Mommy, where does a brand come from?
"Well, you see Bobby, when people love an idea very much, they, well, um...well, they make a brand."
There are two ways that brands are born. One that goes back to the very beginning. And one that happens somewhere along the way.
Let's start at the beginning
Companies start because somebody has an idea. Maybe it's to do something new. Serve an unmet need. Or maybe it's to improve the way something is already being done.
Their product or service is born out of a belief or a passion that they could provide something of value to the world.
This story can be very compelling. After all, it was powerful enough to cause the company founders to go out on a limb. Maybe even to leave a comfortable job to pursue this idea.
This story can be very compelling. After all, it was powerful enough to cause the company founders to go out on a limb.
This story should be at the very core of the company's brand.
When I started my business in 1996, we believed the marketing and advertising industry needed more transparency and common sense. Since those things seemed to be in short supply, we called what we delivered "uncommonsense". This was the story from our beginnings that formed our brand.
Sometimes the story gets lost. A company evolves. Leadership changes. And then changes again. The founders' original story becomes a footnote in the company's history.
I've worked with companies whose brands lost their way. The companies no longer had a clear picture of what they stood for.
These lost brands were looking to recapture a sense of purpose.
Many times I've dug into a company's history to discover that original story. To uncover that original passion. Reconnecting with that can infuse the brand with a meaning and purpose that had been lost. Employees start to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves – something meaningful and worth caring about. And customers and prospects suddenly are more likely to become evangelists for the brand.
That's what getting back to your origins can do for your brand.
Something happens along the way
The second way brands are formed is through reinvention. Again, a company feels like they need to re-energize their team. Or they may believe they could influence sales or justify pricing if prospects assigned a greater value to doing business with the organization.
Sometimes the founders' story has been lost. Or maybe the company has changed so significantly that the original story no longer applies. In these cases, companies must discover and define their meaningful and compelling purpose.
Companies must discover and define their meaningful and compelling purpose.
I worked with a minerals company that I took through this process. If you asked their people what they did, they'd tell you they operated salt mines.
You know that saying that people use when their headed off to work:
"Well, it's off to the old salt mines."
That was literally what these people did. The thing is, mining salt in and of itself was not their compelling story. As we worked through the process, the real brand story emerged. You see, that salt was shipped up and down the Mississippi River to towns that used it to keep the roads free of ice and snow during the winter. These towns depended on that salt. In fact, studies evened showed that you could actually attribute a significant reduction in the number of accidents to the application of salt to the streets. And from that number you could extrapolate a reduction in the number of weather-related deaths on the roads.
Now that was a compelling story. Think about it. Who would you rather work for? A company that mines a commodity product? Or, a company that helps save lives?
That purpose and story became the foundation for the reinvention of the brand.
It's about creating belief and caring
In both of these scenarios, defining the brand starts with a compelling and meaningful story. It may be in your history. Or it may be waiting to be revealed in what you do today.
Just know that it's more than what you do or how you do it. That's stuff people want to know, but it's not why they care. They care when you share your larger purpose and show them how that purpose helps make a difference in their lives and their world. And you get bonus points when you invite them to become part of that effort to make a difference.
Create that and you'll give birth to something extraordinary. A brand that gives your people and prospects something they can believe in and care about.
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