3 Principles for Developing your Company Brand
When a brand needs to evolve, deciding on what stays and what goes can be a tricky balancing act.
Here at RDC Aviation we recently decided to begin a process of reviewing our own brand portfolio. Here are three principles that have helped us move forward developing our company brand.
Get to the heart (of the brand)
Before embarking upon this complex (and potentially very expensive) exercise there needs to be a good reason for rebranding. Perhaps you feel that your own brand has become staid or a new competitor has entered the market and you need to pivot to compete. In our case the need for a rethink came from an organisational shift as our company moved from a consultancy-led to a product led business, so we needed to question whether our brand still properly represented what our company had evolved into.
Brands are about communicating the brand story in a coherent and consistent way and before shifting position it’s important to have a true understanding of what your story is.
Following a recent full brand review exercise we had made some high-level decisions regarding what our brand should convey using devices such as the Jungian concepts of archetypes to determine our character.
While such abstract concepts can help to describe the character of a company, if they don’t capture the imagination of your employees or audience and leave a conscious impression, then we need to question their value. What we really need is to find the opposite of this abstraction.
In our case exploring through all the marketing and branding material that I could find, the conversations I’d had with colleagues and communication from our customers I could see that certain principle characteristics of our brand kept recurring. I could define these as:
- Our core mission - to provide clarity to our customers enabling them to make important decisions.
- The crucial accuracy of our figures/data that our customers rely on.
- We have expertise in our field which inspires the confidence of our audience.
- Not least of all, we pride oursleves in being approachable and friendly to work with.
In terms of the heart of our brand keeping these four points in mind feels more concise than other more abstract concepts or the notion of archetypes.
In application it’s important to frequently refer back these principle characteristics. While I work, I set a reminder to periodically review the task and ask myself: Is this clear? Is it accurate? Does it convey confidence? Is it friendly? If I can answer yes to more than one of these points, I know that the direction I’m taking things is on brand for our company.
This kind of thinking shouldn’t be limited to design. The brand is not just about visuals - it’s how we communicate. It can be applied to any part of your business where you engage with your audience.
Get people excited
So we’ve found our heart of our brand. That’s a great step which helps us to define the direction in which to move forward. But how can we get people onboard with what we’re trying to do – particularly if these new and radical ideas are likely to face opposition from the status quo? You could write a lengthy rationale about what you’re trying to achieve detailing the sound principles behind it - but people are busy and it probably isn’t going to get read.
Again let’s try to swerve the abstraction - rather than talking of our ideas, with the tools we have at our disposal such as Adobe XD, Sketch, Invision, Slack and Quip¹ it’s never been easier to throw together a prototype or concept and share it with people.
Make something tangible - even if it is only small to give people an idea of how things can be. This doesn’t necessarily mean a complex redesign or even something that leaves the internal confines of the company.
Your idea could just mean a tweak to an app’s functionality, the design of a marketing site, a copy change within a newsletter or an update to a social media channel. Refer to the heart of the brand and ask questions to see where things can be improved. Apply this to your concept and put it in front of people. Get feedback - if you applied a change and can measure an improvement in engagement, traffic volume or another metric² that’s a powerful way to make your argument more persuasive. Be open to feedback and (constructive) criticism and use it to refine your concept.
This process helped my understanding of our brand and what it meant to people when I first started at RDC. Even when my ideas weren’t adopted I could start to gauge where where the boundaries were and where things could be pushed.
This transparency and interaction with colleagues is important because ultimately you need buy-in for your ideas. This is because...
Brands are not just logos
I’m lucky in that the people I work with are very enthusiastic and keen to talk about what they do - and this enthusiasm is infectious. In my experience this isn’t limited to the type of industry that you happen to be working in. I’ve met the most enthusiastic people in fields that could be perceived as quite prosaic subject-matter from the outside. Harnessing this passion can really drive your brand forward.
Our people are comfortable talking about their industry in social channels and demonstrating expertise. The power of this shouldn’t be under-estimated. This engagement helps to strengthen the perception of our brand as an industry leader. This blog is also a part of that :)
Our marketeers assist us when they receive customer feedback in less visible channels (email / conversation) they post this to a channel within the organisation Slack that the whole company has access to. Good or bad this gives us a window into how our customers experience our brand outside of the usual social channels.
When we develop new ideas and concepts we have trusted partners that we can look to give us honest feedback. These viewpoints are invaluable because it’s extremely difficult to get an idea of the exact image we convey from the inside of our organisation looking out.
By now you probably realise that when you’re generating new ideas and extending your brand you should try not to work in isolation, because ultimately your brand is also your people. This doesn’t mean design by committee but you will need to persuade them to buy-in to your vision because they’re responsible for spreading the word.
The evolution of our (and any) brand is an on-going process, but wherever that journey might take us I’ll keep referring back to the principles above to guide it’s direction. I hope you find it helpful too.
- There’s nothing wrong with a low-tech approach (pen + paper) of course - its more about sharing your idea than execution at this stage. I advocate tools that facilitate passive interruption, polling and commenting for feedback.
- Split testing is great for this if you’re set up for it.