For many years, I worked with brilliant designers in crafting identity manuals that defined a company's brand and how to both convey and protect their values and investment. These manuals ran the gamut from hospitality to education, to medical, to design to high-tech companies. From the main logo to such mundane elements as fax cover pages and the background pattern for company checks. Those systems included sections on logo, color palette, imagery content and style, design elements, typography, layout composition, verbal identity conveying the organization's vision, mission and purpose, value proposition and background story. These all contributed to a consistent image used in a broad spectrum of communication devices.
Beyond Logos and Taglines
A brand is more than just a visual identity, logotype, or a marketing gimmick. It's the sum of all the stories that people tell, both good and bad. It's a living narrative shaped by interactions and experiences, where reputation becomes synonymous with the brand. At the heart of a brand lies the question of "why" – the core purpose that drives everything. Simon Sinek describes how this interaction works in his brilliant YouTube video "Start with Why".
Why the "Why" Matters
A brand is the unique identity that differentiates a product, service, or organization from its competitors. It's an evolving narrative requiring consistency, authenticity, and engagement. The "why" becomes the central element of a brand, connecting to core values, differentiating in the market, building trust, guiding decisions, and inspiring employees.
Brand vs. Reputation
While a brand may start as an organization-crafted narrative, the resulting reputation, built on real-world experiences, heavily influences or even redefines a brand over time. The relationship between brand and reputation is like a dance, where each partner influences the other, creating a successful performance. Great organizations know that a single bad experience can have monumental impact on the brand.
Rotary: A Case Study in the Power of "Why"
Rotary International exemplifies how the "why" is central to a brand:
- Connection to Core Values: Rotary connects members through shared values of community service and ethical conduct.
- Differentiation: "Service Above Self" sets Rotary apart from other service organizations.
- Building Trust: The "Four-Way Test" creates trust and strengthens loyalty and provides the values-based ethical framework.
- Guiding Decision Making: The mission guides projects from local to global levels, aligning actions with values.
- Inspiring Members: Being part of a global mission to create positive change fosters pride and commitment.
The Neverending Story of a Brand
The brand is an ongoing narrative, a complex and living entity made up of stories, reputation, and a core "why." Rotary's example illustrates how these components weave together to define a brand, connect people, inspire action, and create lasting impact.
In the modern world, where choices are abundant, the "why" provides a clear voice that calls out to those who share the same beliefs and values. It's about telling a story that people want to be a part of.
Rotary's brand, more than an organization that produces goods or services, lies almost solely in our members commitment to "Service Above Self." Our service projects define who we are as individuals, as members, and of Rotary itself. It's one of the reasons Rotary clubs are extremely discerning when inviting someone to join.