Admit it: you love branding. I have yet to meet a passionate, engaged-with-their-job marketing or communications person who isn’t All About The Brand. I am, too! I’ve designed logos, helped a few organizations create new brands for themselves, and worked with and for organizations as they figure out what to do to improve the brand they have. I love that kind of work.
However, too many organizations limit their view of their brand to visual components like a logo or color/font combination. And some say “brand” when they really mean “culture” or “mission.”
Either way, there’s a lot more to a brand than a newly designed logo or visual system. Plenty of organizations with not-so-trendy logos win at branding all day long. And they do it by remembering the 5 components that make their brand successful:
- Purpose over promise. You need to have a clear, tangible, repeatable expression of the reason you exist. This may or may not be your mission statement; it could be a tagline. For example, where I work our mission statement is discovering life with God for the good of the world. But we’ve been using a simple tagline lately: find your go. (Actually, we’ve been using the hashtag #findyourgo, but it’s definitely a tagline too.) If anyone connected to your organization – whether it’s attendees, employees, donors, or customers – can’t reiterate the purpose for why you exist, your brand won’t help you grow.
- Consistency of narrative and design. Consistency leads to familiarity, and familiarity is good! It doesn’t lead to boredom; it leads to front-of-mind presence, and positive associations. Attach it to everything you do! Creativity should be applied in designing your brand, not in using it. Don’t let brand variations creep into your marketing. Stay consistent visually, costly reinforce your main Big Idea through the stories you tell, the things you celebrate, and the things you ask your people to do.
- Emotion that inspires loyalty. Psychologists have observed a strong correlation between emotion and decision making. People who experience damage to the part of the brain that affects emotion also experience a profound difficulty with making even simple decisions, like what to eat for breakfast. Emotion is necessary to help people become intentional about connecting with your brand, about choosing it over the other options that are in front of them. Nike has always been great at this.
- Employee engagement is an incredible barometer of a brand’s strength. If your employees and partners aren’t excited about your brand, how likely is it that your brand will resonate with your constituents? If your staff wear your t-shirts by choice, you’re on the right track. Keep going.
- Responsiveness matters today more than ever. Be human, not an institution. Take advantage of every opportunity for conversation you get. Lean into social media the way a 13-year old leans into Instagram. Great brands don’t just talk; they listen.
There are certainly plenty of other ways to help strengthen your brand. These are just some that I’ve learned along the way, and from great resources like Marketo and HubSpot.
My main point here is: don’t limit your brand work to a visual branding project. We’re all in the branding business, all the time.