D-Day marketing.

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During World War II, the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) had been meticulously planned for years. British, Canadian, and American airborne forces planned and rehearsed for months a precise series of glider and parachute landings behind enemy lines that were designed to secure bridges, road junctions, and other key terrain that would enable the ground invasion forces to advance rapidly inland. The airborne invasion forces took off from England hours ahead of the ground forces, exactly as planned.

It didn’t take long, however, to realize all those long months of planning and rehearsal were for naught.

Paratroopers dropped into unmarked landing zones, miles from their intended targets. Gliders landed in the wrong areas. Thousands of soldiers from different units were thrown together in the dark of night, many not knowing exactly where they or their units were. Plus, as it turned out, the German resistance they encountered was much more fierce than was expected. It had all the makings of a military disaster.

And then something interesting happened. Despite all the misfires and lost opportunities, the military objectives were accomplished in mere hours by ad-hoc units that had somehow banded together to succeed. How could this have possibly happened when it appeared that so much had gone so terribly wrong? Through something known in the military as “Commander’s Intent.”

Commander’s Intent is effectively communicating the objectives of the operation down the line, so that every soldier, no matter what his role, knows what the end game is. In marketing, we also have our own version of Commander’s Intent. Your Brand Vision.

Your Brand Vision is what we refer to as “the one thing you aspire for your customers to say you do better than anyone else.” If you wish to hang your hat on a position of “great customer service,” then sell that vision down the line, and equip your people to deliver on it. Your Brand Vision represents the opportunity for everyone in your organization to work towards a common end, and add a personal touch while doing it.

One interesting thing about implementing a Brand Vision: despite the top-down directives you may put into place to ensure it is being delivered, the most surprising and delightful implementations of it are by the folks who deliver on it as only they could. Military personnel are trained to employ a “Spectrum of Improvisation” when they execute Commander’s Intent. So, too, can you train your team members. If your focus is for your organization to be “helpful and friendly,” rather than sweat over every possible touchpoint opportunity, you can simply hire the most “helpful and friendly” people and let them loose on their own “Spectrum of Improvisation.” Incentivize them to come up with creative ways to express the Brand Vision. Give recognition when they deliver on the Brand Vision.

And just like on D-Day, when the best laid plans start going sideways, an effective Brand Vision gives team members a “compass” of sorts to help them direct their actions. It helps them find their own ways to get to the “end game” that the organization stands for.

Commander’s Intent saved D-Day. And who knows, it could save your day.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.

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