Brand & Culture
I get so excited about helping develop brands for what I like to call "heart-centered" entrepreneurs and small business owners because I believe the way we show up to the world aesthetically is a reflection of what our core values are. I am passionate about working with those whose missions are aligned with my own. But if I'm being honest, sometimes this gets me into trouble. I am a firm believer that brand and culture cannot be untangled from each other. They each have their own unique jobs to do when it comes to informing your clients, customers and employees (yes, employees!) on what you're all about as an organization, but they are absolutely tangled together whether you like it or not. It happens, from time to time, that an organization that is completely aligned with my core values on paper, is running in the opposite direction in practice. And here you have the battle between brand and culture.
Let me say this: it does NOT have to be a battle! Truly, when we're honest with ourselves and actively living our most authentic lives, the things we care about most have a way of naturally bleeding into every interaction we have with others. On the contrary, if we're constantly struggling to keep up with what we believe others expect of us, we're wasting creative energy that could otherwise be spent building relationships.
This is why when we start to consider a re-brand for an established organization, it's not enough to say "we want our new brand to look fresh and innovative" if what goes on behind the scenes in the day-to-day work environment is run-of-the-mill or outdated. You can pick bright colors and a trendy new font for your website, but if you're not willing to hire an innovative web developer to design a user experience that invites interaction from your audience, the colors and fonts don't matter. You have to be willing to put in the work and REALLY go all in.
Be about whatever you're about in a big way. So often - and I do mean SO often - I hear marketers say "I mean, the general public is really dumb. You have to spell it out for them." or "I think you need to add more text explaining [fill in the blank] or they won't know what to do." ... oof! That's going to get a giant NOPE from me every time. People will live up to the standards you set for them! I promise! So, if you use verbiage in your marketing materials and plastered across your website that says your values are equality and social justice, but you've built your website in a way that assumes the user is stupid... you've got a serious disconnect happening. Either you're setting the bar for what they can expect from you as well, or you're sewing seeds of distrust that what you say you're about in your marketing materials isn't really what you're about in practice. Yikes. That's dangerous territory.
So what do you do? I say, start with honesty. Practice what you preach. Set the bar high and just see what happens. I bet you a ton of money that if you treat your clients, customers and employees like geniuses, you won't be let down.