I am a believer that "branding" needs to be undertaken from the inside out. It should not be viewed as the cloths a business wears. Branding should be viewed as the very essence and soul of the business. Authenticity is the watchword.
Before any creative work is done to position a business the purpose of the creativity needs to be defined and that purpose needs to link directly to the companies story and the customers it is creating. The people who know and set the direction of the business are, of course, it's leaders. Therefore to properly manage the meaning you want people to connect to your brand you will need to get the leaders engaged in the branding process so that an authentic story and accurate business strategy are both being considered throughout the process and beyond.
Know all this but wondering where to start? Great. This post is for you. The simple answer is to start with asking "why"?
Simon Sinek is a leadership coach and author who gave an incredible TED Talk entitled "Start with Why". I would suggest this would be a very useful video to circulate to all leaders at the start of a branding process because it explains that "why" you are doing something is perhaps the most important thing to know if you want people to follow you. This is crucial to understand in terms of the branding process. First we need our teams to get on board and follow us and then we need our customers to do the same. If we have a strong reason 'why' we are doing what we are doing we ourselves can keep motivated and check our activities to see if this is in accordance with our why or not. It is a belief system. A star in the sky to guide us.
Watch the TED Talk here:
Buy Simon's book here:
The Golden Circle
Simon Sinek boils his idea down to something he calls "The Golden Circle". I have found this simple model to be very useful and effective to discuss and fill in with leadership teams. In the heart of the circle is "Why" - then there is a ring surrounding that entitled "How". Finally there is another ring surrounding both "How" and "Why" entitled "What".
Why this is useful is that it can be used to show that most people know "What" they do. They understand the products or the services they sell. Also, most people understand "How" they do it - through innovation, product development, logistics, marketing, sales etc. But (and here's the punch-line) not many people know "Why" they do what they do and those that do know why are not always good at articulating their why which means other people cannot easily join them on their journey. From a branding perspective we cannot tell an effective brand story without understanding the businesses collective "Why".
I always like to ask early on in a business relationship "why do you exist"?
How I use the Golden Circle
So how do you use this? Well it's simple. Get your leaders in a room. Buy some pens and Post-it Notes. Explain that branding is all about the meaning we want people to attach to us and that to build a brand and create effective communications and we therefore need to discover and define our brand story. To produce an authentic story we fist need to understand why we exist. Explain the Golden Circle concept to them - draw the golden circle on the biggest wipeable suffice you can find. Then get them to split into groups (usually 4-5 people per group is good ideally with no more than three groups).
Follow Simon's advice. Get them first to come up with a "Why" statement. If the group struggles it is sometimes useful to show examples of why statements. You can reframe this by asking them what does the company believe (e.g. "We believe that...") or maybe by focusing on purpose (e.g. "Our purpose is to ensure that..."). Gather the group around and get each group to present their statement to the room. Allow discussion. Refine until you get a statement which works and which accurately represents the heart and soul of the leaders in the room.
From there you can then get them to fill out the "How" and "What". As Post-it notes fly in you might like to challenge whether a specific How or What is a true manifestation of the "What". If there are discrepancies then these would need to be discussed in another session.
Once you have done this exercise you then have the basis to further the process in creating an effective brand story. I hope you have found this helpful. Keep coming back for more tools like this to help you in the branding process.