Faced with accelerating technological, social and economic change, we know businesses are fast becoming more responsive to market forces, and are more adept at thinking about and initiating critical transformations.

While “innovate or die” and “disrupt or be disrupted” take hold as corporate mantras today, the executive stewards and staffers of traditional functions within organizations are grappling with exactly what transformation means to them. The desire to transform is often accompanied by confusion: What needs to change and why? What are the desired and measureable effects of change? How can change be coordinated for maximum growth across the enterprise?

It’s useful and essential to break down your corporate transformation in the context of product, platform and brands.

Product

A product is your item or service (it can be one of many) offered for sale to meet a need in your markets. It can be physical or exist in virtual or digital form. Products have life cycles, and may undergo a few or many iterations and overhauls during their lifetime to remain competitive and relevant to customers and targets.

Platform

A platform is defined as a set of common elements that are shared and support a broader range of products or service offerings. These elements can be an underlying delivery and distribution system (such as a portal or an e-commerce platform), a technology or simply common parts and components, such as in auto manufacturing. Often a platform can be leveraged for both company brands and third-party brands.

Brands

A brand is an image of your company or product that, over time, becomes associated with a level of quality, credibility and satisfaction in your customers’ minds and establishes an expectation for future experiences with them.

Understanding the pain points, the opportunities and the interaction of product, platform and brand are essential to making and sustaining effective business transformations.

For example, a brand may have an excellent reputation with few liabilities to correct, but its value over the long haul can be at risk should product innovation and platform development not keep pace with market and customer expectations. Often, these expectations are reset by a “disruptive” competitor. Similarly, product innovation and platform development can come too late to breath new life into a damaged brand. In that case the brand itself will need an overhaul.

To illustrate how product, platform and brand can interact to drive exponential growth in the digital marketplace in a truly transformative way we need to look no further than Apple and the introduction of the iPhone. The first iPhone was a single product and proprietary system—with apps carefully controlled by Apple. As third-party developers began storming the gate (literally through hacking) to gain access to a fast-expanding universe of iPhone users, Apple recognized the iPhone as an app delivery platform was the true innovation—the golden goose. So today, Apple embraces an open iPhone strategy enhanced by a derivative brand and capability, the App Store, through which Apple is reaping rewards of both its own product sales as well as royalties from thousands of third-party developers. By adopting open access, Apple also polished its brand image to consumers as being more user-friendly and contemporary. Apple has dominated the market for smartphones ever since.

There are many other examples of product, platform and brand strategy synchronization that have achieved remarkable results. The important thing is, are you considering the critical interplay between each of these three elements in your transformation process today?