How is your brand perceived in the marketplace? I’m certain you’ve thought about this, but have you considered what creates this perception? Where does it start? The tools to building your brand and tailoring its visual and verbal expression are found within—in the major practices and components inside your company. You need a strong foundation, built upon what we like to refer to as the 5 Ps—Purpose, Pillars, Positioning, Personality, and Proposition. With these elements meticulously defined, they become the filter for everything that goes out into the marketplace. Encouraging your internal team to develop a deeper understanding of your 5 Ps will build value over time. Your products, packaging, marketing campaigns, print collateral, social media, and much more will evolve into more authentic experiences of your brand.
One of the biggest launch pads for developing an authentic expression of your brand is your internal players. From the front office to the back, C-suite to sales, each and every person in your company is and should be your #1 brand ambassador. The receptionist and account managers should understand the personality and positioning of the brand, and make sure they project this when communicating with customers. Sales and marketing (separate groups by the way) should understand the brand pillars and purpose when approaching potential customers. If there’s an internal creative team, they should fully understand and be able to express the pillars of the brand both visually and verbally through all creative touchpoints.
REI is a great example of a company that understands both the internal and external expression of their brand. By creating a culture where each and every employee has a keen understanding of the brand’s purpose and strategy, their business goals can align with that strategy. If you dig into REI’s website, you’ll notice the following statement:
“As a purpose-driven cooperative, REI’s business and core purpose are intertwined—we grow our business by furthering our purpose. We’re committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation.”
Employees aren’t just asked, but encouraged to experience the outdoors with added vacation days, deep discounts on gear, and the ability to apply and receive grants for extended adventures, such as summiting Mt. Everest! With each employee given the freedom to experience nature, the brand expression infuses the retail space. When you talk to an employee about the difference between a 2-season versus a 3-season bag, the person you’re talking with probably just crawled out of one last weekend!
Remember the filter? When your team members are drinking the Kool-Aid, they’re able to make more thoughtful decisions on executing the brand. Creative teams begin to use those 5 Ps to design purpose-driven packaging and marketing campaigns. If the execution doesn’t reflect the 5 Ps of the brand, then it’s time to rethink or readjust.
REI has strict guidelines for their packaging and products, with policies in place that promote responsible cultivation of renewable materials, a commitment to recycling, and a demand that their vendors also perform at these levels. All of these ideals stem from the core pillars and position of the brand, which creates a more authentic relationship with their customer.
You may have heard about REI’s bold move to close their stores on black Friday about two years ago. It was risky, but it worked. Why? Because the ad campaign supported the brand’s purpose and position. It encouraged people to #OptOutside and spend the day in nature, rather than a store full of people grabbing everything they could get their hands on. And what do you know, closing your doors can increase sales!
So promote your brand internally, and allow it to flourish out into your external world. With careful practice and the proper filters in place, there’s potential for creating a living, breathing brand ecosystem. From then on, it’s clear skies.