The term ‘brand’ gets bandied about like a lazy de facto term for the organisation. However, a ‘brand’ doesn’t do anything.
A brand is a result of the work the whole organisation does, and while marketing gets most of the love, the everyday effort of other areas and tasks go comparatively unheralded.
So, in a small attempt to provide some balance, every few years I post my list of things you may not consider when you think about achieving a brand result … but should.
Brand is a result of how you:
1. Find and use your purpose — the first half of organisational identity — meaning what’s most important, what you care deeply about (beyond making money, which is a given if you are a for-profit enterprise, and even if you’re not. Figuring out your purpose can take some time and most reliably emerges after doing things for a while.
2. Define and use your values — the other half of organisational identity. These should be the non-negotiable values you won’t trade which show up in how your organisation acts every day, rather than usual suspects from the all-star list.
3. Walk your talk and make your organisational identity visible in the way you do things.
4. Ensure everyone in the company, from the CEO to the person in shipping, knows what the company’s identity is and what it means for their job in practical, concrete terms.
5. Build a viable strategy and make sure everyone understands their role in delivering it.
6. Create a plan for how to achieve your strategy, which should sit somewhere between written-in-sand and etched-in-stone.
7. Define the meaning of the words your organisation uses (definitions from the Oxford dictionary will not suffice). For example, quality, service, innovation …
8. Think long and hard about promises you make and keep, even implicit ones.
9. What, how and where you communicate (in messages and meaning, and in look and feel).
10. Use one or two kick-ass measures (not just flavour of the month metrics) that align with your
identity. Even if these measures are qualitative, they will help you see how you’re doing.
11. Practice consistent devotion to your most important thing — the consistent bit is the hardest item on the list for most organisations.
12. Consider what could happen as a result of your actions, three, four or 10 steps down the road.
13. Understand the trade you’re making every time you make a choice (because there is always a trade).
14. Consider the people you work with and how you work with them. Yes, all of them, even that guy in the corner doing who knows what all day.
15. Hire people who can stand behind what you care about and share your non-negotiables.
16. Embed your identity in the way you treat the person who wants to work for you and the person who wants to leave.
17. Structure and implement training to reinforce your organisation’s identity.
18. Build what you care about into every nook and cranny of what you sell and how you sell it.
19. Evaluate what your products and services do, don’t do and how you set the expectations for both.
20. Design products and services people will want to buy from you (here, really think about the ‘buy from you’ part).
21. Figure out who your customers are (hint: it’s not everyone).
22. Handle what happens between the sales pitch and the sale.
23. Align the whole selling process — it isn’t complete until the product or service is shipped, delivered, billed, paid for and followed up on.
24. Use your own products and services (where appropriate).
25. Choose what to outsource and who to outsource to.
26. Treat customer service as a way to get information about what’s working or not, and include customers in marketing discussions and decision-making.
27. Smile when you answer the phone, email or chatbot (unless being grumpy is what you care about).
28. Answer the question, fix the problem or apologise.
29. Put in place programs that truly reward loyalty (either customers, employees or both).
30. Support your identity through clear, sensible policies which aren’t only there because one time someone did something.
31. Use terms and conditions that aren’t just picked up from a template — start with your intent, then filter through legal, then retranslate so people can understand them.
32. Choose the technology you use C consider whether it makes things easier or harder for employees and customers.
33. Handle billing disputes and returns.
34. Choose your manufacturer. You might do it yourself or contract someone else — remember to ask yourself if they align with your identity.
35. Fund your business growth — investors, banks, bootstrapping, in for the long-haul or build and get out.
36. Observe what’s going on around you and filter these observations with your identity so you stay relevant.
This checklist is just a starting point (there are hundreds of other things) and every item needs more detail. Your detail. So go back and start at the top and work down, and as you do tell a story for each one. If there isn’t a story you can tell, that’s a great place to start thinking about the what and how of things.
Because the brand is the result. The rest is the unheroic work that gets you there.
See you next week.