Without values, you don’t have a brand.
If I were to ask you to describe brands you are familiar with, you might reference the Nike swoosh or the flowing Coca-Cola script. Our minds usually connect the concept of brand with its visual representation. But when it comes to your company’s brand, the visual is probably the least important aspect. Your logo may come to represent your brand, but it’s not what your brand stands for, and it’s certainly not the driving force behind the business decisions you make each day.
If you think of the branding process as a pyramid, the visual development (logo, fonts, color palette and so on) are near the top. Without a solid foundation and culture to support your brand, your logo becomes just a picture rather than a symbol of something larger. If you can’t articulate why you’re here, who you’re here for, and why that matters, you do not have a brand. Full stop.
Your brand narrative (those questions you must be able to answer) will influence and direct everything you do, from the type of work you take on to your company culture and benefits to your marketing strategy. With any business decision, you should be able to reference your brand narrative and ask yourself, “Does this serve the goals and purpose of this brand?” And if the answer isn’t a hell yes, it’s a no.
To understand how brand values drive business decisions, let’s look at Nike. When Nike ran a bold ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the backlash from some customers was swift and fierce. Many said Nike should stay in their lane, stick to selling shoes, and not get so political. But if you know their brand values, Nike’s decision to run that ad makes total sense. Their brand puts a major emphasis on equality; they “believe in the power of sport to unite everyone and to inspire people to take action in their communities.” Like it or not, Colin Kaepernick has absolutely inspired people to take action and stand up—or take a knee—for equality. Without being firmly rooted in their own brand narrative, it’s unlikely Nike would have ever run that ad.
When considering your own brand narrative, do you know why your company exists? Hint: the answer isn’t WHAT you do; it’s WHY you do it. Do you know your primary audience and how they see your value? If you struggle to answer these questions, as many companies do, you know where to start. Take the time to get these right. Your brand depends on it.