29th January 2021
The Importance of Brand
Before we get stuck into why brand is important, I firstly want us to agree what ‘brand’ is and what it means; what constitutes brand. Is it a noun or a verb?
It’s both! Perhaps it’s a logo, a product, a company’s set of values. Do companies even have values! Sure, when everyone truthfully agrees what they are and lives by them.
I think of brand as the ‘total experience’ people have of an organisation, its services and products. More than the unique DNA of an individual business, it encapsulates how employees, customers, investors and sales prospects feel.
A mentor of mine, the aptly named Marty Brandt, writes in his 90s tech guide ‘Power Branding’, that “Everything you do and say affects your brand.”
Imagine yourself as a brand. What people think of you is their personal interpretation of how you project yourself. And so arguably, you never really own your own brand. The good news is that you can influence how people think of you by behaving in a particular way.
As spiritual teacher and entrepreneur, the late Yogi Bhajan once said, “You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.”
Let’s be clear about one thing: We can be the best at what we do. We just can.
The Hedgehog Concept is based on a proverb attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus. It states, ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’ The fox uses many strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, its tender nose pricked by spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one big thing perfectly: defend itself.
Business researcher and consultant, Jim Collins, shared the idea in his 2001 book, ‘Good to Great.’ Collins argues that organisations will be more likely to succeed if they can identify the one thing that they do best – discover their ‘Hedgehog’. When an organisation has identified its Hedgehog, its people should devote all of their energy and resources to pursuing it. Collins argues that when the going gets tough, it’s the organisations that focus on what they’re good at that survive and thrive.
We know the expression, ‘Winning hearts and minds’, which can be extrapolated to the widely acknowledged Golden Circle, Simon Sinek’s theory of value proposition: Start with Why. Ergo, everybody knows what the business they work for does, but not all companies effectively communicate and share the agreed understanding of why they do it. Understanding and sharing with stakeholders the WHY, moreover simply WHAT and HOW taps into the emotional part of the brain. ‘Why’ is the purpose, cause and belief.
Let’s remind ourselves of the old brand adage, ‘JFK and the janitor’. The story goes that President Kennedy, while visiting NASA headquarters for the first time in 1961, introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “Why I’m helping put a man on the moon!”
The janitor got it. He understood the vision, his part in it and that he had purpose.
Over many years of facilitating brand workshops, and managing brand development, I conclude there are four essential ingredients to creating great communication programmes in support of building successful brands.
Consistency, Authenticity, Simplicity and Trust – CAST.
People are relatively comms time–poor in such a fast paced economy and busy world. Spotify, university, Instagram, family, Facebook, work, Netflix, neighbours, Zoom, Apple news, Twitter, Joe, Reuters – all competing. Every experience of any brand that people have must be instantly understood and relatable.
There are opportunities for brands in the pandemic. Brands that can help people in the new work order are thriving – innovative cloud and comms tech companies for example, while online retail for everything from food and drink to clothes is booming. These brands have worked hard to understand their customers and developed dynamic ways to communicate with them, while earning their trust by delivering honest, effective solutions.