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A Brand: start with one word

On a recent project I was brought in after several failed attempts to revitalize the brand for a 100-year old company.  The last effort had centered messaging around worldly, exciting and fun.  The problem was that nothing about the company was worldly, exciting or fun.  The company was not able to sustain a believable and authentic brand.  The brand positioning that was developed kept the needs of the target audience in mind without giving one thought to the company, its people and its culture.

So what's missing in the way brand strategies are being developed today?  No one ever checks to see if the message reflects the culture of the company.

If you want to ensure you're developing a brand that works then make it an authentic reflection of your organization.  How do you start?   Start with one word.

Often, when I work with organizations one word will surface.  The word embodies the core values of that organization.  It's a word that, to me, reflects the essence of who they are.  This usually happens the very first time I meet them - even before I get hired to do the work, it's the first impression.

Here are some examples of that one word:

RESPONSIBLITY - as a developer of residential communities in the suburbs and urban centers, it was clear within the first two meetings that this architect-owned company had a deep sense of responsibility to people, communities and the urban landscape.  A refreshing change from their competitive marketplace.  The brand platform we developed for Liza Communities reflects their commitment to life and exudes this sense of responsibility throughout.

COLLABORATION - this design firm exudes the essence and spirit of collaboration in all its work.  They are open to change, open minded and they truly approach each client with a clear sense of purpose.  In developing the brand platform for this firm, the purpose is not to talk about collaboration, as many design firms do, but to use the word as inspiration for developing the brand.  When this is done the brand will be an authentic and truthful reflection of the culture of the design studio.  The brand will embody the spirit of collaboration in its personality.

BALANCE - a multi-disciplinary design and engineering firm is faced with the challenge of defining its strategic growth model.  What came to the forefront in this organization, where the left brain work of the engineers is as crucial to the business as the right brain work of the designers is that the company has struck a balance internally that is well managed and respected.  This balance, although not the core brand identity, must be reflected in the brand personality, in the messaging and in the way they craft their strategic growth model.

PLAYFUL - an industrial design firm well known in one industry is on the verge of growth.  Six years into their business they must define their brand and develop a strong platform from which to grow or they may fall into the trap of speaking the way all design firms do about their work: "we are innovative".  To grow from being well known in one industry to being well known in many this firm must clearly see that a sense of playfulness is what is inherent in their approach to design and in the personality of the people that work there - and reflect this in their brand.

What's your word?