At the heart of every Strong Brand is its self-image. A powerful idea that gives meaning to everything the company does. It is the cornerstone of every experience that people should have with the company. It provides orientation in all relevant experience drivers, from the behaviour and culture of the employees to the design of the products and services, to the audio-visual appearance and communication. It is therefore crucial that this cornerstone is truly understood in depth by a large number of stakeholders. This is reason enough to think about the form of presentation.
Every company that has thought about its self-image has formulated it in some way. This way is often decisively shaped by the consulting firm that helped the company to do so, and because each consultancy usually has its own brand model, there are an incredible number of them. There are brand steering wheels, brand compasses, the five to seven S’s, value metrics, mission and vision statements, and so on... Not always, but often, they consist of summaries of value vocabulary, usually with 2 major weaknesses.
What is needed is connectivity with people. Human Compatibility. A kind of preparation is needed that goes beyond the mere placement of information and triggers tangible images in people's minds, nurturing ambitions. This can create gravitas and anticipate decisions.
In recent years, Simon Sinek's popular model of the ‘Golden Circle’, with its grateful structure of ‘why-how-what’ has often and readily been invoked for this purpose—and understandably so. For what Sinek has recognised well and conveyed very succinctly is the fact that a purpose can work wonders in the way a company markets its products.
Unfortunately, many have confused this with the formulation of their brand and their positioning. If you listen closely to Sinek, you will notice that after each of his introductions he adds "Here's a computer. Would you like to buy one?". Sinek uses the why-how-what narrative to create differentiation in what is actually an interchangeable product.
But, a brand positioning must be able to do more than that. It must be able to create differentiation and gravitas, both internally and externally, even with a purpose that is not very differentiating in itself. That is why a why-how-what story is often not enough.
In our understanding, a brand is more than a marketing tool. A brand is a management tool. A good positioning not only creates an incentive to buy but provides answers to entrepreneurial questions. The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry summed it up perfectly in his oft-quoted saying "If you want to build a ship, don't gather men together to procure wood, assign tasks and divide up the work, but teach them to long for the wide, endless sea."
What do we think good brand positioning needs? Brand Storytelling? Why? Quite simply, human brains understand stories better than anything else. In stories, we understand connections and facts, but also subtleties and intentions. A strong brand story unites the origin and the ambition of the company and creates meaning.
A good brand story makes it much easier to derive the relevant management dimensions, such as the value proposition to customers or rules for internal and external collaboration. A strong brand story forms a springboard for the communication strategy in terms of content and style. That is why it is crucial that it reaches and moves people in its purest form.
The emotional power of the medium of film has proven itself for this purpose. No dry animation or animated PowerPoint, but strong images (preferably moving ones), appropriate music, and a human voice. A well-made and moving brand film is not only suitable for internal use but can also make sense on the website, in communication, or in employer branding.
If the brand story is developed in a collaborative way and involves the important internal stakeholders, this can have a great positive influence on the commitment of the central figures and multipliers in the company. Especially in larger companies, this is an added value that should not be underestimated.
A main focus for brand managers these days is the Net Promoter Score, NPS for short. They want as many ‘yes’s’ as possible in response to the question ‘would you recommend us?’ The initiatives in the companies that follow the NPS programmes, however, start with the ‘no’. With great effort, analyses are carried out, information is collected and projects are started to combat the reasons for the ‘no’.
For years and decades, it was the epitome of every brand design project, the pride and joy of the agency and the client: the corporate design manual. The reference work by which all those professionally involved with a company's brand should act and think. So much for the theory.
They are world market leaders in their special field. But they are completely unknown to Mr and Mrs Swiss. They are niche providers. Key players on the global market who, although small in size, supply companies all over the world with their highly specific range of services.
Design thinking, product design, industrial design, fashion design, and organisational design. Everything, it seems, is about design these days. What design means, however, is often unclear. A brand designer’s understanding is different to that of an organisational developer.