Opinion – Stefan Liute says put your brand in writing
It’s hard to figure out what brand means on a daily basis. Stefan Liute says to remind yourself and your employees every day. That way, you can bring the brand to life.
Take one word you think is really important to your business. Print it in large type and hang it on a wall. Email or text it daily. Just that single word. Think of everything you do through that word’s lens. Then see what happens after a while. Not only will that word give you a definite direction, but it will also make you think more. It will leave more room for imagination than any visual image (just like in the novel vs. movie situation), but it will keep you focused. After a while, other people will start seeing this, too.
Of course, this is an over-simplified demo of how brands come to life, and writing down what your brand means takes more than a word. But sitting down to define your brand will force you to seriously consider any idea that you think of putting on paper. You will clarify your brand, simplify, and focus it. You will give up the pretence and the fluff. If you don’t already have a clear business strategy, working on a brand definition will also force you to formulate one.
Fear not, writing things down will not encase your brand in carbonite. It won’t stop transforming, but writing will provide a Magna Carta that will help people work for the brand autonomously, without losing sight of its purpose. Using the definition, you will learn that managing a brand is not a solo act, but a team effort. You will quickly see that sharing it is one of the basic steps of building that team. And having it will allow you to answer a burning question: I have a great business proposition all figured out. Now how do I just make everyone else around realise how great it is?
One of our clients recently realised they needed to formalise their organisational culture if they wanted to grow from a startup to a larger business. After the brand audit, we sat down together and managed to single out two words, two key attributes that will transform their brand. These words already circulated inside the company. But by making a conscious choice to use them as their main differentiators, and by deciding to instil them in everyone’s behaviour and priorities, their brand is taking its first step forward.
I continue to come across companies who think it is enough to just use a design or a communication brief in order to rebrand or refresh their image. I see brand and marketing professionals who accept this kind of challenge, working without a brand definition, without really knowing where that brand is headed. But a brand is more than just what it looks like and what it talks about. Brands today transform and bring more value through their behaviour, through the experiences they offer in their digital and physical environments. Oh, and let’s not forget their commercial offering. It weighs a lot, as it has always done. So yeah, it is ok to have a design or a communication brief. But you also need to add behavioural, environmental and product or service development briefs. And they all need to have a shared starting point, a kernel of sorts, a read thread.
That is exactly what the brand definition is. It is a red thread for your brand as a whole. Having one, and maintaining it as the brand changes over the years, is an awfully good habit – one of those that signal the existence of effective brand management in both multinationals and mom-and-pop stores. A brand definition is a short, well-structured set of no-bull statements that brings a lot of benefits to your brand’s table. If you don’t have one yet, now is the time to get it. If you find the process energising and exhilarating, then you’re in the right business at the right time, and have a fair chance to succeed.