Last week I noted that I’d be talking about building brand alignment over the coming weeks. And the first step to that is getting the foundation of the brand right.
One thing that truly irks me is the idea that you need a separate set of things to define that foundation.
Because when I talk about the foundations of brand, I’m not talking about a whole separate raft of things that you need to identify and think about.
I believe that the right foundations for brand already exist in your organization. It’s your purpose (or promise, mission, vision, reason to get up in the morning – call it whatever works for you). Your values. And your story or positioning.
These three things are all you need. And I’ll go so far as to say you can’t have a strong, resilient brand without them. You can’t have a strong, resilient organisation without them either. And that’s what makes them the right foundations.
Brands are the result of the promises the you keep. Those promises are made and kept via the actions and decisions of the organisation. Those actions and decisions are driven by your purpose, values and positioning.
And by right foundation, I mean right for you, with no implied judgment about what those things are in your organisation.
I’ll leave the whole idea of “good and bad” brand to others. In my world, a good brand is an aligned brand. Sure, personally I’d prefer that the organisation do as little harm as possible (to steal a bit of Patagonia’s mission statement). But in nearly all organisations it’s a mixed bag – doesn’t make it bad. Building an organisation and resulting brand is a complex thing.
It’s the relationship between the three that provides the foundation I’m talking about. Think about them a bit like a triangle of overlapping circles, each one interacting with the others.
Your purpose and values are mostly fixed, providing consistency and stability – they are like the place you come home to. Positioning is the intrepid traveller, regularly going out into the market environment and gathering new information and experiences and bringing them back home to merge and be informed by your purpose and values. And in the process helping the whole foundation evolve and stay current.
This is important to reiterate. These are things you already have in your organisation, not new elements. Your purpose is your purpose, that thing you care about, not some other special “brand purpose”.
Your values are the same non-negotiable ones you use everyday (hopefully), not other “brand values”. Your positioning is the same one you use to describe what you do to your customers and others you interact with.
Anything else you add to this mix is noise that distracts and makes it harder, not easier, to focus. For new organisations, understanding and putting them in place is a bit like exploring green fields.
For existing organisations it can feel a bit like an expedition into unforgiving mountains, as there are often years of ideas and thinking that need to be traversed to get to these core foundation elements.
I wrote about values just the other week, so in the coming blogs I’ll talk about the specific roles purpose and positioning play in building that foundation and how to find them.
See you next week.
Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.