A number of years ago my wife and I restored a broken-down, 1914 Southern Eclectic Vernacular house on Main Street of the little town we call home. Slate-clad hipped roof. Dormers on all sides. Wrap-around porch. Many folks had passed on bringing this old girl back to life, mostly because of a few sagging floors. Too big a risk, they said. The foundation is collapsing, they said. We loved that house and after some time in the crawl space with our contractor, we all agreed. She just needed new pillars. But the right pillars in the right places.
The same is true for your brand.
As we’ve discussed before, a brand must have purpose. It must project and reflect the positive difference it can make in people’s lives. Within that purpose lies the compelling truths of the brand, or what we call pillars. These pillars are what your brand stands on every day. Compelling truths that go beyond mere attributes or adjectives, they describe your brand’s essence. They must have deeper meaning and exist in every touchpoint, either visually, verbally, or ideally, both. That is how they can transcend the daily transactions between your brand and your customers into brand experiences with your customers.
The pillars of your brand are the deep-seeded truths that your brand embraces every single day—culturally, emotionally, physically. It’s what you want people to know about who you are. One of the most important ways to manifest those truths is visually.
If empathy is a pillar, there are strong visual cues to convey it. Southwest Airlines has a heart logo emblazoned on the bottom of every aircraft and on every piece of collateral and packaging, right down to the pretzels. It’s part of their outward expression to their customers. “We care about what’s important to you.” Or consider one of our clients, FOX Rehabilitation. They are the largest private practice of physical, occupational, and speech therapists in the country, specializing in geriatric care and house calls. But the identity and the visual expression of everything they do is youthful, energetic, and compassionate, right down to the beautiful shade of orange we specified for their brand. That’s because the founder and his clinicians believe deeply in eradicating the stigma, prejudice, and lack of respect that exists toward our aging community. So, orange is one way to convey strength and vitality—the fulfillment of dreams at any age.
Words also mean a great deal to a brand, as one of my colleagues recently pointed out in her white paper. She spoke to the verbal identity system that every company should build. It too, just like the visual brand identity, is a reflection of those compelling truths—those foundational pillars that build and support the structure of your brand. The visual and verbal brand identity are mirrors of each other—two sides of one coin. They rely on each other to create the truthful brand experiences your audience should have at every touchpoint.
Each pillar is surrounded by additional attributes that reinforce and buttress it to further support and unpack the true meaning of the pillar. These clustered secondary attributes inspire both the verbal storytelling and visual expression of the brand. They help describe and set the tone for the brand communication goals to various constituents, creating the value propositions for each customer. The entire brand foundation relies on these pillars to be steadfast through the lifetime of the brand. Campaigns may come and go, but the foundation of a brand is solid if it has been built on those compelling truths that reflect the brand’s true purpose.
So, as you examine the power, meaning, and influence of your brand among your internal and external customers, use strong pillars to build your brand foundation, one truth at a time.