Much has been written about the power of brand and its role in successful businesses. Brands can help a business build relevance and loyalty, but the process of brand building has value in and of itself. One of the most overlooked advantages of the process is how it can create internal alignment along the way.
Uncovering Difficult Truths
Whether we are creating a new brand or refreshing an existing one, our first step is to gain a deep understanding of its dynamics among both internal and external audiences. We examine the various perspectives that exist within an organization through stakeholder interviews. We then talk to customers, read analysts’ reports, and dive deep into the reality of the product experience. Based on the learnings from this process, we land on a diagnosis.
This research often uncovers previously unknown and difficult truths that need to be faced about a business’s brand. Most of the time, the learnings will give voice to issues that everyone knows but no one has found a way to properly address. Recognizing this misalignment is where the real work begins.
A crucial part of creating a powerful brand comes from clearly articulating what your company does, how it provides value, and why it should matter (to customers or the world)… Sounds like it should be a pretty simple task, right? If it is easy for you, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, the branding process highlights different, opposing perspectives.
As organizations grow and mature, it is natural for groups to become laser-focused on their own unique view of the company. Recently we were working with an international company that creates software for project management and visual collaboration. As we talked with the cofounders, head of marketing, and other key stakeholders, we noticed something wasn’t matching up. We quickly realized that there wasn’t a clear mission statement that employees could point to when asked about their purpose as an organization.
Before moving forward with articulating their positioning in the market, we worked with the CEO to express the company’s mission in a way that would help unify efforts across departments. Despite everyone’s best efforts to do their job and build success for the company, teams were getting caught in our own echo chambers. Sometimes it can be helpful to get an outside perspective.
A well-known case study of a brand with internal misalignment is Uber. In 2016, the ride-hailing company launched a new visual identity that left many users scratching their heads. The new design system had different app icons depending upon whether you were a driver or a passenger. Every city had its own system of colors, patterns, and photographic style. For those of us who were watching from the sidelines, it looked like they were saying nothing by trying to be everything.
In 2017, Uber’s dirty laundry was exposed for all to see. The company was accused of misleading regulators and taking advantage of customers with surge pricing. At the heart of the problem was a culture where mismanagement and competing interests threatened the future of the company. After purging leadership and thoroughly improving their culture, the company signaled its change by introducing the clean, simple, and transit-informed visual system they continue to use to this day.
Alignment Fosters Empathy
Once you are able to identify the different views that contribute to the misalignment, the first result is increased empathy. Maybe executive leadership didn’t understand how the broader organization was resistant to their vision for the future. Maybe product teams felt uncomfortable with claims being promised in-market. Whatever the case may be, this newfound understanding creates an environment where teams can start creating a better path forward together. Empathy proves to be the most effective way to communicate and foster change.
Once teams are on the same page, work like brand positioning, messaging, visual identity, and other programs can come to full fruition. More importantly, aligned teams create a singularly-focused brand that gets expressed consistently on the outside. And the more consistent the brand is externally, the more powerful it becomes.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.
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