From management-led to belief-led brand management — the key to faster scaling for modern brands

For many years, brand management has always been a top-down, management-led endeavor by the leadership team and marketing managers to unify a brand’s image. However, in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, this traditional brand management approach has started showing signs of inadequacy. A central brand champion, brand guardian, or brand management office can no longer keep up with the evolving requirements a brand must meet to stay relevant in its customers’ minds. To make matters worse, the evolving customer expectations further accelerate the downfall of this tired approach. As a result, it’s not strange for brand owners and managers to set out to explore new approaches to brand management. In this article, we will discuss belief-led brand management, a novel approach to branding that many household brands employ, and how it can remedy the shortcomings of its management-led predecessor.


Belief-led brand management centers on cultivating strong brand beliefs that guide a brand's actions, decisions, and behaviors. These core values foster emotional connections with customers, employees, and stakeholders, exemplified by IKEA's commitment to improving lives. Unlike traditional management-led approaches, belief-led management decentralizes brand management responsibilities throughout the organization. This approach reduces bottlenecks, allows quick adaptation to emerging fields, and facilitates collaboration with experts. Transitioning to belief-led brand management involves three steps: rediscovering and clarifying brand beliefs, nurturing these beliefs within the organization through education and internal champions, and accelerating growth by conveying beliefs to internal and external stakeholders, optimizing approaches based on KPIs. Embracing belief-led management can enhance brand loyalty, equity, and emotional connections, setting the stage for brand growth and success.

What is belief-led brand management?

Before we talk about belief-led brand management in detail, let us first redefine what brand beliefs are.

Brand beliefs are the core values, principles, and ideals a brand stands for and strives to embody. They reflect the purpose and meaning behind the brand and serve as a guiding light for the brand’s actions, decisions, and behaviors. Brand beliefs are crucial in shaping a brand’s present and future and help create a deeper emotional connection with customers, employees, and stakeholders.

For example, IKEA’s brand belief “to create a better everyday life for the many people” is evident in its wide range of well-designed and functional home furnishings that are sold at affordable prices worldwide. This belief is further demonstrated by the brand’s commitment to supporting education and humanitarian initiatives through the IKEA Foundation and partnerships with organizations such as UNICEF.

Strong brand beliefs are brand beliefs that resonate with customers, employees, and stakeholders. This resonation will further lead to strong brand loyalty and brand equity, create and reinforce brand advocacy, making strong brand beliefs one of the critical drivers for brand growth.

What, then, is belief-led brand management? Belief-led brand management is a brand management approach that puts the focus on building strong brand beliefs, conveying and continuously reinforcing brand beliefs for sustainable brand growth.

Why should you consider belief-led brand management over traditional approaches?

The shortcomings of management-led brand management

Now that we’ve defined belief-led brand management, the next question is why belief-led over management-led?

Let us first discuss the shortcomings of the traditional management-led approach.

Traditionally, management-led brand management puts all the power and responsibility for managing and growing a brand into the hands of brand owners, brand managers, and marketing managers. As the brand’s organization grows, this centralized power and responsibility would oftentimes lead to an incomplete understanding of the brand among the newly expanded branches of the organization due to speed factors. In extreme cases, this may lead to different units operating and communicating different values that would not only be off-brand but also cause confusion among the target audience.

In addition, with the rise of new technological advances, such as the appearance of Web3 technologies, brands are constantly exploring new opportunities for growth. However, many brands quickly hit the bottleneck as, more often than not, their central brand management office lacks the ability and knowledge to expand into these new fields. To remedy this, brands employing the traditional management-led brand management approach have no choice but to look for managers who can fill in the gap of the current central office. Yet, with more and more brands eyeing to enter the “blue sea” of marketing, the war for talents with experience and knowledge in brand management and the new fields is heating up quickly. This, in turn, pushes smaller brands with limited budgets and time into a dead end despite the growing possibilities for accelerated brand growth.

How belief-led brand management could remedy the shortcomings of its predecessor

Unlike management-led brand management, belief-led management focuses on decentralizing the responsibility and power of brand management and sharing it equally among the brand’s organization. Due to this concept, belief-led brand management seeks a complete understanding, acceptance, and implementation of the brand’s beliefs throughout different levels. This, in turn, leads to a reduced need for management, freeing up resources and allowing brands to easily accelerate their growth by directing resources to where they are truly needed.

Furthermore, as belief-led brand management seeks to share brand knowledge throughout a brand’s organization, it also reduces the need for individuals with knowledge in both brand management and newly emerged fields, as brand managers can now initiate collaboration with field experts more quickly. As a result, belief-led brand management contributes significantly to removing the bottleneck for brand growth, allowing brands to capture new opportunities more easily.

Transitioning from management-led brand management to belief-led brand management

The three-step process to transitioning to belief-led brand management

With the question of how belief-led brand management could remedy the shortcomings of its traditional predecessor, one last question remains: how can brands, then, transition from management-led to belief-led?

Fortunately for brand owners and managers, with household brands pioneering in belief-led brand management, you no longer need to fear having to cruise through uncharted water. Experience and studies have revealed a three-step process for transitioning from management-led to belief-led brand management: rediscovering, nurturing, and accelerating.

Step 1: Rediscovering

The first step to transitioning from management-led to belief-led brand management is straightforward: rediscovering and clarifying the brand’s beliefs.

As belief-led brand management focuses on building strong brand beliefs, conveying and continuously reinforcing brand beliefs for sustainable brand growth, it’s natural that the first step for transitioning into this novel approach is to clarify the brand’s beliefs. To achieve this, brand owners and managers should start by redefining the brand’s vision, purposes, and values. Consider holding brainstorming sections or workshops with other key stakeholders, especially those in the leadership position, and encourage discussion among participating members. It doesn’t matter if the workshops and sections result in the same old vision, purposes, and values. This is because, more than coming up with impressive disruptive ideas and visions, we want to achieve a common understanding between all key members responsible for steering the brand.

As you redefine your brand’s values, also take the time to conduct surveys and interviews among your brand’s employees to also find out what is driving your brand’s culture. Your goal here is to gain insight into what values or factors may resonate with your employees, as values that resonate are more likely to be remembered and upheld.

With both the redefined brand vision, purposes, values, and insights into what’s driving your organization’s culture, you can now summarize and present your brand’s beliefs inside a statement. This statement doesn’t have to be long. It can be one A4 page, it can be one paragraph, or it can be one single sentence, one single phrase. Patagonia’s “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” and Airbnb’s “belong anywhere” are all great examples that could serve as your inspiration.

Step 2: Nurturing

Once your journey to rediscover brand beliefs has reached its end, your next step will be to start strengthening the brand beliefs within the brand’s organization. This step ensures that the defined brand beliefs are thoroughly understood, accepted, and upheld at all levels within the organization. Without complete acceptance, it will be difficult for brands to convey and convince their beliefs to the external audience. In this step, brand owners and managers can employ methods such as initiating educational and training programs or creating short courses to educate employees about the brand beliefs and their importance. Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, brand owners and managers can also appoint internal brand champions at all levels within the organization to promote and speed up brand beliefs’ acceptance.

Furthermore, at this stage, brand owners and managers could start small experiments involving internal employees and carefully selected external brand advocates to discover the most appropriate approach for conveying brand beliefs to the brand’s target audience.

Step 3: Accelerating

Now that your organization has fully accepted the defined brand beliefs, it’s time for you, as a brand owner or manager, to hit on the gas and accelerate your brand’s growth.

Using the insights gained from your experiments with both your internal employees and selected external brand advocates, carefully craft your messages that incorporate your brand beliefs and convey them to your target audience. Remember that depending on the segmentation of your audience, a method that works well for a certain audience may not be as effective for another, so vary how you approach your audience carefully. Furthermore, to ensure your acceleration process is efficient (and that your investment is well-spent), set KPIs for measurements and conduct systematic studies to assess your efficiency, then optimize your approach as necessary.

In addition, don’t forget to keep on monitoring and pushing for internal training as needed, especially when your brand sees rapid growth and expansion with new waves of employees coming in. Without continuous training and monitoring, your brand beliefs may not be thoroughly understood and accepted by new employees, which may put some resistance to your brand’s growth.

Some last words

Any brand can transform into a belief-led brand by rediscovering and clarifying brand beliefs, nurturing the growth of these beliefs, and accelerating the process of conveying these beliefs to internal and external stakeholders. Embracing this new approach to brand management can lead to increased brand loyalty and equity and a deeper emotional connection with customers and employees. The benefits of belief-led brand management are numerous, and the impact on a brand’s growth and success can be substantial. So take the leap, invest in your brand, and reap the rewards of a successful belief-led brand transformation.

Do you have any other approach in mind for brand management? Don’t be shy and reach out! I always love connecting with like-minded brand strategists and fearless leaders looking to nurture the next generation of extraordinary brands.

Published on
February 8, 2023