Embedding your brand lessons learned

Posted in Brand on 31 July 2015 By David Hunt, Creative Director

So, you’ve created your brand identity. You’ve defined your brand values. Now, how do you get this stuff to really work for you and get your people onboard?

It’s a question that’s not new to us. And there are inevitably lots of ways to answer it. However, one came to me recently from a rather unexpected source.

My twin boys are a few weeks away from beginning primary school and as part of their enrolment, my wife and I were invited to attend an induction session. I expected a rather boring chat about the logistic and bureaucratic stuff that fills the lives of school children and their parents: timetables, homework, pick-ups and the like.

Instead, I got a surprise.

The value in values

The very first thing that the head teacher spoke to us about  – and I mean the very first – was the school’s values: what they were; what they meant in practice; and, most importantly, how vital it was to discuss them with our children.

To be honest, this took me a little bit by surprise. But, when you think about it, this approach makes perfect sense.

If you’re welcoming new members to your organisation - be it a school, club or multinational business for that matter - it’s logical to explain to them (from day one) what you stand for and, as a result, what you expect them to stand for. Then, in turn, how this should inform the way they behave, communication and work on a day-to-day basis.

This idea is very simple and it would be easy to dismiss this as ‘it’s only a school, it can’t apply to my business’, but I disagree. Some of these values, such as respect, responsibility and cooperation, would not be out of place in any corporate brand manuals – in fact, many businesses I’ve worked with have included these or similar in their own list.

On top of that, the challenges faced by companies in getting their people to live, breathe and act on their brand’s values are more or less the same as that of a school: trying to get children from different backgrounds, experiences and sometimes cultures to engage with a new environment, a new system and new people in a consistent way.

You could actually argue that the companies have it easy given that the average recruit is probably less unruly than the average five-year-old. Probably.

What’s next?

So, once this was out of the way I was thinking: “What’s next on the agenda, identity?”

Surprise number two: it was.

‘Identity’ was the actual word used by the head teacher – a very business-like word – as she extolled the virtues of the school’s badge, uniform and presenting a consistent visual persona to the outside world. Vitally, she was clear in letting us know that there would be zero tolerance for any deviation from the official identity.

What’s next on the agenda, identity?

I don’t need to explain the parallels to a business’s visual brand language – they are evident. And the value in an appropriate, credible and consistent identity have been already been widely discussed and proven.

So, going back to that original question around getting people ‘onboard’ with your brand, what lessons can we learn from my little school trip?

Go brand first

Firstly, speaking to your people about your brand’s identity, and particularly your values, should be something that happens from day one. In fact it could, and probably should, happen before – just as it did at our school. Discussing values during an interview, for example, would allow you to assess candidate’s fit alongside their expertise and experience.

Somebody once said to me that ‘you never get a second chance to make a great start’. Such advice rings true here. Introducing these themes at this stage gives you a great foundation to build them into every aspect of your business and create an on-going dialogue about them.

After all you can’t expect your customers, consumers or investors to fully engage with, and understand, your brand if your own people don’t. It really is an inside-out kind of thing.

Lead by example

Next, if you’re at the top of an organisation, you have to buy into this stuff as much as you expect everyone else to – just as our earnest and energetic head teacher did.

A person or people who can really champion your brand internally on a day-to-day basis will be a great asset. They will enthuse and engage your people, bringing the values to life for them. What’s more, they will help them discover how these things might have a positive impact on their individual roles, and how they, in turn, contribute to the overall success of your business.

And that success is what we’re all aiming for.

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