Do You Even Know Your Own Brand?
Can you clearly describe what your brand is and, equally important, what it isn’t? Can your newest hire articulate it, and do they understand how their day-to-day actions reinforce it? Could your latest customer describe it? When you make strategic decisions, is it easy to determine what is on-brand — and what is off-brand?
Successful companies answer these questions with a resounding “Yes!” How can you do this? Create a single document outlining your brand in vivid detail, then design training to educate all new hires, and implement performance metrics based on brand values.
How To Create A “One-Page Brand”
The foundational piece for more deeply defining your brand is a one-page tool that can be called “Your Brand” or “The (insert company name) Way.” To create it, gather your team in a collaborative space away from your daily workplace. Be sure to include representatives from all levels of the organization, particularly several who work most closely with your customers.
Next, answer these five questions, in this order:
1. What is your Brand Promise?
You want customers to experience your Brand Promise every time they interact with your company. Questions to help you define it include:
- What distinguishes your products and services from the competition?
- What is superior about the value you offer?
- What do you want the customer to experience every time?
Your Brand Promise should include three things at most. If you brainstorm a longer list (and you will), negotiate, lobby, and vote to pare it down to the three most important customer experiences.
Example: In-N-Out Burger’s Brand Promise is Give customers the freshest, highest-quality foods with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.
2. How do you want your customers to feel?
This deceptively simple question is crucial to defining your brand and may take more work to pinpoint than anticipated. Feelings and emotions are the essence of the brand and are critical to articulate. One way to get a clear answer is to ask instead, “How don’t we want customers to feel after interacting with us?” That then informs what you must do to encourage the opposite. Another way is to ask what feelings you want each of your three Brand Promises to evoke. Narrow your list down to the top three to five answers. These should clearly represent how you want customers to feel.
Once you define those feelings, briefly describe and characterize how your company will create them. For example, if the feeling is “belonging,” the characterization might be We Treat Them Like They are One of Us. If the feeling is “stimulated,” the characterization might be We Dazzle the Senses.
Other examples: We’re Glad You’re Here, and We Make it Easy.
3. What won’t you do?
Draw a T-chart on the whiteboard to create this outline. Start by listing what you won’t provide to customers for any reason, whether it’s too costly, requires too many resources, or is simply off-brand.
Then, list what you will do for customers. As you complete this side of the chart, consider what you don’t like about how competitors treat customers or what they fail to provide. Ask team members who have close relationships with customers for feedback about what customers look for in your product or service. Vote as a group, and settle on five to seven things you just won’t do. Keep the list of things you will do to utilize for question 5 below.
4. What is your “because”?
What do you want customers to say about you? How should they complete the sentence, “I would recommend [your company name] because ______________”? It’s what comes after because that is the essence of your brand, according to Gerry O’Brion in his new book, They Buy Your Because.
Answering this question prompts you to reverse-engineer the customer experience to create that result consistently. It informs how you design the product, craft customer experience from website functionality to personal interactions, as well as customer and employee policies.
Examples: I like Company X because their product makes me feel great, or I trust they will not take advantage of me.
5. What is your action plan?
The last step is brainstorming the actions your team can take to deliver the brand consistently. Be specific. Think through every aspect of customer interaction from the initial lead to closing the sale to ongoing communications and identify actions — then use them to support your new, more clearly defined Brand.
On a practical note, it may be easier to complete this exercise in a separate meeting after you generate answers to the first four questions. It is helpful to have those four concepts clearly outlined for reference as you brainstorm supporting actions.
Example: We drop everything and connect when a customer enters the office.
Now that you have answers to the five questions, put them all on a single page. Use your logo and company graphics creatively to keep it interesting. Present each component visually, in different ways, so they all stand out with their own personality. Use conversation bubbles, dotted boxes, color bars, white reverse text, etc. Check out our example.
Put Your Brand into Action
Review the One-Page Brand document with all new hires during orientation and reinforce behaviors that deliver your Brand Promise through recognition programs. Team members who receive a 5-star review mentioning any of the brand items should get a shout-out at team meetings as additional reinforcement. Bi-weekly and quarterly evaluations can be designed to ensure that your everyday actions and property appearance match and strengthen your brand.
The Brand document is foundational to your decision-making process. Both strategic and tactical decisions are much easier knowing your Brand Promise, how you want customers to feel, what you will and won’t do, what you want your reputation to be, and which actions reinforce your brand.
When your brand is defined with this much thoughtful detail, all your employees know and live your brand — and you will find it echoed in the reviews and words of your customers. This clarity on both sides of the table leads to a very pure company and experience that produces a bigger and bigger future for you and your business.
Barry Raber is a serial entrepreneur, president of Carefree RV Storage, a 22-year member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), the founder of Business Property Trust, and an EO Portland Entrepreneur of the Year. He shares his successful business secrets at Real Simple Business. Read his previous blog contributions on Implementing A Collaborative Approach to Strategy, 3 Steps That Create a Bigger Future for You and Your Business, How to Run a Company With Two 10-Minute Weekly Meetings and Post-It Notes, and 3 Gratitude Habits For Business Leaders To Motivate Your Team — and Yourself.
This post first appeared on Forbes and is reposted here with permission.