Building brand’s is hard work.
Your “brand” consists of the meaning people attach to you and your offer. “Branding” is the attempt to manage that meaning.
And I get it. With this definition “Branding” can seem like a huge topic. It means thinking about every little thing your business is doing in the light of how your target audience perceives it. It means you need to have made a decision on who that audience is in the first place. It also means aligning your people around what good looks like. This is a daily task.
Sometimes it can seem easier to bumble around - grabbing opportunities and morphing and evolving as you go. But this can lead to a brand which stands for nothing. A brand which has nothing to say. A short term brand with no meaning or value attached to it.
The secret is to take some time out to define your brand principles. To create a high level strategy to hold you, your leadership team and your people accountable to. Principles which you can use to make better, joined up decisions around. A strategy which cuts through traditional business silos and planning but which holds all of your business initiatives in place. Something that is emotional. Inspirational and powerful. Simple but profound. Clear and focused.
But how best to define a brand?
There is no set way to do this. In essence a brand strategy is an intention. It lives in the minds of those who create it. The real challenge comes afterwards in making it live. But thats for later. For now we need to have this set out so that everyone can “get” it.
What is out there in the way of a solution to all the complexity?
The big brand questions
I like to build brands around what I call “the big brand questions” - namely
Why do we exist beyond making money?
Who do we exist to serve and why should they care?
How do we show up?
What is it that we are offering?
I find that once leaders can answer these questions simply and naturally, brands tend to begin to be built with more ease and purpose.
Usually, after doing a lot of research, interviewing customers and employees and working at length to uncover the drivers and decisions of leadership teams (usually over a series of workshops and discussions), I like to set out answers to these questions and all other relevant information in a “brand strategy document”. This is presented to leadership and then refined in order to settle on our strategy. Usually this is around 40 pages/slides long.
But will 40 pages be digested by everyone? We'd like to think it would but in reality it will not. After the initial excitement of the presentation the danger of having something that long is that it is too unwieldy to be of use. The thinking has to be there. It has to have depth. Be based on data and insights. It also has to reflect the ambitions of the leadership and have authentic substance. But 40 pages is 39 pages too long.
The one slide brand strategy
At the end of this document, I always think it’s helpful to have a single slide which summarises the key elements defined to answer each question.
Sometimes I’ll tweak the component parts (see this post for more info on brand definition) but ultimately you should be able to set out the high level, agreed upon concepts in one slide. Something like this:
Some of my client's print their’s out and pin on their office wall. They use it in their decision making. They hold themselves accountable to it. A one page brand strategy brings clarity. It brings alignment. It helps you build a more powerful brand.
Branding is never done
But definition is just the start. It’s making what you say live so that others say what is in your strategy document about you. That is when you know you are truly on track.
How do you do that? Through designing customer and employee experiences that leverage the brand strategy and bring it into reality. As you do so you should always refer back to your brand strategy - and the one pager is super helpful to enable that to happen.
Once agreed and understood by leadership this can be used in two ways:
Within - for example, to inform employees, be built into HR/ culture activities, performance management, behaviours and employee experiences etc
Without - for example, to map out and design customer experiences, inform customer touch points and marketing campaigns as well as influence customer success principles.
The key here is that you connect all of the activities with the business to this simple one pager. So that everything is joined up and working towards long term success and everyone is aligned and inspired.
Looks easy right? In reality it’s not. But a one page Brand Strategy certainly helps it be a little less difficult.