A successful brand is the demonstration of an organization walking its talk, and serves to both reflect and project its heart and spirit. In essence, brand is not about creating a mission statement, but is about living and embodying a vision, then communicating the company’s deeper truths in ways that allow audiences to see themselves in the organization’s story, culture, and identity. Likewise, one goal of branding—the communication of brand—is to create a lingering, meaningful and hopeful effect in the public’s mind by utilizing a range of concepts, elements and supporting campaigns.
It’s easy to spot and recognize the elements at work in the public domain: the Starbucks logo; the memorable voice over in Allstate commercials; the chrome sleekness of an Apple product; BMW's use of the phrase “The Ultimate Driving Machine." We can close our eyes and imagine these elements without much effort. They are pervasive and, ideally for the organization, persuasive.
At bare minimum, they are constant fixtures designed to accomplish two primary goals:
- Point back to the brand itself.
- Create a link by which audiences can connect with the brand through their own experiences, perceptions and memories.
We were recently asked to conduct a brand audit for a regional healthcare organization. In doing so, we were searching for a way to relate our findings to something they were used to looking at everyday—the human body.
Like the body, we consider brand to be a collection of parts that work both independently and in unison with one another. They serve their individual roles, and support the function of the whole. Therefore, a deficiency in one area can and will have consequences on the function of another.
Consider the following visual depiction of brand as body:
A closer examination and brief definitions of the brand-body system:
Strategy, research and execution
Strategy overlays the planning and implementation of a consistent message, story and identity. It involves internal and external research that uncovers the greater brand message, competitive analysis, story development, strategies for communicating the promise to audiences, and tracking results.
Identity often refers to what we see, hear, and think of when we consider the brand. It is the visual presentation of a brand, coupled with the core messaging elements that drive the brand forward. Identity includes everything from logo, font choices, color palette, external voice, tag line and more, and calls for the consistent use of these elements throughout ongoing communications.
Public relations represent an organization’s ongoing ability to communicate its message in a consistent manner through multiple communications channels. This includes outreach to media for feature stories, internal communications with staff, social media interactions, community relations, one-on-one interactions with target audiences, and public speaking.
Advertisements, from magazine placements to radio to billboards, work as seasonal, topical reminders, as well as ongoing messages that do everything from announcing specials to keeping a brand at top-of-mind for audiences.
Social media is a classic soft sell approach that dovetails with public relations while speaking from the brand voice. As a platform, it supports a brand’s efforts of staying current and topical while also engaging with the public in real-time.
Community engagement refers to how well an organization stays present in the communities it serves (and wishes to serve), and is perhaps the most grassroots aspect of branding. It has a symbiotic relationship with public relations: the way an organization engages with the community often fills the PR pipeline, while “good PR” often derives from ongoing community engagement.
Environment refers to an organization’s physical surroundings, and encompasses the physical environment as experienced by employees, the community, and visitors, plus the emotional environment the literal space creates for these same groups.
How we interact with the internet changes daily. Today’s web sites and digital media must be functional across screens and platforms, must be easy to navigate and use, and must engage and inform visitors in creative ways while also taking into account advanced metrics, analytics and optimization strategies.
Even in today’s digital world there remains room for printed collateral—from capabilities brochures to new hire packets. Successful print collateral is the marriage between story-driven narrative, straight facts for specific audiences, and a functional design that presents business-critical information in an engaging and easy-to-read format.
Historical Reputation is one of the key components that inform a brand, as well as branding execution over time. However, the relationship between historical reputation and brand is a two-way street, as the out-facing brand helps bring audiences into an organization through how it projects the historical narrative.
An organization’s people are the absolute root and base of its brand, from the founders to the most recent hire. People across departments and ranks drive an organization’s culture, while culture itself extends outward to attract new people toward it.
If you’re looking for a different way to understand the parts of your brand, please send us a note.