Anyone who knows our team has probably heard us say “a brand is more than a slick logo or clever tagline.” Branding even goes beyond a master narrative.
Simply put, a great brand is not created from thin air. It is a thoughtful, intentional expression of your organization’s DNA. My favorite definition of branding is that it is the sum total of all your interactions with the world.
As government agencies, your constituents and ratepayers need to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it. Once developed, an effective brand can communicate this quickly and consistently. From there, it’s up to your organization to “live” your brand which helps build public trust.
Everything you do in alignment with your brand adds to your value as an organization. When you make a big move that delivers your brand promise, you multiply your brand value leading to exponential brand equity.
Similarly, everything you do out of alignment with your brand subtracts from it. When you make a big move that contradicts your brand promise – you are dividing your value and leaving your organization with a fraction of your brand equity.
So, where do we start? How do we begin solving this equation to build a brand? And then how do we live and embody it each and every day?
1) Build your brand foundation
Well before we start developing creative concepts, we start with research to figure out what the current perceptions, reality and aspirations are for your organization. We then use those insights to develop the brand’s foundational elements. Always remember: the stronger the foundation, the stronger the brand.
Mission, Vision & Values – These elements outline what you do, what the world looks like if you succeed and what you believe about how it should be done. If these have not yet been articulated, this is a strategic imperative.
Brand Personality – Your single most important unit in this equation is defining your brand personality. Call it an archetype, call it a persona, call it your brand voice or character. Use one or two words (JPW uses three), but make sure you have personified your brand, distilled it to its essence and stated it clearly so the core of your being comes across in everything you do.
Brand Promise – Your next building block is your brand promise – this is what you deliver to the world in every interaction. Some call it a brand platform, brand position or a brand purpose, but this is a defined statement on what you deliver to the world.
Tone - Your brand voice is built into your personality; it is who you are. Your brand tone, on the other hand, is about your audience. It is about the way you want people to feel when they interact with you and it can be nuanced for different situations.
Brand Story - This is the story of who you are and why you exist. It is written in your voice, delivers your promise and invites the world to understand you.
Key Messages – Finally, you have your proof points. These are the reasons to believe, the key things you want people to know about you. They answer the question, “why should anyone believe us?”
2) Build your creative identity
Now that we have our brand foundation complete, we can move into design. That’s right - traditional creative doesn’t begin until we have established our brand foundation. Then we start providing creative solutions…
Logo - Your logo should be the visual representation of everything in your brand foundation. A great logo tells your story all on its own.
Tagline - While a tagline is optional, it is a great way to deliver your brand foundation and it should work with your visuals to enhance your story.
Color Palette - I cannot underscore the importance of having an artist create your palette! Bold or subtle? Warm or cool? Light or dark? How much contrast? How much harmony? A great artist will be able to ensure your colors complement your brand foundation and provide you with both flexibility and consistency.
Design Elements - An often overlooked but important piece of your brand visuals are design elements. Are there signature pieces, shapes, combinations, or other visual elements that you want to use regularly to help make your brand recognizable at a glance?
Photography Style - It is great to define in advance your photo style. Do you want to make more use of landscape photography? More lifestyle? Do you want to add a signature filter?
Video Style - Similarly, how do we deliver your brand foundation in video form? Are there camera angles, opening and closing animations, or signature film styles we want to incorporate?
3) Infuse your brand into your organization
We can move quickly into making the numbers work for us once we have our brand foundation and creative identity working together. So, how do we go from style guide and logos to living our brand? Here’s how:
Outreach Campaigns - Every marketing initiative should be developed with your brand in mind. A marketing or advertising campaign or any outreach effort should take one of your proof points and expand on it.
Media Relations - Luckily, we are past the days of relying solely on earned media to deliver our message to the world. But they still play a very important part in how we are perceived. From press releases to interviews to reporter relationships, if the media understand our brand, they can help blast it out to the world
Social Media - Like it or not, the world is a social network and we have a great opportunity to use our brand voice online with imagery, video, language and responses that deliver on our brand promise.
Collateral Materials - Re-write everything in your brand personality’s voice and re-design everything to align with your creative identity. All the steps above happen before you can “make this pretty.”
Events - Do you host a holiday dinner? Or do you host a Christmas in July picnic? What would your brand personality do? Events are a focused way to bring your brand off of paper and into 3D.
Internal Communications - We could dedicate an entire article to the value of internal communications and culture (so stay tuned!) because your employees are the natural messengers of your true brand. How many employees do you have? 20? 200? 2,000? They talk to their friends and family every day. Whatever they say about work is what they are saying about your brand. Good internal communications can build an army of brand ambassadors.
Customer Service - You know that “sum total of every interaction” bit from above? This is where the rubber meets the road. If you have defined the way you want people to feel when they encounter you, then every employee can make this a part of their interactions.
Decision-Making - Living the brand is not just the job of the marketing department. Every person at every level must believe in the power of your brand if you want your audience to believe in you. Are the decisions the organization makes in alignment with your brand personality? The world is watching.
Now we have everything needed to build a brand that is “more than just a logo.” Easy as 1-2-3, right? 😜
We understand it is easier said than done. And don’t worry - we love bringing brands to life and are here to help!
Vice President, Client Affairs & Creative Strategy