In Brand Life #1 we discussed how we define a brand, so leading on from this we look at some of our experiences over the years discovering that definition and how we start the process by getting under the skin of the brand.

As we know, the interactions and experiences with the brand, across all touchpoints and over time, help to define what a particular brand means to a particular consumer or customer.

We’ve all got stories of bad service or product and how the brand does a good or bad job of resolving how it made you feel. Generous discount, apologies and an honest reason or annoying excuses? That honest interaction and the building of trust is important. Sometimes the brands we live with aren’t perfect but how they behave makes all the difference.

BrandDNA and collaboration

To get under the skin of a brand, we carry out brand audits, data dives, stakeholder interviews, consumer research amongst various other useful activities but we like to focus on what we call the BrandDNA to really get the thinking started.

There have been BrandDNA workshops that have run all day long and involved the complete workforce, to events with just the owner that have taken a few hours.  This is a collaborative process that we use to create, amongst other things, that all-important brand wheel. We see the wheel as the filter that all brand-related activity needs to be passed through to maintain integrity and consistency. Consistency of messaging within brand communications is one of the most important factors to increase brand engagement and trust.

Many companies already have a wheel or just want to evolve and check current values. There can be separate wheels for each of their individual consumer-facing brands whilst having a customer-facing brand wheel (or even wheels for the various markets such as local, national and international). It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

More often than not, we tend to work with a key stakeholder group that represents the diversity and knowledge within the business. It can be tailored to work in a multinational business or a one person band and everything in between, across all sectors. 

What tends to happen is that we run some fun brand-related games to get the whole brand vibe going. A good thought-provoking exercise (if the numbers aren’t too big) is the ‘If the company was an object what would it be?’ question.

Some objects I can’t share but one that stood out to me was from a young lady who was a PA/legal secretary within an old established law firm. The workshop of about 10 participants were all men, mostly older partners apart from this young lady and a few junior male partners.

She was last to present her object and rationale. Her object was a bowtie. Everyone was intrigued. She explained:

“This object represents that this company is totally male-dominated and is old fashioned.” 

Brilliant and brave! That simple open and honest point of view really uncovered some key points for discussion and underlying issues. The process of defining the brand values and expected behaviours which was then carefully delivered to the internal audiences before rollout really helped to transform the business. 

Part of the process includes agreeing on some words that represent for instance the brand ambition, function or belief. Some guidance can often be needed as the discussion will often be about where the brand is now and not what it aspires to be which is a good process to work through. Understanding the starting point and the destination helps define the journey. 

I do remember a firm of accountants that did end up at some point with Profit, Profit and Profit as the first set of pencilled in main values until we talked about some givens within the process!

We have had a handful of BrandDNA’s where one person tends to dominate the conversation with other participants being seemingly afraid to speak up. That tells us a lot in its own way and of course, we know how to manage the situation. 

Much of the ethos and underlying values that come through are personal and emotional to them and their team and we often see the passion that burns within come through. That’s what we are looking for.

Ensuring we capture and articulate the values, emotions, passion, vision, ambition and whatever else comes out of the BrandDNA is all part of the process and a real privilege. Turning it into something that not only looks the part but starts to perform and come alive is incredibly rewarding. But more on how we approach this later in the Brand Life series.

The following comment is now a few years old, but I think it best represents how BrandDNA can feel from a client’s perspective and what it meant to the business. It was from a senior partner in a large regional law firm:

“We spent considerable time and effort selecting the right business partner for our rebranding and new website exercise. We selected Bluestone360 based on their suggested approach which placed greater emphasis on truly understanding what we do, who we are and on finding ‘the idea inside’. The benefit of following such a thorough employee engagement phase has reaped significant rewards. It has helped to unite differing views within the firm, created significant goodwill and buy-in and greatly simplified the creative development stage. This in turn created a sound platform from which to develop our new brand.

I truly believe that this approach enabled the development of a clear brand positioning statement that not only articulated our ambitions, passions and values but also rekindled internal belief and enthusiasm vis-à-vis what we are trying to achieve as an organisation. This in itself represents no mean feat in a partnership environment. The quality of the Bluestone360 team was also an important factor in our decision-making process and this has paid dividends as we have approached launch. We have been well supported throughout the duration of the project but perhaps more importantly their team ‘get’ what we are trying to achieve and this has simplified things tremendously. The creative development phase ran incredibly smoothly and the team at Bluestone360 were able to turn things around within challenging time frames. We are delighted with the end result.

It represents a dramatic change from our conservative old identity and website and provides a visually striking platform from which to execute our ambitious marketing and business development plans. Furthermore, it has been incredibly well-received both internally and externally. Result.”

Taking the outcomes from the BrandDNA and other findings from the research and insights phase set a solid foundation for all the strategic and creative thinking to come…

Author: Steve Kyffin, Managing Director.

Steve has spent most of his life in the creative sector with over 33 years at Bluestone360 which he co-founded in 1988 after a few years as a freelance designer working in London and Bristol.

His love of the sea and formative years living in Cornwall made it difficult for him to live more than 10 minutes from the coast. He studied for his diplomas and qualified as a Member for the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers (now CSD) in Cornwall where he sometimes had a distant view of the north Cornwall coast.

A graphic designer and creative thinker at heart Steve spent the early years at Bluestone360 creating everything from logos to leaflets and the odd cool surf T-shirt design whilst account managing and running the business with his fellow directors. As the team grew and the clients got bigger and more demanding so the skills and experience grew. Steve soon took on the role as managing director.

This was an informative and interesting time as strategic and creative thinking were aligned to challenge and meet clients objectives. Strategies, campaigns and creative ideas were produced for an ever growing array of clients. From Allied Domecq’s global launch of Ballantynes, O2’s branded trade marketing communications, Wrigleys consumer and customer marketing needs, to supporting the Danepak brand relaunch and winning a few Grammia brand experience awards for the Ginsters website, the team flourished and constantly learnt.

With his fellow director Steve developed the BrandDNA process that has evolved over the years as a way of defining what the brands personality and values are. This has gone on to be used in many successful businesses and is still being used today.

With the evolution of the internet and the rapidly changing online world, brands had to adapt to consumers’ needs and Steve and the team soon realised that despite the need for sales the internet was an enormous opportunity for brands to reinforce their values and drive meaningful engagement.

Steve and the team at Bluestone360 are always looking to innovate, collaborate, bring energy, creativity and expertise to make brands meaningful and successful.

Steve still lives 10 minutes away from the sea.

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