Why the demeanor of your company should permeate every nook and cranny of its operations
The business and design communities throw the word “branding” around a lot these days, present company included, but what really is a brand? I like to keep the definition broad: the voice with which your company speaks to the world. That company voice is exercised in a number of ways — logo, advertising copy, website design and content, etc. But your brand doesn’t (or shouldn’t) stop there. It is my philosophy that your brand ends where the sale is usually finalized: your people. In a perfect world, the representatives of your company would wholly reflect the feel and intent of your company’s voice. Here’s why that matters…
Let’s assume that you are the founder and CEO of a business analytics company called Iota Systems. You’ve built Iota from the ground up, and have always entrusted a fair amount of your company’s resources to marketing, knowing that having a carefully-honed brand is invaluable to landing big clients who will only pay attention if you’re taking a stand with your image. That particular target audience also holds itself to a high degree of sophistication, so your company has always looked toward companies like Apple, Lexus and Herman Miller as inspiration for its voice. Your logo, brochures, website and trade advertisements are bold, refined and memorable.
But where do you fall into this mix? Do your apperance and demeanor match the branding qualities above? If not, you run the risk of breaking the level of trust that your brand has otherwise been fostering, since potential clients who responded to the latter may be taken aback by a personal presentation that’s unlike anything that they’ve previously encountered.
Does that mean that you adapt your own voice to suit that of your company’s brand? On the contrary, I believe it should be the other way around; your branding voice should be a reflection of your demeanor and values. It’s important that you, as a leader of your organization, be able to speak from the heart without bending to a standard that you’re not comfortable with. This isn’t to say that you should be “letting it all hang out” all the time, just that if your brand pulls you into a personality that doesn’t come naturally to you, that target audience may sense the disconnect and walk away.
The same can be said for your employees. Certainly it isn’t your place to twist their actual personalities to match your branding voice, but it is important that they understand that voice and take it into consideration when it comes to making decisions about the way that they communicate in voice and text, and perhaps their workplace attire.
I’ve always made clear in my business presentations that a strong brand isn’t required to be successful (at which point I throw up a slide of this man). Certainly there are countless companies out there doing very well for themselves with mediocre branding materials. And I also recognize that not everyone has the marketing budget to generate beautiful branding materials across the board. But I would strongly encourage every business leader to give serious thought to what you really want your company to be, and to let that gradually inform your branding choices – in every form that they can conceivably take – as you’re able to invest in them.
Does the pervasive brand concept reflect your experience? Have you witnessed company success suffer because of a branding disconnect? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
Whit Gurley is the owner and chief design geek at Angled End.