The traditional way of thinking about a brand revolves around the notion of luring customers and driving sales. In other words, branding tends to be approached with a purely commercial mentality. And while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this angle, it becomes too narrow when there's a growing demand for transparency, authenticity and social responsibility.
Whether you are running a one-man show, a tech start-up, a non-profit or a rapidly growing mid-size company, the first thing to consider is what a brand is, and what it is not.
A brand isn't simply a trademark, logo or website. It can no longer be 'managed' like it would have been in the 80's or 90's, but it can be shaped and nurtured. It isn't static but highly dynamic. A brand is a story, a platform, a promise made and a promise kept. It lives and breathes within a particular community, and it serves as a vehicle for dialogue with multiple stakeholders. Hence, the most important job of a business leader is to understand the why behind everything the brand does and steer the conversation accordingly.
The days in which a brand's destiny was solely in the hands of CMOs are long gone. Nowadays, it is in the hands of anyone with a smartphone or a twitter handle. Probably more importantly than anything else, though, is recognizing the role that a brand plays in recruiting, inspiring and developing talent. The more positively a brand resonates with the company's own workforce, the better its chances in the outside world.
Developing an effective brand / brand portfolio
Cultural Context: beyond an audience or 'target' ... what purpose does the brand play in people's lives (internally and externally)? what factors might influence employee engagement and public opinion? how can the brand help alleviate cultural tensions?
Versatility: beyond product-specific benefits or 'positioning' ... how well can the brand adapt to changing conditions while staying true to its core mission? how does it go about cultivating a spirit of innovation while prioritizing initiatives?
Symbols, Myths and / or Rituals: beyond a logo or slogan ... what are the recognizable signals that can help tell the brand story and engage people's collective psyche?
Sense of Community: beyond loyalty programs or social media ... what is the broader invitation that the brand extends to its stakeholders? how does it build a network of contributors, ambassadors and influencers?
Emotions: beyond a momentary reaction to an ad or hashtag ... how does the brand evoke an on-going emotional connection with people? how does it express the ethos of an organization? how does it create meaning?