One great way to do this is by creating a decision making filter in the form of a brand statement. These principles apply both to your organization and your personal life. I used these as we developed a new logo at the church where I work, and I am using them right now to write a personal brand statement, to clarify the one thing among many things that is my main thing.
Here are six things I have learned about brand statements and their power as a filtering agent:
1. A Brand is a Promise.
Here’s a nice definition of a brand (not mine – I don’t know who invented it), to the right:
A brand is a promise that sets an expectation of an experience.A clearly defined brand statement translates to clear understanding. Classic brand promises include:
- Nike – Authentic Athletic Performance
- Hallmark – Caring Shared
- Disney – Fun Family Entertainment
- Starbucks – Rewarding Everyday Moments
- Seth Godin – Go Make Something Happen
A good brand is relevant to your community or “tribe” and authentic to your core values. When you name a brand you are naming the promise you hope to give those who become a part of your community. Your brand can be corporate like Nike’s or personal like Seth Godin’s.
Tip: What one thing do you hope people absorb in every experience they have with you?
2. A Brand isn’t a Campaign.
Often when people use the word “brand” they are really referring to a campaign. Here’s the difference:
The Brand – Why you do what you do.
The Campaign – How you do it.
The value of the how – a campaign – is its ability to measure up to the why – the brand. Notice the Nike example above. Perhaps you have never heard of the statement, “authentic athletic performance.”
“Just Do It” – as famous as it is – isn’t a brand statement. It’s an incredibly successful slogan, a means by which Nike can deliver on its brand statement, which is authentic athletic performance. Nike evaluates itself not against its slogan, but against its brand statement.
A brand statement is different than a slogan or campaign. It isn’t public. It is the mostly hidden clarifying statement to which every public campaign must adhere.
Tip: Look back on your life (or your organization’s life). What is a common theme that ties together your various campaigns or activities? This may hint at your brand.
3. A Brand is Specific.
I work in a church and consult with churches. A lot of churches look at Jesus’ Great Commission – “go and make disciples” – as a brand statement. This is the brand, if you will, for the universal Church (the entire world of Christendom), as set by Jesus. But a single congregation’s reason for being also needs context. It needs to consider the space and time in which it lives.
My church, Peachtree, has unique challenges and opportunities as a congregation. Because of its history and location in the Buckhead community of Atlanta, many people successful and influential by the world’s standards count Peachtree as their church home. This gives the church potential for great influence on Atlanta and the world. Our early branding efforts focused on the realities of the church’s demographics. We talked about the nature of “influence.”
But leveraging power for good, while noble, is theologically thorny, because it leans toward what theologians call “works.” It bypasses the heart of the gospel, which is grace. In the gospels, Jesus has a habit of flipping the tables on the things we do.
So we wanted a brand statement that flipped the tables on activity and influence by prophetically pointing to the source of our work, which is Jesus Christ. So we came up with this brand statement (which is an addendum or clarification if you will to the statement set by Jesus to “go and make disciples”):
True worth is found only in Jesus Christ.
Tip: What specific context and setting can your brand statement clarify? Name five specific attributes of your community or tribe.
4. A Brand is a Challenge.
Let me stick with church aspirations for a moment. While the word “promise” may connote a consumer experience, a church brand is different from a corporate brand. While a corporate brand seeks to satisfy needs, gain consumers and grow markets, a church brand seeks to prophetically change hearts and lives, which often means leading people to places they wouldn’t go on their own.
Because of the prophetic nature of the gospel message, many church attempts at brand statements either end up pandering to consumer culture – and removing the challenges of the gospel – or end up negative and shaming – and removing the good news of the gospel. Churches need both. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “The gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
At Peachtree, we wanted our brand statement to both be positive – not to negate or shame our congregation, but to celebrate the good parts of their lives – and to also challenge their faith and lifestyle to greater things.
The same approach I believe works with any brand statement. The best organizations lead with brands that are both responsive and aspirational: meeting people where they are and challenging them to greater things.
Tip: Envision an ideal world, where the problems that drive you are solved. What challenge can your brand statement make that will inspire people to this ideal?
5. A Brand Drives Activity.
In my work, I produce several campaigns a year in the form of sermon series, stewardship programs, discipleship initiatives, and more. These are the major campaigns of our church.
We mess up our church’s messaging when we put the highest focus on the sermon series. There’s a hidden layer of importance above the series, and that’s the brand. The effectiveness of a sermon series is its ability to communicate the core brand of the church.
So our new question is this: How well does this sermon series communicate our brand?
Tip: Your question should likewise be: how does this (thing I am doing) communicate my brand?
6. A Brand is Universal.
The brand is the core belief statement for the organization (or for you, personally). It is your “Why,” your reason for being. The brand doesn’t change over time.
Your (life, company, church) already has a culture and, to some degree, an identity. If you don’t have a brand, the identity has formed organically, usually as a mirror of the personalities of those in charge. Naming a brand, which arises from and doesn’t compete with existing culture, helps an organization transcend any potential problems with cult of leadership personality and name a strategic long-term purpose.
Once you have a brand, it becomes the filter by which all campaigns, programs and services are evaluated. When applied over time, it seeps into your culture and shapes your identity.
Tip: Always ask, does this thing I am doing support my brand? If it doesn’t, stop doing it.