Your brand is a promise, and great brands are promises well kept.
For a business to flourish and to grow, people need to trust you. Your customers and just as importantly, your staff, need to trust that you know what you are doing; that you are committed to doing it with unmatched excellence and expertise, and that you’ll do everything in your power to look after them.
Trust means knowing that you’ll share successes and work together to improve everything you do. Trust means knowing that you’ll fix problems quickly and without fuss, and that you’ll do your best to understand them as individuals (not just as data points or drones).
Trust is about keeping your promises. That’s what your brand is. It’s not your logo or your typeface; they’re just visual signposts like quality kite marks.
Everyone in your organisation from the MD up to the cleaner needs to understand the promises that you are making and how you keep them. The whole team has to buy into it 100%. The very best brands are ones that come from within — they’re rarely hatched in agency brainstorms.
Far sharper minds than mine have defined brands and they’re all right to some degree. I don’t know who originally said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”, but it’s a good line. Here are some of my other favourites:
“A brand is a living entity — and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” [Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner]
“What some companies fail to see is that that from their customers’ viewpoint, their products, services and brands are viewed as one entity”[Richard Branson]
“Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have of you”. [Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Founder of EasyJet]
The original Mad Man David Ogilvy said, “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.”
There’s no doubt that creating a great brand takes a long time and a lot of work, but that doesn't mean starting from scratch. If you have had any kind of success in the past it was because somebody liked what you did, so chances are that you've already got a great brand (what do your customers say about you when you’re not in the room?), you just need to remind yourself what it is.
It might be wise to ask your customers, and most definitely your staff, what they think you promise because they’ll probably know in a flash. Promises are usually simple and easy to remember.
The beautiful thing is that a great brand is very simple too. When anyone asks me to define a brand I say that a brand is a promise and great brands are promises well kept.