A new logo, change of font, shift of colour spectrum or cool imagery will never be enough to overhaul a brand.
They are, as brand guru Matt Davies reminded us at our Culture Carnival, merely “a lick of paint”. A “veneer”. Changes that your customers will soon see straight through if there’s no substance behind them.
Now, that’s not to say the visual elements of your brand aren’t important. They’re huge. But only when they’re in cahoots with the rest of the Branding Holy Trinity:
- How You Look: The visual branding we’ve mentioned. Your logo, artwork, typefaces and colour schemes.
- How You Sound: Your tone of voice. The way you communicate with others verbally and in writing – both externally and internally, too.
- How You Roll: Your culture. The unwritten guidelines and energy that shape how you work and how you treat each other. The cause and effect of all the decisions you make.
Your culture is your brand. Use it
Your people are your most important asset. Your culture is your most effective way to attract and retain the very best talent. And that talent shapes your customers’ experiences.
So yeah, culture really is everything.
When you focus on branding your culture, your business will ooze authenticity. It’s a magnet for customers and talent, and we can’t over-egg its importance. There’ll also be consistency across every level, which is vital for creating not only loyal customers – but raving fans.
It’ll help to bring your purpose and values to the surface too. And as they become clear to your external audience, and not just your employees, potential new team members and customers will be able to attach meaning to your brand.
They’ll go from understanding what you do, to understanding your ‘why?’, and your ‘so what?’. And you’ll create a unique brand persona that people can agree with, see themselves in, or fall in love with. And that’s an attraction that runs far deeper than some glossy visuals.
How to make it all happen
Crowdsourcing ideas from within your business is a powerful way to bring your culture to the surface of your brand. The more people you ask, the richer the diversity of ideas you’ll get in return. And because you’re crowdsourcing internally, those ideas are coming from the people that know all about your culture and the elements that customers love, first-hand.
Sure, you may not be able to use all of them, but court opinions, be judicious and collaborate. Crowdsourcing creates a sense of community. And although it’s not always easy, when you get it right and remind people that their voices are being heard loud and clear, engagement goes through the roof.
Keep it real. If it feels right, if it feels like ‘you’, it almost certainly is. Don’t try and put on a voice, or a disguise. The most powerful brands are ones that sound the same internally and externally. The message may be different. The tone shouldn’t be.
Challenge Everything. Assume Nothing
We all get so close to the coalface at times that it’s different to sift the carbon from the gems. Just because things have always been done one way, doesn’t make it right. Take time to challenge everything. And remember, an assumption is only as good as a guess.
Not all brands need to be re-invented. Find a way to keep the essence of what makes your business or product different.
That’s where your equity is. Protect it like your first born. Move it on for sure, but don’t start over every time.
Put vanity to one side. If you were your customer, what would you want to see, hear and feel?
Put yourself in their mindset and behave accordingly. Why do your customers choose your brand and your people? Is it because you’re reliable? Disruptive? Innovative? Sustainable? Or simply great value?
Do your research. Create detailed customer personas. Share them with everyone in your business. And tailor everything you do to the place you hold in their heart.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”
Simon Sinek’s 2009 quote has aged gracefully when it comes to brand appeal, because over a decade on, it’s never rung truer.
Authenticity is everything to Millennials and Generation Z. The choices they make and the allegiances they pledge as consumers are offshoots of their own personality and beliefs. So, why should they support your business if you’re not willing to show them what makes you, you?
Create depth beyond your product, harness your culture’s power, and show your audience what you’re made of. In every sense of the term.