Brand alignment is about finding yourself. But we don’t mean a new-age/hippie inner voyage. We mean testing your brand by what you actually do. Here’s a way to do that today.
You don’t need to be in college to go on a journey of self-discovery (if you’re smart, you’re doing it your whole life). However, if you have a business, finding yourself is a key responsibility. Brands don’t have the luxury of being just like everyone else. But they also don’t have the luxury of being such weirdos that nobody understands them. So how do you develop your own personality and brand that hits that balance?
You start with the truth. We’re talking SWOT-analysis-level truth, where vague notions of your strengths are tested against reality. Where you actually compare your strengths and weaknesses against the opportunities and threats that are out there and find your advantage. Once you find your actual advantage, you know the actual truth that sits underneath all of your grand brand claims.
For instance, do you lack a soul or a set of values of your own? Do you follow everyone around and commoditize yourself by only doing what’s been proven in your industry to work? Or maybe you go the other way. Maybe you do what the big, popular brands are doing nowadays and get in front of whatever you think society is doing. Just see what other people are doing and then throw a corporate ad budget behind the story, buying your way into cultural relevance.
Both Nike and Gillette have done this pretty recently. Nike seems to have pulled it off; Gillette … the jury’s still out. One thing we know about Gillette is that we haven’t seen a repeat of their controversial ad.
That’s why we like to work with growing, privately-owned companies. If that’s you, then you want to find out the ground truth. What is really special about you? We’re not talking about piña coladas and getting caught in the rain; we’re talking about what do you really do and how do you make the most of your strengths and apply them to your audience?
This takes time to figure out. But here’s how you might do it today.
Organize Your Values
Before we get into the list, here’s what you’re looking for: approach it from the value standpoint. If you have values, you probably have some actions that are backing them up. Hopefully you do. And maybe you have values, but they just need a little organization to them. In any case, the following steps will help.
- List your top three values.
- Then list three things that you do to live out those values.
What? That didn’t work? Take it from another angle.
- Grab that list of top three values.
- List three things that you think a company that had your values would do.
- What would they not do?
Here’s what you do:
- Take those things you do that back up your values and formalize them.
- Take those things you do that contradict your values and stop doing them.
- Start measuring the good things; because what gets measured gets done. More on that in the next section.
Draw the Target Around the Arrow
For each of these areas, pick a metric. What have you been successful in, and then how would you measure that?
Notice I didn’t say what you should be doing. And there’s a good reason for that: it can take forever.
Let’s get something straight: It’s not good intentions that help you live out your values. It’s not insisting on perfection or nothing. It’s a journey. If you don’t start by formalizing what’s easy, you won’t have the momentum to reach higher and higher with each iteration. And you don’t make the world a better place by making things harder on yourself. That’s neither moral nor effective. You make it as easy to do good as possible.
So let’s close that loop: It takes time to find a good metric when you haven’t been successful at something yet. There’s a lot of learning involved. So now what you need to do is look back. Find those things that you’ve been good at, and then measure backward.
I know this sounds like cheating. Fire the arrow and then draw the target around the arrow right? But if it’s a legitimate metric based on your legitimate values, the opposite is true. You just didn’t realize what you needed to measure.
Now You Can Talk about Values Without Hypocrisy
Now that you found out what to measure and you know how to measure it, you can talk about it. You can hold yourself accountable to it, you can prioritize it and then you can build theory around it.
And even though theory, as a word, sounds pretty impractical, theory is the only way we have of spreading our brand values and encouraging others to join us.
Folks, finding yourself isn’t just for college students. You find yourself based on what you do. And then it’s based on what you should be doing. If you want to find out how to merge the two, this is an excellent start.
If you want to know more about branding, we have a pretty deep, insightful book, rich in theory (one of the authors has a Ph.D. in philosophy), that’s coming out soon. If you want to find out more about that book, including how to be in the cool club, follow this link and sign up for the newsletter.