As our world continues to transform and businesses continue to heed its changing ways, brand has proven to be more relevant now than ever before. About 543,000 new business are created each month in the United States, many of which continue on to grow and iterate rapidly. The mass innovation currently taking place, while innovative and progressive in nature, has also created a highly saturated marketplace in which we’re often scrambling to be heard, to bring value, and to establish real, rooted connections with our communities. This increased noise and saturation has made the importance of a compelling, clear, and recognizable brand critical to organizational growth. Which is why we're exploring (and sharing!) the five foundational components of great brands.
Don’t be afraid to be different. There is no shortage of redundancies in the marketplace. Lean into your eccentricities, and tap into your creative instincts. At Plenty, we believe firmly in finding and bringing to the surface whatever it is that makes you, as a brand and as a company, special.
An original brand is both a tool for strategic positioning against peers in the marketplace, as well as a gateway for authenticity. In fact, it’s about articulating yourself in a way that is unique so that you have no competition. Keep in mind, unique assets are not always structural. Maybe it’s your staff that makes you unique and dynamic. Maybe it’s your outlook on the world, and your vision for things to come.
To effectively unearth these discoveries, ask yourself questions like: “What is the unique value we bring that nobody else can?” or “What is it that makes this company and team feel so special? Now, how do we articulate that?” You can find more guidance on presence and positioning in our Meridian Strategy Model e-book, here.
Our audiences and constituents are smarter than we often give them credit for. They know when we're authentic and when we’re not. They understand when our intentions are genuine. So as you’re thinking about your brand potential – be it on a level of design, high-level ideation or messaging and communications – be sure to reflect who you truly are. Honesty is key; in fact, it’s compelling.
Highlight language and values that don’t just represent moral victories, but are real, authentic expressions of your daily input and output at all levels of the company. For example, if your workplace is one of humor and laughter and you find it positively impacts your work, maybe consider using happiness as a value. Then align the aesthetic, tone and verbiage of the brand to accommodate these values.
This process is easier said than done, but very much achievable. Take time to engage as a team and ask questions about what people value most about the company. Allow people space and opportunities to reflect openly on the brand, and crowdsource helpful insights you can use to evaluate the brand’s current alignment with the needs, interests, passions and realities of the leadership or staff. A basic discovery often surfaces: Our brand is misaligned with our team and its goals. In this instance, either one or the other will need to change.
Many organizations have a strong foundation buried somewhere deep beneath all of their content. But brevity is essential, as it produces clarity. As you design or reevaluate your brand, don’t get so bogged down by what you’re saying and how you’re saying it that you lose your "why." The why is the most important of all these pieces, as it creates a pathway for others. Whether discussing mission, vision, value proposition or goals, the central point needs to be clear.
Want to take it even further? If you had to draft a tweet that explained what you do and who you are to your constituents, what would you say? You have 140 characters - go. We read through many websites and documents whose contents are overflowing with detail and nuance. But what good is content when its points are unclear? Although there’s often a place and a need for nuance, first make it as plain and simple as you can (without removing substance.) Here’s a little trick we like to use at Plenty. We often use what we call a “one-pager.” This typically manifests itself as either a one-page document or a single slide, which contains the fine-tuned language we’ve paired down from dozens of pages of content. The goal, of course, is tightening up the narrative. In essence, “What are we really saying?” and “What are we really doing?” This process helps us bring clarity to our story and vision, and then allows us the space to extrapolate without burying the central focus.
Another benefit of clarity is that it breeds consistency. The inverse is also true. When you’ve found a way to articulate your organization and brand effectively, stay on topic. That brand is your sweet spot, and it should be presented in a way that is consistent. Though there is always an opportunity for dimensionality, keep it level, and let your brand speak for itself. You selected these words, these visuals, these tones with a purpose. Brands do change, of course, and you should make room for this as it is necessary. But don’t lose sight of the clarity you’ve developed.
Inversely, the more consistent you are with the delivery of your brand (both internally and externally) the clearer your staff, board, and constituents will be with them. Don’t underestimate the value of consistency in the marketplace. There’s a reason Coca-Cola’s logo is a recognizable brand by 94% of the world’s population.
Every organization has a story. Branding, somewhat simply put, is mostly the art of learning how to tell that story – or, at least what the current conclusion to the story is. Not every part of this growth narrative has outward value. However, the narrative itself, when properly studied, will make many things about your brand, your patterns, and your values clear. Much like our childhood informs our adulthood, the histories of our organizations matter. Context, of course, matters. Learn to tell your story, and the potential for your brand will make itself available.
Furthermore, a story is a captivating tool for attracting new constituents, activating and retaining participants, and fundraising at all levels. If you learn to navigate your story, it’s much easier to identify where the people and organizations you’re speaking with fit into it. Your brand's past may be written, but there should always be space to invite others to participate in its future.