How to bring branding “home”

I had the pleasure to interview Josh Levine of Great Monday recently for my upcoming book, Branding Basics for Small Business (due out in late Spring/early Summer 2010). Josh will also be my co-panelist at Branding Inside Out on Feb 18 in San Francisco. We talked a lot about how to make branding real and relevant for business owners and execs.

His firm has the exact same philosophy as Red Slice in that brand is not just a logo; it’s everything. Josh’s approach is to talk about “culture-driven branding” meaning using brand across the organization to not only connect with customers on every level, but to build brand into the company’s DNA to inspire employees and energize partners as well. How do you embed brand into the fabric of the company, into its processes, policies and values? And HR and people are at the heart of that over any fancy logos. If brand is the total experience with the company, then that has to start with the people working within the organization and how they adopt a mission-driven approach to the work they do every day.

We both discussed that the “outputs” of brand strategy projects can often be the visual elements: the logo, the design, the website. But more importantly, how do we use language, the most common way for people to get their arms around a concept, to convey brand? For both of us, this work starts for clients with a strong messaging platform. What are the values, benefits and proof points or features you will prioritize in order to get your brand promise across? This makes sense for people more than any abstract concept. This messaging platform should then manifest itself through the logo, design, website, policies – and even tagline. It also gets conveyed via the messages from HR to the marketplace on what type of people they are looking to hire. And this messaging should be first on every employee’s lips when representing the organization, no matter whether their official role is internal or external.

By speaking the same language and starting from the same messaging platform, the brand can be communicated out a thousand different ways – but all conveying the same consistent promise. And then every employee, partner and yes, customer, will become a brand ambassador.

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