Brand is an important and often misunderstood concept. First, you don’t have a brand; you are a brand. You have a logo, a website, print collateral, a building, etc.. All of those tangible and visible elements are undoubtedly critical; but your brand is much more comprehensive. Your brand includes how your leaders make decisions, how your audience feels when they engage you, the comments people make about you online (and off), and the story that you communicate to the world.
At Historic we believe brand is best understood by five pillars:
- Culture – who you are.
- The convictions, values, and behaviors that define your brand.
- Story – what you say.
- The brand and marketing narrative that communicates you to your audience.
- Service – what you do.
- The product or service you provide.
- Experience – how you feel.
- The touch points of your brand, whether physical or digital.
- Identity – how you look.
- The visual and aesthetic qualities of your brand.
While identity is the brand pillar most often associated with brand, we have found time and time again that culture is the most critical pillar of successful and sustaining brands. Why? We have yet to hear about a brand failing because of their logo. Contrast that with the several experiences and stories we know first hand about a brand’s culture being the primary barrier to success, or the biggest gap in customer experience, or the reason the brand quickly declined. Culture will either be your single greatest driver or barrier to brand success.
Simply put, these five pillars combine to create your brand promise. They tell those you seek to reach what they can expect from you no matter the channel or medium by which they connect. Your unique brand attributes and value proposition inform your brand promise and become the north star that differentiates and distinguishes you from other like-minded organizations in your same vertical and/or region. Truly great brands make such a compelling and consistent brand promise that they build brand trust and loyalty as they go about their everyday activities.
If your brand is your promise, your brand strategy defines the rules and guidelines on how, what, where, when and to whom you communicate that promise. A brand strategy is essential because it provides clarity about your competitive landscape, market position and customer expectations. Effective brand strategies build trust with their customers and that trust leads to increased retention, brand believers, and creates brand-advocates who ultimately generate more awareness and buzz for your brand than any traditional marketing strategy ever could.
A brand strategy must take into account all five pillars of your brand to be effective. Let’s say you develop a robust strategy for your product/service, story, and identity, but fail to incorporate your culture and experience. If your brand is out of alignment and not making a consistent promise through its key staff and user experience, effective marketing strategies will only accelerate and expose brand gaps which could ultimately lead to failure.
The process of building an aligned brand is just that – a process. At Historic, we believe the process is as important as the end product. Building an aligned brand is not impossible, but it will require ruthless honesty and a commitment to staying true to your promise. The reward and potential for increased engagement, retention, and impact will be well worth the effort.