Do these impressions come across? How can you enable your inspiration and style to transcend from your own mind into the community?
As Al and Laura Ries point out in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, “From a business point of view, branding in the marketplace is very similar to branding on the ranch.
“A branding programme should be designed to differentiate your cow from all the other cattle on the range. Even if all the cattle on the range look pretty much alike.”
The concept of creating a unique persona, culture and outward image for your entity is summed up in the term “branding”. Brands also identify products, ranges, subsidiaries, and other components of the overall enterprise. For this article, however, branding refers to identification at a corporate level.
The brand is the point of identification that appeals to the visual, emotional and sensual aspects of a human, whether they are the consumer, the employer or employee.
A successful branding strategy is reflected in the company name, logo design and colour, company ethos, nature and quality of the product and service. Strip back these tangible features, and the essence of your brand is your company’s vision, the desired or perceived culture and your corporate “make-up”. This is the business’s soul or essence.
In the case of independent design consultants, there is a point when your personal style and reputation suffice to build a reputation that ensures a steady flow of business. You may be able to get away without vision statements, logos, and complex image strategies. You and your name are your own brand.
Only at the point when you decide to expand and seek new business, will you require something a bit more ‘concrete’ than a personal reputation. This applies even more so for design partnerships and teams. An effective branding strategy is essential to create the right impact within your community.
Part one of this focus on “Branding and The Designer” is a guideline to encapsulate your business’s soul. Part two, to appear in the next edition, will discuss how a tangible “brand” can be created to reflect this defined soul.
What’s your vision?
Your vision is how you perceive your existence, and how you would like this presence to be projected to your target audience. Summed up in a ‘Vision Statement’, it encapsulates how you’re positioned within the marketplace (positioning), what is your function to this community (purpose), and, profit-motive aside, why you do it (mission).
1. Position – this element considers your perceived reputation in the market. This is how you are seen, or how you would like to be seen. How are you identifiable above and beyond your competitors?
The statement normally covers the industry sector you are in, the region your activities cover, and your position in the market place.
“ANZ’s largest Technological Solutions Suppliers for Designers, Engineers & Manufacturers.” Intercad Pty Ltd.
A sensitive issue arises when establishing your position. As a rule of thumb, unless supported by fact, avoid superlatives in your published positioning statements.
If you are “The nation’s leading”, “The biggest”, “The number one” or “best”, boast away. You deserve it. If such descriptions are not currently true, by all means list them in your mission or key objectives, but take a more honest approach in the positioning statement.
2. Purpose – this is the “what we do” statement that clearly defines your functions and activities. The purpose statement inspires the focus for all corporate decisions, from day-to-day routine processes to larger more impacting strategic actions.
“Our purpose is to help our customers to create great workplaces.” Formway, New Zealand
“Since 1947 the Design Institute of Australia has been actively improving the community recognition and status of designers. It’s a professional body for designers run by designers.”
3. Mission – aside from the profit motive, what are your benchmarks for achievement? What is your contribution to the community?
You started your business motivated by some passion or belief that your skill could contribute positively to the community. Your mission identifies your core passion and motivation.
“Décor will continue to design and manufacture products that define visual appeal, functionality, convenience, affordability and quality to make life easier for every household.” – Décor Corporation, Australia
“To promote and assist the effective excellence, political influence, and co-operative spirit of the Australian design professions and enhance their relevance to government, business and society.” – Design Institute of Australia
Position, Purpose and Mission identified, an overall vision statement can be established:
“At Formway, our vision is of an enterprise leading the way with inventive furniture designs and services that add new dimensions to tomorrow’s workplaces around the world.” – Formway
“The Décor Corporation achieves consistent, profitable growth through a dedicated focus on design and innovation. State-of-the-art business operations and internal talent allow the Décor Corporation to develop products that exceed our loyal customers’ expectations and ensure success in the price sensitive homewares category.” – Décor Corporation
This is also known as defining your business’s composition. Answers to the following questions should be covered here:
• Who makes up your company?
• What are the core competencies, skills and resources contributing to your company’s success?
• How are you structured in terms of products, ranges, services, subsidiaries, departments?
The composition analysis is more than one defining sentence. It is lengthier in explanation than the vision-oriented statements. Through this element of the branding strategy, an explanation of the company structure is created to explain how the elements of the overall vision statement can be achieved.
“To help create great workplaces where staff are more comfortable, work more effectively and as a result more productively – time is given to the feasibility, design brief and concept development stages. A strong focus on rigorous product development through extensive research and development culminates in Formway’s understanding of what makes great workplaces.” – Formway
“The Décor Corporation is based in Scoresby, Melbourne in a vast office and warehouse facility. We have representation in all capitals in Australia and smaller offices in Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand.
“Décor has a dedicated manufacturing and design department, marketing and sales department, warehouse and administration departments. Décor employs over one hundred people many with over twenty years experience in the business.” – Décor Corporation
This identifies your business’s unique personality.
• What is the overdriving ethos?
• Company style, manner, behaviours?
“Our brand’s core essence (or big idea) is reflected in the way we work – we consistently strive to make workplaces function and feel better by making our products work better. Our core essence and our values; to be inventive, uncompromising, user focused and to have integrity – drive all our actions and behaviours. As a result our brand is our culture.“
If a light-hearted approach is the essence of your company’s culture, don’t be shy to express it:
“We have an enviable esprit-de-corps, which may be due to our “Paddle-Pop Mondays” or various activities involving Chuck Hahn’s products.” – Ideal-Industrial, Australia
Spending time defining your entity in terms of the above elements gives you an insight into the image you will eventually portray to your audience. Incidentally, your exercise in identifying a vision, composition and culture for your business’s existence may also provide you with the text for future marketing activities such as brochures and web pages.
The fun of projecting your soul into logos, slogans and other physical evidence starts from here.
I have used as a reference for this guideline the work of Tony Spaeth a US corporate image consultant. His website: www.identityworks.com is a highly recommended read if you are in the process of branding your own business. Thanks also go to the companies who’ve lent parts of their visionary statements to support this article.