Many entrepreneurs think building a brand is just about designing a logo and securing a domain name. Truly iconic and trusted brands go much deeper than this both in the way they are reflected internally in the employee culture and in the way they are reflected externally in products and services. In many ways, building a brand is like building a house – first you need a blueprint (business plan), then you need to build a strong frame (core values), then you need to finish it in a unique way that reflects your unique style (brand attributes). At the same time, you want to design it in a way that you can modify or add onto it in the future without having to tear the whole thing down.
Here are 3 tips to ensure that the brand you are building reflects a strong sense of your company values, inside and out.
1. Design the blueprint – understand what your business model is
This is the blueprint for your house. Be clear about what your product or service, revenue model, customer target/end user and basic cost structure are. Make sure the fundamentals of the financial model work – you wouldn’t design a house without an engineer making sure the structure will hold up – the same holds true for your business! Even if you don’t have all the details worked out, make sure your unit economics work and can scale to address a meaningful market need. Without a sound business model, you don’t have a foundation for building a brand.
2. Build a strong frame – define your core values
Identify your company’s core values and integrate them into everything you do. Your core values define how your employees interact with one another and with customers, and how you manage performance in your organization. In identifying your core values, make sure you include and engage a diverse group of leaders representing different parts of your organization. Core values should not just live on a poster in your lunchroom. They should be actionable and integrated into everything that you do. Think of your values as “promises”. What do you promise to your employees? And in return, what do they promise to the company to ensure a mutual trusting and productive relationship? For example, one the core values at Revolution Foods is “Deliver Excellence”. In order for this value to be realized every day, company leaders promise to provide clear expectations on what excellence looks like. In return, employees promise to deliver results aligned with that expectation.
3. Define your style and stick to it – define your brand pillars
Identify the non-negotiable pillars that underpin your brand. Your brand pillars should serve as filters for what your business does and how you do it. If you have chosen to build a rustic style house, you wouldn’t choose glass and steel architectural details. Your brand pillars should include things like quality standards, product guardrails and specific attributes that make your company and products unique. For example, one of our key pillars is “nutrition & healthy foods” – we are fundamentally about providing nutritious solutions in the marketplace, and we have defined a set of nutrition and ingredient standards that underpin our brand to ensure we gain consumer trust. Beyond that, we serve all our staff a healthy, fresh meal for lunch every day – the same food we are serving to schools every day.
After you’ve lived in a house for a while, you may want to make updates. You may want to add on a room or remodel the kitchen – if you have a solid foundation, frame and design guidelines in place that define what you do (business plan), how you do it (core values), and how it shows up for the customer (brand pillars), you will build a brand that people recognize, understand and ultimately, trust.