You spent months defining your brand. It looks good, the messaging reads well but something is missing. You can’t quite work out how to implement it most effectively and bring your internal and external audiences along for the ride. How do you activate it now you’ve developed it and get your teams to live and breathe it? Because there’s no point having this great brand unless that happens.
Bringing your brand to life in all the right places can seem daunting. How do you embed it in your culture, make sure those guidelines you spent many late nights re-reading and proofing are followed, and get it out there to the audiences who matter in a way that resonates with them and truly reflects your brand? What are the ways to do it well and are there some quick wins to make it all a little easier? Here we’ll share our six top tips for bringing your brand to life – making sure it sings – and that all those months of hard work really do pay off.
Brand should be embedded into your business. Nirvana is reached when your brand is completely embedded in your culture and runs smoothly through all your communications. This is about getting everyone on script. Your brand was defined a while ago, but it’s never been properly rolled out internally and few people are fully aware of your brand narrative, what it’s all about and why it’s important (for your external audiences and for them). A refresher presentation is a great way of explaining this and some of the other FAQs your teams might have so that people can get on board and understand what matters. Always link brand back to your business strategy so people know why it’s relevant to what you’re doing as a business now and their individual roles. Be clear what your positioning is about and what it means for your clients. When you’ve got people on script inside your organisation, then they’re all able to go out there and articulate the brand to clients too.
Think about how you can bring your brand to life through company activities and initiatives. Fostering collaborative spirit through staff away days and socials, ensuring staff get the opportunity to connect with each other over a coffee break or lunch, or giving staff the chance to invite clients to fun team-building days or company events are all ways to communicate and embed your brand. It demonstrates what you stand for and what it means for how your people behave. It gives everyone the tools they need to communicate this and even go further – to live the brand every day.
Getting people behind your brand needs to be made easy. An important tool is your brand guidelines. While we all believe it’s about getting the logo right and making things look consistent, your guidelines can also play a big role in communicating your brand spirit. There’s often a large amount of information to capture and not everyone needs (or wants) to read a big tome. At the same time, there’s no point having detailed guidelines if no one knows they’re there or how to use them. What’s the solution to make things more accessible for more people?
We suggest producing ‘in a nutshell’ versions of guidelines – a quick guide to key elements. These can be in a variety of formats – we’ve produced fold-up posters and shorter brand books and we’ve even taken over internal ‘town halls’ so people can drop in to learn about the brand. These solutions are simple and provide understanding without overwhelming people with unnecessary detail.
Even for brand and marketing teams and other external agencies you work with, it’s useful to be taken through new guidelines to really get under the brand’s skin. We’ve done this through group meetings, workshop formats or even inviting teams to our studios to be taken through the brand. We’re not telling them how to do their jobs. It’s more the benefit of hearing about the brand from the people who have helped create it. We encourage participants to produce their own communications along the new guidelines, so they gain confidence putting them into practice. After all, if your brand and marketing teams get it, then everyone else will have a chance too.
Okay, so you’ve embedded your brand into your culture, you’re following the guidelines and everything is going well. And then you start to take your brand out there and it all feels like it could get a bit… out of control? Our view here is that you need to be as single-minded as possible. It’s about knowing and communicating what’s truly at the heart of your brand, what you want to be known for and ensuring everything ties back to that in some way.
Companies doing this well are those who have a really strong raison d’être. There are many things companies can stand for – sustainability, data privacy, the gender gap, environmental concerns – but whatever it is your audiences should feel it everywhere. Whether it’s on your website, in your thought leadership, through your partnerships and collaborations or on your social media platforms, the best content is arresting and interesting with a clear theme running through it, tying back to what you believe in. We’re not saying you should only discuss the same theme all the time – not everything you post on LinkedIn should be about climate change or whatever it might be – but this is more about your communications consistently supporting what your brand stands for. By reminding yourselves of this, and tying everything back to it, you’ll be bringing your brand to life in profound, engaging and memorable ways.
Brands are complex beasts so creating cohesion across your brand is easier said than done. There are some organisations that set the benchmark here, so we took a closer look to see how they do it. It ties back to what we’ve talked about previously, about having a single-minded message and having your key elements executed well and consistently across all applications from digital to print.
But there’s more to it. The best examples keep things really simple and bold, from the logo to typography to the information they communicate. Content is varied, from longer articles to short film, but it’s always clear. Having good people imagery is key too as it gives your brand humanity. Authentic imagery becomes ownable to your brand. Forms of communication might be varied (and the best use a broad range) but it always comes back to what the company is known for, breaking things down and making it easy, and aligning everything to their core spirit, both visually and verbally, so it all hangs together in a cohesive way that has real clarity.
The best brands also ensure their brand can flex for different audiences effectively. Your graduate recruitment campaign should feel different to your annual investors’ report. You will use different channels to reach your graduate audience and might consider interaction, different touchpoints and lighter content to engage them. By realising the best ways to stretch your brand for different audiences, you prevent it being relentlessly the same everywhere and it’s all the more engaging because of it. Yet remember that whatever the nuances, it should always be unmistakably yours and the heart of your brand should shine through.
As our homes have become our offices, it’s easy to forget that your company’s physical office space should showcase your brand too. It’s important for clients, and also for your people. We’re all familiar with tech firms where the idea of play and the creativity it promotes is integral to the heart of the brand and is embodied in their physical space. Some firms are now creating ‘third space’ environments that feel like co-working spaces, a cross between home and the office. They encourage people to come into work and to collaborate. It works too – these relaxed, communal workspaces can increase staff engagement by 20–40%.
Not everyone has budgets to do a complete office refit, particularly at the moment. But doing small things within the natural refurbishment cycle can make a big difference. In rooms where people come together to brainstorm, do away with static office furniture and replace it with furniture that can be moved around, encouraging you to use the space and think differently. Corridor alcoves may look like dead spaces, but reimagine them as breakout pods or quiet places for reflection and they take on a new meaning. Large open spaces are flexible, using seating that can be moved into different configurations to encourage spontaneous conversations.
We’ve also seen great things done at events. As these have had to become virtual, companies have thought of innovative ways to promote their brands, from recreating the branded spaces you might see when you enter a large conference hall, to exhibition stands where you can zoom in and have personal conversations, to branded content presented as if you were sitting in an auditorium. Even online it’s clear that recreating physical experiences and putting your brand at the centre of them, will ensure it stands out.
We talk about social media being the window into your business’s soul. We believe it has an important place in bringing your brand to life because it’s fresh, immediate and relatively cost effective. It can reach lots of audiences, particularly younger ones, and it’s where people often go first now to find information.
Many campaign techniques work well on social media and have real impact. You can create a different and more relaxed visual style than your corporate communications, and you have more flexibility to post engaging content. You can show not only the fun side of your brand, but more serious messages too and it’s easier than trying to grab that top spot on your corporate homepage. We’ve seen Instagram use really explode, with brands really exploiting the opportunity to post bitesize content that’s accessible and appealing. Tools like Stories and IGTV give your organisation the chance to be seen and heard in a more informal way. During the pandemic, some companies used it for senior leaders to communicate with external audiences, showing them in a new light and underpinning the message of all being ‘in it together’.
Social media’s immediacy and informality means you can really showcase your brand’s soul – its human side. Use it to post rich content that demonstrates what you stand for and your people putting company initiatives and partnerships into action. Social media also lets you get creative and personal. You can respond directly to followers and, done well, bring a conversational dialogue to communications. It’s approachable and relevant, easily tailored to different audience needs. We believe it’s still an underused tool for bringing your brand to life.
So, summing it all up. Bringing your brand to life is about several things coming together. It’s about getting people on board with the message and spirit of your organisation and making it easy for them to learn about the brand, so they realise everyone plays a role in embedding brand within your company culture. Be clear what you stand for, be cohesive and don’t forget the physical office space too. Finally, exploit the amazing opportunities social media gives your brand to show its relevance and approachability, ensuring it’s brought to life with humanity and authenticity too. Remember these tips, and you’ll find it’s nowhere near as daunting as it might seem.
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