What comes first, the vision or the brand?
Recently, a long-term client I’ve been working with on a rebrand told me that one of the more radical brand concepts I put forward was ‘really exciting’ and where she and her colleagues ‘want to be’ — but then said she was worried about pursuing it because ‘the organisation isn’t there yet.’
This got me thinking. Are organisations looking for brands that express where they are now, or where they want to end up? Or, if we reframe the question, how can building an aspirational brand help an organisation get to where it wants to be?
Become comfortable with aspiration
I understand my client’s concern. It’s something resembling impostor syndrome: she was worried about overselling herself. What if people were to discover that her organisation isn’t actually everything she says it is, just yet?
At HopeWorks, though, we believe that a brand is an integral part of an organisation’s strategic change.
To apply our approach, you would start by launching your new brand internally. Engage colleagues in the refined vision, mission and values. Then develop ways to tell stories about how you are achieving the mission already, and share strategies for how you’re going to continue, together.
Helen Sanderson, the founder of our client Wellbeing Teams, says:
“Our brand is instrumental in helping us to achieve our vision. It communicates that we are different, vibrant and dynamic, and this helps us to attract the people we need to bring that vision to life. As these people join us, the way we communicate both externally and internally is aligned to our brand. This helps people to understand what we’re all about and how to get involved. In other words, our brand is led by our vision but at the same time it’s an important element in defining it and making it a reality.”
Holding back with a brand can limit an organisation to its current self-image. Or, as David Aaker puts it:
“Too often, a brand executive feels constrained and uncomfortable going beyond what the brand currently has permission to do. Yet most brands need to improve on some dimensions to compete and add new dimensions in order to create new growth platforms. A brand that has plans to extend to a new category, for example, will probably need to go beyond the current image.”
In short, if an organisation’s business strategy is bold, a rebrand should reflect this. We can only achieve change through change.
A collaborative process
Every brand needs to align with a vision, but the vision for the organisation doesn’t need to have been achieved yet — or even fully defined. That vision can be defined through the branding process, through collaboration with the brand agency.
It should consider things such as:
- The organisation’s overall purpose and values
- Competitor analysis
- Where the points of difference are, and how the organisation might amplify these through their key messages
- How the organisation’s strategic objectives link to its comms objectives
This should be a two-way conversation in which the client is engaged in the process of defining or refining their unique vision for the organisation. The agency’s role is to coach the client, helping them crystallise their thinking by asking the right questions and sharing relevant insight.
A rebrand is a beginning – not an end
Through this process, you are setting a purpose, values, messages and objectives that will get you to where you want to be. If you were already there, your rebrand would be a purely cosmetic exercise. For a rebrand to add value, it should be a catalyst that helps you achieve your organisational objectives.
As the strategy and vision move forward, the brand should evolve alongside them — there’s no reason to see a new brand identity as an endpoint. A rebrand is really the start of a brand’s story, not the end.
Helen of Wellbeing Teams says:
“At Wellbeing Teams, we’re developing a radical new model for social care. Our business model is evolving, so our brand and messaging is evolving too. Working iteratively with HopeWorks means that we can constantly test and refine how we talk about ourselves, based on feedback and results. This helps us refine our vision, which in turn helps to further refine our brand.”
It’s important to note that this approach is cost-effective (something that’s especially important for non-profits and social enterprises). When budgets are tight, an iterative approach to branding can reduce the initial outlay and ensure that flexibility is built in, making the brand as effective as possible based on data-driven results. This flexibility might be reflected in, for example, a dynamic, constantly-changing website or content strategy. Indeed, a key benefit of digital media is that it should be easy to update and refine.
Helen sums it up nicely:
“Don’t see a brand as simply representing your organisation as it is now. See it as a vehicle for helping your organisation to get where it wants to go.”
Ready to make change happen? Get in touch to talk to us about how a rebrand could help your organisation to achieve its vision.