It might seem implausible that an agency that specialises in successfully unearthing brand purpose for others might find it hard to undertake a similar exercise for itself.
Having come out the other side of reappraising our own brand strategy, we can now reflect on a process that took months from start to finish. DIY is tricky! Here, we share our tips for businesses that do decide to go it alone.
Like most successful Trades, our own house was the last thing on the ‘to do’ list! It was almost impossible to juggle day-to-day tasks at the same time as critically evaluating our vision for the future and all that we stand for. And it was made harder, by being a relatively small team.
Any strategic work needs focused quality time away from distractions and ‘doing’. Set aside regular chunks of time, both as an individual and with your fellow stakeholders. Better still, get off-site so you’re physically and mentally further away from the daily grind. It requires discipline and commitment from all involved, but you will drastically improve the quality of your thinking as a result.
Most of us need a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise. Our regular leadership team meetings were invaluable for agreeing actions and setting a time frame for deliverables. It’s fair to say, we didn’t always manage to deliver, but it was a big motivator for getting things done, knowing that other people were expecting to see progress.
Assign specific actions to specific people and set clear deadlines. Don’t leave things open-ended or assume that people will follow up off their own back. Review previous action points at the start of new meetings to keep everyone accountable. When we didn’t do this, things drifted!
We’re a creative agency, so you’d assume that creativity is our super power right? Well, no. Not really. All creative agencies should be creative. It’s undoubtedly important, but is it the thing that singles us out from other creative agencies and makes us unique? No. Initially, it was thrown in the mix, but when we drilled down further we recognised that often, the most transformative part of what we do is laying strong strategic foundations, founded on our insight and expert knowledge of food and drink. That’s what makes us different, but it’s not quite as tangible, immediate, (or beautiful), as our creative work. We often see clients falling into the same trap: mistaking excellent delivery of category hygiene factors for USPs.
Go beyond the generic and obvious. Explore, what, why and how your business fulfils the basic expectations of your category or sector and identify those elements that competitors can’t match. This is where you’ll find your business’s super power.
When it comes to identifying brand vision and purpose, discussion is part of the process. It’s important to mull over thoughts, stress-test thinking and narrow ideas down together. It should get to a point where it feels like everyone’s aligned. But are they, really? When we reached this stage, had you asked each member of the leadership team to define our ‘why’, it’s likely you’d have received similar, but slightly different answers. Which is why words matter and agreeing a single succinct articulation of your vision is so vital.
Put pen to paper and define the differences between your, ‘why?’, ‘what?’ and ‘how?’. It may seem like a box filling exercise but it’s an important point of clarity that will align everyone in your business and help them work towards your brand mission together.
Smart words sound good but they’re not necessarily the right words. We wrote several versions of our strategy deck. Earlier iterations were snappy; we used alliteration and some slick phrases. They were engaging but missed the mark somewhat.
Remember that your brand strategy is an internal document that guides your team. Clarity and memorability are far more important than a clever line. Don’t feel pressured to jazz it up to the detriment of understanding.
We do brand positioning work all the time, it’s core to our offer. But we knew we were too close to our own business to be fully objective. We worked with a third-party consultant to give us a helicopter view and make us accountable. It was invaluable.
Seek an outside perspective. Timely involvement from the right person will help refocus, clarify and stretch your thinking, ultimately getting you to a better, more actionable place. And if you’re still struggling, bring in expert agency help. We often work with clients on strategy-only projects, helping them unlock their brand’s full potential and enabling them to focus activities and budgets where they’ll see the greatest ROI.