communications, digital media, organizational management, Uncategorized

Top Ten Best Practices for Communicating Organizational Identity and Brand

You need some new athletic shoes, what kind are you dying to get? You’re traveling for work, in a hurry, and need to eat? What’s the national fast food chain you’ll be relieved to see in the airport? I love fizzy drinks, but the only soda I ever really want is Coke. I’m in the process of moving to Baltimore, Maryland and the first place I will go to buy new beds for my sons is IKEA. Our favorite brands are more often than not successful brands, great brands. (Check out the book What Great Brands Do by Denis Lee Yohn). These brands have an identity that transcends aesthetics or functionality, but include both and then some.

Anyone who embarks on a business venture that offers products and/or services presumably want their brands to be successful, long lasting and to become part of the fabric of society. Brand such as Coca-Cola, IKEA and J. Crew have accomplished this sustainability and long life by appealing to the hearts, minds and emotions of consumers. In today’s economy, creating a strong, consistent and coherent identity and brand has many challenges. We want our purchases to make sense, have superior function, aesthetic appeal and to support our lifestyle choices. We like experiences. We like good stories and a brand that masters its commitment to authenticity.

In order to give consumers what they want and, in turn, encourage them to buy products and services, companies must see branding as organizing principle. Why? A company cannot project its values to its consumers without first embracing those values internally. Let’s talk about this as inside out branding. Best practices for communicating organizational branding are a critical component of achieving inside out branding. Following are the top 10 strategies for communication your brand as organization:

  1. Know yourself – Determine your values and passion. Companies like Chic-Fil-A start with their values, literally. Religion is part of the values system of Chic-Fil-A (see What Great Brands Do) and they have stuck to it, being closed on Sundays for religious reasons and founding their mission on scripture. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, stick to your values and you will appeal to the values of the public. Other values of Chic-Fil-A include a passion for delivery high-quality fast food with a dedicated menu, as well as excellent customer service. The customer service we all experience is not a gimmick, it is a value and employees cannot work there without commitment. See the video from Coca-Cola CEO on compliance vs. commitment.

2. Be yourself – If you are the passion behind the brand, live it in all aspects of who you are. Tap into the artist’s passion (See Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon). Be who you are is communicating and broadcasting your brand to the wider world.

3. Be in community inside the organization – Once you have established your values and embody them in your daily life, find a way to internalize your identity within the company. This includes hiring like-minded employees who have a personal passion for your mission. When my husband and I owned an independent trade bookstore that embodied the values of the independent bookstore world, we didn’t have much trouble finding employees who loved books and who cared about the experience an independent bookstore provides: hand-selected books, superior customer service, inventory curated for the local market and a shared passion for the written word. On the occasion we had an employee who didn’t share our values, it usually did not work out. Because our employees were “book people,” they took the book-lover archetype into the world and drew friends and acquaintances to our store. We also considered ourselves a family.

4. Be in community in the world – Once you’ve incorporated your values into the internal structure of your brand, it’s time to extend the communication of your identity into the local and possibly national or global community. But before your jump to imaging a rockin’ international website, start with your suppliers, delivery people and other local businesses, churches and schools. Be your brand (supported by your values) to everyone you encounter. Take your brand with you when you go out to eat. If your business highlights excellent customer service, make sure you are an excellent customer to the wait staff you encounter at your local burger joint. Your UPS delivery person visits hundreds of other businesses a week, where he or she might mention you. You want to be in community with the local community. This concept extends to national and global brands, as well. Embody your values when dealing with your suppliers and partners across the globe.

5. Tell your story with pictures – When communicating your brand into the world, you want to engage people where they are. People are on social media. Translation of message through visual and audial medium is becoming more and more the norm and part of our culture. Our social media brains want to see a quick image that captures concepts and the value of a brand. See 17 of the best brands on Instagram right now.

6. Tell your story with video – Telling your story with video is an extension of number 5 (above). YouTube is now the second largest search engine next to Google. Facebook is making a huge push toward encouraging users to post and view video content. No tool can be more effective at communicating your brand to consumers, community or the globe than well-crafted, clever video. The shorter the better. Usually three minutes or fewer. See one of the most-viewed ads on YouTube in 2017. It is a traditional commercial, longer than three minutes, but embodies the values of the company that extend to a customer’s lifestyle. This ad for Samsung incorporates an almost spiritual dedication to the work of fixing a television by 7 pm one evening. The repairman goes to every length to get to the home on faith and is rewarded when he arrives. Check it out. It’s worth the watch. Also check out Kevin Hart’s Nike Apple watch ads for a humorous take on how two brands have made themselves an essential part of life.

7. Use hashtags – There is debate about whether to use hashtags on Facebook now that they are searchable on that platform. They are very effective on Instagram and Twitter, of course. Hashtags are a very effective method with which to point consumers to your project and brand. Think of hashtags that embody your brand but don’t just keep them literal. To localize and globalize your reach, use the hashtag of the name of the town in which your business is located. Use popular hashtags that apply to your brand and simple, broad hashtags. Recently I have been using the hashtags #love, #fire and #royalwedding to connect all of the press regarding The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop’s sermon at the royal wedding to the greater goal of sharing the gospel. One of the hashtag campaigns that has most intrigued me is #forgwinnett. Search it on your favorite platforms and see what you think. How has this hashtag incorporated the mission of the brand into the community?

Below – Presiding Bishop Michael Curry embodies the brand of The Episcopal Church, which is welcome and love for all God’s people.

8. Incorporate excellent versatile design – This is a big one. A simple but clear logo is critical to branding, but as you can see from the first portion of this post, it is not all there is to branding. Slogan’s are equally important. One study (referenced in the list of citations below) found that auditory cues were more effective in English with English speakers and visual cues more effective with Chinese speakers in China. A slogan is an auditory cue. Nike’s famous Just Do It slogan, visually represented by the checkmark (did it!) came about from extensive internal discernment about brand and how it affected the lifestyles of consumers. See What Great Brands Do.

9. Create design that adapts across platforms – When you are in the creative process of developing your design (colors, fonts, logo, slogans, website and more), consider how that design will adapt across all platforms: print, web, T-shirts, bags, flyers, hats social media platforms and any other place you imagine your brand will be seen. Adapting across platforms is critical to the consistency that makes your brand recognizable. Once recognized, if you have followed the above steps, the consumer is taken to the world of your values in their mind. Nike’s checkmark works on all its products from shoes to clothing, as well as online and in print.

10. Use all of the above to become a part of consumers’ lifestyles – As referenced in numbers 6 and 8, incorporation of brand and identity into consumers and employees lifestyles is essential for communicating your brand. If you have communicated your way into a way of life, you have succeeded. We know we can count on Chic-Fil-A to deliver consistent, reliable fast food when we’re in a hurry or on the road in an unfamiliar city. We know Amazon Prime won’t let us down when we’re doing that last minute Christmas shopping or ordering a textbook for a class that starts in two days. We know Nike is there for us, inspiring us to be our best selves and live up to our potential and citizens of a global community. And we can tell you what all of these brands stand for even if we don’t agree with their values. That is powerful branding.

For scholarly references on branding, please see this list of brand references.

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