Walking through the lunch throng after a recent conference talk, I got waylaid by the comment ‘we’re working on our brand’.
Because I had ‘Brand Counsel’ on my tag, it’s understandable people wanted to talk about it. So I asked what that meant for them. I was curious because in my world you don’t work on a brand, it’s a result of the things you do work on.
Their answer didn’t surprise me. But then, those conversations rarely do.
They replied ‘it’s a new brand identity’. I queried ‘so a logo?’ And they replied ‘yes and fonts and colours’. Phew, we finally got there.
I really thought we had moved beyond brand equals logo. That thinking about a brand had progressed to give a passing nod to what the organisation stands for. Yet, somehow, it seems to end up back at how things look and feel.
I’ve got nothing against how things look or logos. I used to enjoy designing that stuff. But, they aren’t the brand.
I can hear you reading this, thinking, ‘well I know that’. But do you? Really? Because I think there’s buckets of bullshit flying around about brand.
Be honest, when you talk about the brand across your organisation, what do you talk about? How fast does conversation descend to how the ‘branding’ looks, whether the email campaign is ‘on message’ and whether the logo is in the right place?
Do you ever talk about it when you decide what technology to use, or wield policies, or structure your supply chain, or fire people? Do you ever have a meaningful discussion about the message sent by the way you do things? Do you ever talk about the follow-through, down to the who, what and when level?
Unless you’re looking deeply at how you do things across every facet of the organisation, at what promises you’re making and how you will keep them, what you say you’re working on is nothing more than a veneer.
Logos and names, how they look and the messages that go along with them are useful liveries. They help people pick you out of a line-up. That’s all.
It’s what happens underneath that gives them meaning. I don’t care how smart, trendy or timeless your logo is. It will only come to life through the work of people across the organisation. It’s one action and decision at a time, one promise at a time, repeated every day. That’s what achieves the brand.
So, when you say ‘we’re working on our brand’, what do you mean?
See you in two weeks.