The half-way point of the year is always ripe for reflection. We all survived Q1, the budget isn’t completely spent yet, and with any luck, we’ll live to see Q3. It’s a perfect time to kick the tires of your business, brand, and culture. What’s working? What’s failing? How can you fail better? How can you push things forward and end the year on a meteoric rise instead of a trickle?
Let’s run a brief diagnostic check.
1. How is your brand positioning? Are you top of mind? Is it clear, competitive, differentiated? Maybe your sales have declined, your targeted audience has shifted, or your product roadmap has evolved. Either way, positioning your business correctly helps separate your brand from its competitors. It’s one of the best return on investments for driving growth, fostering alignment, and situating your business and brand to thrive in even the most crowded landscapes.
2. Do your people have the tools they need? At its best, brand language is a tool people know how to wield with gusto. Your elevator pitch, your boilerplate, your corporate narrative – these are ways of clearly defining the purpose of your company and your unique role in bringing it to life. Anyone who’s been to a cocktail party knows the feeling of getting trapped in a sprawling 20-minute conversation from simply asking, “So, what do you do?” Get your story straight, concise, and attention-grabbing.
3. How are you expressing those insights externally? If you’ve got your story down, it would be a crime to keep it locked up. Blogs, podcasts, and thought leadership not only crystalize your vision, but they also build a community around your content. Readers can be coworkers, prospective clients, future employees, event organizers, or even the lowest of the low, other blog writers! It sounds simple, but brands with something to say should say something.
4. What’s the look and feel of those big ideas? A weird thing about business is that often the most important tools – pitch decks, sales playbooks, and conference presentations – are the ugliest. Forget stock photography. Instead, spend some design love on the tools that you will be using over and over to grow your business and tell your story.
5. How do all of these design elements ladder up? If your sales team is routinely Frankenstein-ing their own decks, if you’ve acquired multiple products that shift how people perceive you, or if you’re simply ready to ditch that chat bubble logo that stands for “community and conversation,” it might be time for a rebrand. Your visual identity is how the world understands you. Why leave any room for misunderstanding?
6. Do you have the right culture and values to bring these elements to life? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: culture is everything. It’s the foundation, the spark, the catalyst, the magic that turns a job into a calling.
7. Are you attracting and retaining the right talent to deliver on your mission? Top talent is a lot like falling in love. Great partners tend to seek you out when you’re living your best life, as opposed to desperately posting online. When your brand is strategically aligned and beautifully designed, you become a magnet for brilliant minds. In a way, everything you do for your brand ends up improving your employer brand, because who doesn’t want to be involved in something great?
8. Are you getting out there in the real world? In 2019, it’s never been easier to hide behind the computer. We cannot stress enough the value of physical events in the real world: conferences, experiential product launches, even inviting companies for lunch-and-learns. Get your brand in front of real people, because that’s where insights happen. You need to see the excitement in people’s faces when you solve a problem they care about. And you need to be gut-checked by people outside your bubble with good bs detectors.
9. Are you giving people time to think beyond daily cycles? Here’s a slightly counter idea: productive people need time to get bored. When you have alignment at the top and everything is firing like it’s supposed to, the best gift you can give creatives is freedom – because that’s how innovation happens. It’s Google’s 20 percent rule. Clarity of purpose leads to clarity of action. Give your employees the general direction they need to delight you with a left-turn.
10. Are you building a brand that you actually want to engage with? It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s like that Toni Morrison quote. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” There is so much sameness out there. Ditch the crowd and build the crazy company you wish you could have looked up to when you first started. Are you passionate, fired-up, energized about what you’re building and the story you’re telling? Because that’s the fuel that keeps you going in times of uncertainty. You can’t control the market, but you can control your brand and the feelings it evokes.
When it comes to the strength of your business, brand, and culture, there are one million things to worry about. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. If any of these topics are illuminating your “check engine” light, we’d love to chat with you.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.