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Inside Out: 4 Keys To Building Your Brand From Within

At id8, every client engagement begins with what we call Alignment. If you’re launching a new venture, changing course, or just looking to improve your standing in the marketplace, you have to start with the basics – and, in this case, that means making sure everyone involved is on the same page when it comes to your brand.

Ian Buckingham, author of Brand Champions: How Superheroes Bring Brands To Life, says:

 “Brands are built from within … [they] have very little to do with promises made through advertising. They’re all about promises met by employees.” 

We couldn’t agree more. At the heart of every successful brand is its people, and really successful brands are powered by employees who truly embrace and are passionate about the brand’s promise.

Getting to that point is no simple task, though. Let’s take a look at four things you should be doing if you want a strong and successful brand.

1. The Blueprint: Defining Your Brand’s Identity

Before anything else, it’s key to define your brand’s values, mission, and vision – both for the short term and the long haul.

You can think of these things as the foundation of a house or building. No matter how large and ornate the structure you build on top of it is, you’ll always be on uncertain ground if you don’t have a sturdy base. That’s why the first item we cover with clients is brand strategy.

While the first thing that might come to mind when you talk about strategy is something like a go-to-market plan, that actually comes much later. How you present to the world isn’t determined by your product or service, but by your brand’s identity. Your core values, personality, and purpose have to resonate with your target audience. But, perhaps more importantly, those foundational elements need to be internalized and evangelized by the people who are making it all happen: your internal brand champions.

In defining your brand’s identity, consider asking:

  • What is the mission and purpose of my brand beyond making a profit? (Because almost everyone wants to make a profit.)
  • What are my target audience’s needs, desires, and pain points?
  • What values does my brand embody and how do they align with those of my potential customers?
  • How would I describe my brand’s value in 30 words or fewer?
  • What feelings or emotions do I want my brand to evoke?
  • How do I want to communicate with people? More importantly, how do they want to be communicated to?

There are a million other questions you can ask, of course, but these should get you off to a great start. The important part is that you look inward first – it’s the key to ultimately building a meaningful relationship with your target audience. This can be difficult, but being honest and really looking at who you are beyond profit will strengthen your brand. 

2. Spreading the Word: Communicating Your Brand Internally

Once you’ve sorted out how you want the world to see you, it’s time to make sure that everyone working on your brand understands the mission and is entirely on board. If people don’t buy into the brand’s mission, values, and vision of what success looks like, there will be problems down the road. In some cases, negative feedback internally can be a blessing in disguise – maybe you didn’t get everything exactly right in Step 1! Further introspection may be called for. Sometimes, though, it’s just not a great fit.

Getting everyone on the same page, so to speak, is first and foremost an exercise in clarity and transparency. Those answers you eventually arrived at in Step 1? Share them with everyone. Even better, share what the process looked like if they weren’t directly involved in it. Remember, the why we’re doing the things we’re doing is just as important, if not more important, as how we’re doing them.

And this isn’t a one-time conversation: Dialogue should be ongoing and frequent. People want to be involved, and the more involved they are, the more likely they are to truly embody the vision of the brand in their everyday work. Celebrate accomplishments, share successes, and recognize people who go above and beyond to exemplify your brand’s core values and commitments. All of these foster a sense of ownership and pride that will resonate with customers and stakeholders.

3. Walking the Talk: Fostering Brand-Aligned Culture

Tony Hseih, the late CEO of Zappos, said “If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.” 

That might seem like an oversimplification, but a lot of successful companies (Zappos included), devote a tremendous amount of resources to culture. Fortunately, “resources” doesn’t have to mean “money.”

Transparent and inspiring leadership is possibly the most important contributor to fostering a positive, brand-aligned culture. The trickle-down theory doesn’t just apply to economics. Employees who feel like leadership is invested in the brand and, more importantly, in the employees themselves will put their best foot forward in both their work and in their brand ambassadorship. People should have a clear idea of their responsibilities and their contribution to the brand’s success.

And culture certainly goes beyond plastering flashy logos on the walls and repeating company slogans. Recognizing great work, fostering collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity will go much further toward creating an environment of brand loyalty and excellence in execution than pep rallies and corporate speak ever could.

4. Setting Things Straight: Maintaining Brand Alignment

Finally, there are things you can do to make sure that all of the hard work you’ve put into establishing and ingraining your brand internally doesn’t get lost over time.

At id8, a huge part of our Alignment phase is devoted to developing a brand identity package and fleshing out brand guidelines. These should include your brand’s defined mission, vision, values, voice, tone, and visual identity. Not only does this help you maintain consistency on the customer-facing front, it ensures that your internal communications and interactions reflect the brand.

You might also want to consider formal training exercises or workshops – and not just for new employees. If you’re changing course or introducing new products or initiatives, these are especially helpful in making sure everyone is comfortable going forward. Of course, you can tailor these to specific departments and roles.

Above all, listen to your employees. Since they tend to be on the front lines, they know best regarding what the brand is getting right – and what it isn’t. Your people are your most valuable asset and if you’ve done everything else right, their feedback is invaluable when it comes to keeping your brand – internally and externally – on the right track.