Posted by Martin Nixon
14 May, 2018

For some businesses, branding starts and ends with the marketing department. But brand is bigger than marketing – it comes from the very core of your company and should suffuse every aspect of it.

So, how can you bring your brand to life? Well, there are three main parts to it: defining your brand, keeping it at the forefront and empowering your employees. Here are our suggestions on how to do all three.

Discover your brand

To bring your brand to life you first need to know what it is. The crucial question to ask at this stage is: Why do you do what you do? In other words, what do you believe in? What’s the reason your brand exists? (By the way, making money isn’t the reason – it’s the result.) This question will likely take some grappling with to get an answer. But once you’ve got your reason why, it’s going to drive every other aspect of your branding and marketing.

Other key things to consider at this stage are your audiences, USPs and competitive landscape, the company’s origins and future, and your business objectives. You want to drill right down to the bedrock of your brand. It’s often best to get an external agency or brand specialist to run a workshop with three to five key figures in the company: their expertise, outsider’s eye and a willingness to ask the difficult (and dumb) questions can glean valuable insights that you might otherwise miss.

Someone writing on a whiteboard covered in post-it notes.

Define your brand

After discovering your brand, you need to define it. Boil your findings from the first step down into a concise and focused set of guidelines, including things such as an audience overview, mission statement, values and tone of voice

This is the document that everyone can refer back to, whether it’s a new employee getting to grips with the brand or the senior team making an important decision about the company’s next steps. That’s why it’s vital to get step one right – a truly authentic and detailed brand plays an important part in business strategy.

Give examples and guidance

Along with the usual brand guidelines, you may want to create an additional ‘values in action’ section. This is where you set out the ways in which your company can put your brand values into practice. Consider all the audience touchpoints – your brand should shine through in every experience – and include advice on how employees can embody the brand on a day-to-day basis, with practical tips relating to their roles.

You also want to think about the things you can do to really bring the brand to life. For example, if you’re a hotel with ‘generous’ as one of your values, you could treat every 50th guest to two free cocktails at the bar. Come up with as many ideas as you can and then open it up to suggestions.

Have a brand day

Once you’ve defined your brand and set out the guidelines, it’s time to put them into action. The first step is making sure everyone understands the brand – only a select few will have been involved in the first two stages of discovery and definition, and now it’s time to roll it out to the wider team.

Simply handing over a guide document and expecting employees to live the brand often isn’t enough. Arrange a brand session – preferably a whole day – during which you can go through the guidelines, answer any questions, and try some exercises and activities. The aim is to get the team actively involved in the brand so that they feel empowered by it and part of it. You also want their input – they’ll usually have ideas about audience touchpoints and ways to practise the brand that you haven’t considered.

Foster a brand environment

Another way to get your team really feeling the brand is to make sure your working atmosphere reflects it. Think about the ways in which you can encourage your values in the workplace, from the décor to the group dynamic and even your working processes.

For instance, if your brand is sociable then you could have a lunch together as a team once a week and encourage each other to talk face to face rather than by email. If ‘creative’ is one of your values, you’ll want the office to be aesthetically interesting, maybe with music playing in the background (like our studio). By fostering an environment that reflects your brand it becomes a daily part of your team’s working life. It’s also a great way to boost morale and bring the team closer together.

Open trusses and an M from a neon sign.
A model moose in a glass cabinet.
A glass coffee table with a bowl of fruit and reading material.
A sail used as a curtain.
The Nixon studio is almost as creative as we are.

Run regular activities

As well as encouraging on-brand behaviour through the everyday working experience, it’s a good idea to dedicate some time for brand activities – perhaps an hour or two every month. Think of it as a kind of brand-based training: you’re helping everyone develop valuable traits that relate to your brand.

You could run a mini brand day to recap the month, discussing what’s worked and what changes can be made and exploring new ideas. Or you might want to do specific brand-related activities, perhaps problem-solving puzzles if one of your values is ‘strategic’ or a guided tour of a nearby town if your brand is based on local knowledge. These sessions also make for great content to post on your blog and social media.

Use your values in appraisals

When the time comes to appraise your employees, you can use your brand values as a way of measuring their progress, contextualising the process or simply as a conversation-starter.

Just be sure to avoid ambiguous goals like ‘be more proactive’ or ‘live the brand more’: work with your team to set clear, achievable and measurable objectives and help them to achieve them. For instance, if a goal is ‘be more proactive by upselling our services’, ask them if they need some peer-to-peer training in how to upsell. By turning your brand into actionable objectives, you can begin to measure how well you and your team bring your brand to life.

Give your brand a seat at the table

As touched on earlier, your brand should be playing a big part in your business strategy. Keep a printed copy of your guidelines to hand wherever you hold your meetings and use it to steer your decisions – from the small to the momentous. This may be difficult or strange at first but it’ll soon become second nature.

To make things easier, you might want to hire or appoint someone to steward the brand identity. Their job is to know the guidelines inside out and constantly ask ‘Is this on brand?’ With one person dedicated to the role they can focus their attention and the rest of the team won’t be spread so thin.

By putting your brand at the heart of your business, you can inspire happier, more productive employees, set yourself apart from your competitors, and give your audiences a truly unique experience. But most importantly, you’ll be putting your values in the diving seat, and value-driven businesses are the ones that capture their customers’ hearts.

Liked this post? Check out What is brand tone of voice?