Back in 2010, we came upon a TedX talk by Simon Sinek called “Start with Why” (which Sinek also elaborated upon and published as a book). The presentation certainly grabbed our attention (since we’re talking about it three years later), but as the name suggests, the ideas incorporated into the presentation were, on the surface, quite simple. Your company, in order to innovate, in order to gain customer loyalty, in order to succeed, needs a “why.” You need a mission statement. You need a reason to do all of the things you do. Sinek points out that in the case of Apple, one of the most successful companies in the world, part of their “why” is to remain ahead of the curve. They strive to guess what people would fine useful before people even know they want something new. Sinek notes that these definitions of “why” are not restricted to the C-Suite, nor should they be. These decisions need to be understood from everyone who works at a company, especially at this point in time when social media allows anyone to become a company representative of sorts.
Defining your “why” is a large step towards defining your brand, but in the wake of new technology, fast changes, and “shiny object syndrome,” it seems sometimes like the work of branding gets put on the back burner. Companies stress their products, people promote themselves and/or their companies, but the “why,” the overriding mission statement, doesn’t always seem to come through. We suggest that it’s almost impossible to create a successful marketing campaign in the absence of a clear brand or a clear why. After all, if you do not know who you are, what you are trying to do, or why you want to do what you are doing, how can you convince other people to invest in you?
What is a brand?
Seth Godin, best selling author, marketing mogul, and publisher, defined “brand” this way in one of his posts:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.
You’ll notice that this is far more involved than simply picking a company logo or creating a design that can be carried across multiple marketing platforms. Those things can represent your brand, but the true branding effort is really a company’s version of soul searching. Everyone needs to be on board with how your company’s brand is being formulated, from the CEO to the person who answers the telephones. Sinek, in his presentation, suggested that the custodians who work at NASA are just as familiar with the NASA brand as the people who sit in the C-Suite.
If you were to ask anyone at your company, “What is our brand,” would they be able to answer? Would you get the same answers from everyone? If not, there is work to be done.
A strong understanding of your brand helps everything
Even though we’re talking about marketing primarily, the fact is that a company’s brand is not just a marketing tool. Once you have buy-in on the brand from top to bottom, everyone will understand how to present your company, whether that person is a salesperson, a customer service representative, a Chief Financial Officier, or a Social Media community manager. If you are sending people from your company out into the world with varying understandings of what your brand is, you are risking serious disconnects in the messaging you are sending out to competitors, customers, prospects, and peers. Is your marketing presenting an image your sales force is unaware of? Is your sales force presenting concepts your customer service department can’t meet? These disconnects can create serious negative repercussions for your company. Why risk it?
So where are you in this process? Do you, as you read this, know what your company’s “why” is? Would anyone else at your company give the same answer?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gavinjllewellyn/6353289537/ via Creative Commons