Brand used to be the aspect of marketing which I liked the least. It seemed expensive and wasteful to me, because early in my marketing career, I was a bit of a product and profitability snob. What I mean by that is that public relations, photography, graphic design and fluffy communications campaigns didn’t fill me with joy. I loved the more complex job (as I perceived it) of shaping and re-designing technology and telecoms products which clients would appreciate. That often involved taking the proposals apart from the technical sales team and turning their language into something more market and user-friendly – with a clear value attached. And while working in commercial banking, I got used to seeing companies close and re-open with a new name, but I was deeply frustrated by their fickleness with their name and brand – I simply didn’t understand it.
All I saw was many organisations, both large and small ‘wasting’ hard-earned funds on branding updates.
Yet these days I’m a huge advocate of getting the brand right for your company.
What hindsight has shown me, is that good communication must start at the heart of the organisation; and making it work effectively depends entirely on the whole staff having a good understanding of the leadership team’s values. Brand values.
And on top of that, the leaders have to ensure the company name is aligned with those values, to build a sense of loyalty, belonging and trust from within. Branson famously said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. It’s that simple.” And because brand is a key means of communicating with your team, I realise now how important it is to spend time every year to discuss and commit to the values you want your company brand to reflect. Even if you are re-visiting those values and agreeing that they should remain the same!
If brand acts as a glue, to help the team work and play together more effectively, what do you need to change, to get yours working well for you?
1. Do review the company name occasionally
This is your core brand name. It usually fits with your products and services to help customers understand what you do. Some businesses prefer to use an abstract brand name.
Diction: your team is going to be repeatedly saying this name on the phone; make their lives easier by choosing something which they don’t need to spell out multiple times a day.
Trends: three-word company names are popular, where people might choose a name or a colour, an abstract word and a service. We chose The Case Study Practice as our limited company name, to be very specific about our favourite type of copywriting.
Feedback: if you’re considering a new name, do test your ideas with staff and clients, so you choose something which will resonate well with them. When we suggested ‘Practice,’ several of our clients baulked at the idea; to them, it sounded too much like a legal or medical practice. Yet when we explained further, they loved the context of ‘practicing’ to become better in business.
Future direction: you can’t always predict for future changes, yet if you can choose a name which gives you maximum flexibility and minimum hassle, it won’t matter if your strategy changes or you extend your services. An abstract name does work better as an umbrella brand for multiple types of products.
2. Check your logo matches your desired brand personality
Your logo is a blend of three things: colours, typography and graphics. For The Case Study Practice, it was simple to use the speech mark icon across all our branding. Blue and orange were easy colour choices because these favourites carried over from the 27 Marketing brand, and we added the deep green to reflect the power of love in business. (We love our work – helping you to celebrate success and love your work, your clients and the difference you make in the business world.) But if your personality is serious, choose serious colours. If you want to bring in more fun, choose to brighten up your logo.
3. Create reminders of the company values – photos, graphics and even written phrases
Our values are simple – six words that extend out into more meaningful phrases if we’ve got time to explain them. Our guiding principle is to bring positive energy into our work, helping others to celebrate their successes. (Yes, we had a slight advantage, working with several wordsmiths in the team to come up with ours!) Once agreed with the team, your values can go on photos, images, or laptop screen savers to remind the wider team of what they’ve signed up to do and be in their role.
4. Invest in brand guidelines – they’re intended as a playbook, it really can be part of the fun for your team if you involve them!
Brand guidelines often get created once and then stored somewhere in a PDF. If your sales and marketing people don’t have access to them, they become hard for the team to apply when developing and sending out new documents and proposals. By spending time and investing budget into the process, you can give your people practical templates to go with your brand guidelines – making their job much easier if there’s a presentation to create or a report to format. Involve them in your decisions what documents the company needs – making it more fun for them rather than a chore. That’s why we recommend workshops with creative agencies like Tonic Bristol or Danny&Co to bring yours alive!
5. Treat the marketing ‘rule book’ with caution
When relaunching The Case Study Practice, we didn’t really stick to the rule book. Many marketing agencies take their name from the founders of the business. But you don’t have to play by someone else’s rules.
We wanted a “Ronseal brand” approach – doing what it says on the tin – we write up case studies. Yet for our brand, we also want people to believe that stories sell and more; because businesses can grow so much by learning from the feedback. Case studies have the power to re-energise a company when you get in a rut because you can use a fresh perspective from clients in many ways:
1) Motivate teams to work more cohesively. Celebrating success and learning from live client experiences is one way to encourage and develop best practice.
2) Share social proof – human nature means we want to go with tried, tested and recommended, not necessarily the most innovative services.
3) Turn stories into powerful messages which will reach and resonate with new prospects.
4) Win more business, because you can prove to a prospect how you’ll deliver similar results for them.
Summing up, it’s not so much about our founder or the brand we operate under. If Debra or another writer is speaking to your clients, we call and speak on behalf of your company name. So, our brand can happily pale into the background. It doesn’t need to look like every other funky, creative copywriting or marketing agency – we only strive to listen with care. And we hope the importance of dialogue shines in the icons and branding marks that Tonic Bristol has created for us. Having been through the process first-hand, I’m now a huge advocate of branding and taking the time to get it aligned with the values in your business.
So, have you thought about the difference you want your company to make in the world? We look forward to hearing your thoughts when you meet us!