Why Supply Chain Branding and Storytelling are critical in this world of Innovation Idolatry

“Great innovation needs great Marketing” – Denise Yohn, Leading Brand Consultant

Wonder why……?

Do you wonder why the market is extremely forgiving towards likes of Amazon making losses, due to investment in strategic ventures but expects those in constant war with Amazon, just to survive, show profits every quater.

These “other” companies may have been initial laggards but I am pretty sure they are trying to invest in innovation desperately. Some like Walmart may not have been laggards at all but “best in class” in their Industry by existing standards. Yet, market does not condone any of them….only Amazon. Why? As Prof. Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketin at NYU highlights:

” Amazon has essentially changed the relationship between companies and shareholders. It has replaced profits with vision and growth. It has changed the entire ecosystem because companies and investors are no longer satisfied with a company that is not growing but profitable or are growing slowly and profitable. They want something that has tremendous vision and is growing fast and they’re willing to ignore a lack of profitability. It has done this by creating an idiolatary of innovation”

And how did they do this ? Again, Prof. Galloway has the answer:

“Amazon has developed storytelling as the new competency.”

Storytelling has become the new strategy

Amazon has very prudently weaved its innovation with the art of storytelling. By developing a methodology of showcasing to its stakeholders the innovative investments it makes, and then tying them to the future capabilities, a future where Amazon may not have any competitors. Eventually, the jedi mind trick works so heavily, that anything you do is considered a step towards something innovative.

The same holds for Tesla. EVs are far away from mass consumption but likes of Tesla and Rivian excite Wall Street. They are built on the platform of innovation. All the marketing blitz and gimmic that Musk creates is a carefully crafted campaign….a campaign that Wall Street lves to believe it.

So how does this Storytelling strategy pertain to your Supply Chain ?

In one sentence: You need to build a brand for your Supply Chain.

Almost as if your Supply Chain was a product. So we will now split this dicsussion into two sub topics:

  • Why you need to build your Supply Chain brand
  • How you can build your Supply Chain brand

Why you need to build your Supply Chain brand

We know that for many industries, Supply Chain are the core of their competitive mojo. Creating a competency of a Supply Chain enabled by technology and algorithm will help some leading organizations rule the world of business and eCommerce. But every organization that has these capabilities, makes sure that the world knows about these “ledaing edge” capabilities.

Branding your supply chain is about delivering on the promises of your brand with a supply chain that inspires customer and partner loyalty in the long term. A branded Supply Chain, which has a brand of say agility, innovation and flexibility will:

(1) Help build your corporate brand as customers will tie the product with swift and efficient service

(2) Attract world class talent, that then takes your Supply Chain to another level, and this keeps repeating, as you can see in the case of Amazon. Bright talent wants to work on what is “best in class” but they need to know that your Supply Chain is a best in class Supply Chain.

(3) Attract more innovation. Other partner companies in the landscape will see you as a driver and generator of innovation in and through your Supply Chain. The opportunities to build strategic partnerships will expand exponentially.

(4) Provide you the lever to be more innovative. Kept this last since I have already emphasized this in the begining of the post. Once you build a brand that your Supply Chain propagates innovation, stakeholders and shareholders may allow you more lever and bandwidth, like those of Amazon, to build long term capabilities.

How can you build your Supply Chain brand

There are two components to this. One is the approach and the second aspect is how to “storytell” in that approach. In this post, I will discuss some approaches without going into storytelling methodology to keep the post crisp. I plan to write another post with an example that will illustrate the storytelling aspect. So some suggested approaches (not exhaustive) are:

(1) Push your Supply Chain leaders to build their personal brands. When I see someone considered an expert innovator and futurist in say procurement domain leading a strategic sourcing team, it conveys a message about the competency of that organization’s procurement organization

(2) Highlight your achievement on important platforms : Conferences are the best platforms to illustrate that you are doing a world class job. Do this 5 years in a row, five conferences each year and I cn guarantee you will run into someone during year 5 who will mention that they have heard some great things that your Supply Chain has done.

(3) Build strong relationships with leading Universities: This is where you send your star performers and innovators to essentially “brag” about good things you have done. This builds a brand that helps you not only build a talent pipeline but external influence as well. Many of these students will end up working for companies that may become your partners. And they will remember that your Supply Chain capabilities are “Best in Class”.

(4) Leverage Social and conventional media to get the message out: Got new Digital Supply Chain capabilities ? Have your leaders interviewed with Media highlighting that ? Even paid spots in the begining are fine- once the workd is out, they will come after you to get the scoop.



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