marketing is not defined by how big the brand-business is; it is all about how big the brand-business acts. Leadership marketing is not defined by the size of the brand-business, but by the size of the ideas. This means anticipating user needs. It means innovating and renovating, not merely responding to the competition.
It is unfortunate the “year of efficiency” does not include leadership marketing. Being lean and efficient will make Meta look good short-term. But, Meta will still struggle relative to competition without leadership marketing.
And, then, there are goals. Where are we headed? What is the vision for the brand-business? Is there an aspirational, yet attainable North Star? Observers write that this “year of efficiency” has been spurred by the lackluster performance of the heavily-invested metaverse vision.
With all of the changes at Meta, there must be a common, articulated, inspirational definition for Meta’s purpose and promise. Having energizing common goals is a first step in a brand-business revitalization. Without these definitions, Meta is at a disadvantage. The common brand-business differentiating goals provide a motivating declaration of the brand-business’ over-arching mission. Where is the informed judgment defining the clear sense of direction? Meta’s brand purpose and promise will clarify the strategic vision for the brand. It is all well and good that Meta will be leaner and “execute its highest priorities faster.”
But, its employees are still consumers. They will be less interested in the brand-business model. They will be more interested in what it means to them and what role they are to play in the grand scheme of things.
Brand purpose and promise motivate and stimulate an organization in ways that financial discipline and operational excellence alone cannot.
Employees want to know what are the common goals, and what is the common brand purpose. People want to know what is going on and where they are when the situation is in flux or on a down turn or stalled. Everyone expects to know in what direction they are moving. Employees have questions; Is the brand-business on a road to financial health? Are we allocating resources to key areas? Do we all share the same vision for the brand-business’ future?
A brand-business needs financial discipline, operational excellence, leadership marketing along with galvanizing purpose and promise. This is the most effective way to create a cohesive and collaborative culture that runs efficiently, generating high-quality revenue growth while generating enduring profitable growth.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Larry Light, Author of The Paradox Planet: Creating Brand Experiences For The Age Of I
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education