For some clients “a branding initiative” can take the form of family counseling, or more broadly institutional therapy. And that’s okay, it’s just worth recognizing that as painful and squishy as a “branding initiative” sounds to many of your constituents, it’s easier to sell than institutional therapy.
As a branding consultancy, my firm is generally contacted because clients have resigned themselves to the idea that they need help in forming a coherent communications platform and a powerful and compelling positioning for their goods or services, and they can’t do it alone. The leadership team can’t agree, or sometimes they have trouble communicating productively with each other. The resulting dysfunction leads to a paralyzing organizational malaise.
It’s not that our clients are not smart enough, or don’t know enough about their institution, business or marketplace, most often the case is quite the contrary. Our clients are almost always super smart about their business. But what they lack is consensus and alignment. If, for example, we are talking to a president of a university about philanthropy, or a CEO about the future of his/her financial services firm, or a health care concern or trade association; we are talking to PhDs, MDs, MBAs and JDs. They’re plenty smart enough, they just have trouble finding common ground and a common language. The language of branding is a kind of global interpreter, we ask professionals to abandon their first professional language and speak in the common tongue of branding:
Immersion and discovery, brand learning, manifesto, positioning, message articulation and brand activation.
These are the tools for conversations where we can help smart, committed professionals find alignment and common ground, without sacrificing any intellectual real estate. The first battleground always, and the most important one, is internal. Getting the home team wearing the same jersey, on the same page, singing the same hymn, whatever metaphor you like, is the essential prequel to marketing communications.
7 tips for those engaging a brand consultancy:
- Don’t resist the language. It’s purposeful and connecting.
- Participate in the upfront research. Don’t wait to see what the brand people come up with, make sure key stakeholders are heard and the hard questions are asked and answered.
- Challenge everything, but accept something.
- The precise articulation of the strategic positioning is the foundational driver for the success of the whole process; be present, be engaged, and make it as right as possible, recognizing perfect is not possible.
- The creative solution will be as good as the discovery process affords, and it may not pop off the page, be aesthetically pleasing to your “personal” taste, or resonate universally with everyone on the committee. Embrace the best illustration of the agreed-upon strategy for the company. Consensus is success.
- There a “freshness dating” on this solution, and while momentum is imperative, speed can be dangerous. Commit to a reasonable timetable for launch, education, activation and refreshing the solution.
Make it your solution; make it a product of your leadership, not of the consultancy. Own it, promote it, and evolve it every day.