When we work with clients to update their brands, we think about four key pillars: messaging, visual identity, experience, and communications planning. For each of these pillars, there are a few ways to assess whether your brand has the strongest possible foundation and expression:
Messaging: Can everyone on your staff and board answer the question “who are we” clearly and succinctly? Do you have a compelling response to the question “why us”? Are you aligned on your priority audiences and supporting messages to each?
Visual identity: If you look at your communications tools as a whole, do you see a group of interconnected pieces with a guiding theme? Are your logo or other visual elements easy to use? Does your visual identity complement your messaging?
Experience: Is your brand tone and personality consistent across all touchpoints? Is it universally easy and satisfying to work with you as an organization, regardless of the interaction? Does your audience respond as you intend?
Communications planning: Are you engaging the right mix and volume of clients, donors, and others in support of your revenue goals? Do you have a yearlong comms and content plan that supports your organizational goals?
All too often, organizations evolve and their brands don’t keep pace. Their mission expands, their strategy shifts, their team grows and changes. By taking a moment to consider the pillars and questions above, you’ll be able to effectively judge whether your brand is as up-to-date and powerful as it can possibly be!
PS if you found yourself answering “no” to the questions above, contact us!
Many thanks to Blazar Design Studio for their partnership on this article, and on so many successful brand update projects!
True, the original brands were logos permanently embedded in cattle hides. But today, saying that your brand is your logo is like saying the title is the whole book. Both are important indicators of what’s to come, but there is no way either can tell the complete story.
Your brand really is the complete story. In fact, it’s a powerful (true) story you tell about yourself to engage deeply with customers, employees, partners, influencers and investors. It’s also the (hopefully true) stories all of these stakeholders tell about you, based on their experience with you.
You have the power to determine that experience, and to influence those stories. You do so through your messaging (what you sound like), your visual brand identity (what you look like), and your brand behaviors (what it’s like to interact with you). Strong brands leverage every single touchpoint, in effect surrounding their target audiences with your story.
But building a strong brand requires clarity and consistency. Sometimes it also requires the courage of your convictions, as you stand ironclad against the organizational forces that strike back against clarity and consistency (it happens).
Back in the ‘80’s Faberge Cosmetics marketed its organic shampoo with the iconic line, “it was so good, I told two friends about it, and they told two friends, and so on.” Not only did that line become a classic (admit it, you can see the images multiplying across the TV screen even now), but it demonstrates a powerful fact of building your brand. You can say all you want about what you’re trying to sell, but what really captures consumers’ attention (and share of wallet) is what their friends are saying about what you’re trying to sell.
What does that mean in today’s crowded media landscape? Your brand story absolutely, positively has to be easy to understand. You need to know who your brand champions are, and make it easy for them to tell your tale. Provide them with compelling sound bites. Give them reasons to talk about you in person, spread the word on social media, advocate for you in corporate budget planning. Let them defend you, should you need defending.