How to start defining your brand.
I've been getting a lot of questions about this recently, so let's try to establish some sort of order in how you should approach your brand when trying to define it. The below is relevant for the first time you start working on it, as well as for rebranding efforts. It can also save you a lot of money that you might plan on paying some branding agency, so we can assume they won't like this post as much as you. But we're not here for them, so who cares, right?
The first thing you need to understand is that your brand is already alive, so the sooner you start, the better. I have a template for what I call "the brand kickoff workshop" that I will share in one of my next posts here, so stay tuned for that as well.
Once the initial workshop is behind you, it is time to separate between a few very important terms that will serve you later on:
A core value is the very reason your company exists. It's the "why". You were talking with a friend, saying that you believe that if only the world had X in it, it would be a much better place. That's probably your core value, remember it. The right core value never changes, if you think it needs to change - it's not your core value.
That simple. And stop lying to yourself - it's better to have a core value that says "we believe in making lots of money very fast" then lying to yourself and the world and changing it every two weeks. I would never work for you, and that's your core value, but hey, that's life.
What comes next is your mission statement. A mission statement is how your particular company is going to address this core value in a way that will be unique to you. For example, Apple's core value (you knew they were coming from the headline. Shut up) is "We believe people with passion can change the world." A lot of companies can say that this is their core value. Even a leadership program at high school can claim that. But the mission statement is what sets these companies apart. Because Apple took it to "making the best tech products in the world" (not official but how off can we be here, right?), the leadership program might have agreed on "giving the best tools for bright young people" or something like that.
So - core value can sound like it fits more than your company. Mission statement, less.
Next, comes the company principles. Some call them values, I prefer principles, as it helps to set these apart from the core value. Your company principles are the sum of the qualities and traits that when combined, could lead to nothing more or less than the fulfillment of your mission statement. So it needs to have a balanced approach to "soft skills" and "professional skills", and it needs to cover the aspects of your mission statement. It's that thing that if everyone in your company was a 100% fit to it, there would be no chance of not achieving that mission statement of yours.
Your company principles should impact your recruitment and assessment processes as well. If you do it right, your company will achieve your mission. If you fall in love with marketing buzz words, you'll get stuck in the worst comfort zone of all - being an average company.
If you got so far OK, you are now ready to create your tone of voice and visual guidelines. These two should work together, and should take from your mission statement and company principles, of course. But as these are two giant topics, I'll keep those for one of my next posts.
Just one note, for all you marketing people out there who are reading this - ALL the above should happen before marketing takes effect. If these are done right, marketing is just the part where you assemble the car in the factory.
If these are done wrong, however, all you'll be left with are a bunch of marketing buzz words that everyone is using, and an unexplained hatred to brand processes and workshops - well, there's no easy way to say it: it's not your brand, dude, it's just you.